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Qantas and Virgin both claim highest reliability in more than a year

written by Jake Nelson | April 23, 2024

Victor Pody shot these Qantas and Virgin 737-800s.

Australia’s two biggest domestic airline groups have both claimed March 2024 was their best month for reliability in more than a year.

Qantas says it has seen its best on-time performance since February 2023, while Virgin Australia says it marked its most reliable month in two years; however, official BITRE data for March still showed that OTP across both major airlines and the sector as a whole remained below long-term averages.

Of Qantas and QantasLink services, 78.2 per cent took off on time in March, while 77.3 per cent arrived on time and 3.8 per cent were cancelled. Virgin Australia services saw 76.2 per cent on-time departures, 75.1 per cent on-time arrivals and 2.8 per cent cancellations.

Across all participating airlines, 78 per cent of flights departed on time, 77.2 per cent arrived on time and 2.8 per cent were cancelled, compared to the long-term average of 82.1 per cent on-time departures, 81 per cent on-time arrivals and 2.2 per cent cancellations.

The Flying Kangaroo says it has also seen its lowest rate of mishandled baggage in six years, and that reliability for April so far is “in the high 70s” despite “significant weather events” in Sydney.

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“We are seeing some really positive results off the back of the work we have been doing in the last six months to get our reliability back to its best,” said the head of Qantas’ Operations Centre, Daniel Dihen.

“The continued focus of everyone at Qantas is to get our customers to their destination safely and on time, and the proof is in the data that we are very close to our pre-COVID levels of reliability.

“We carried more than two million bags in March and our mishandled baggage rates were almost 35 per cent lower than last year.”

Virgin says its OTP has improved by 20.5 per cent and completion rate by five per cent since December 2023, and that its cancellation rate has been below Qantas for two consecutive months.

“Virgin Australia’s on-time performance improved to its highest level in the past two years in March, and cancellations remained below three per cent,” a spokesperson said.

“We remain firmly focused on consistently delivering a stable and reliable service while providing great value and choice to Australian travellers.”

Australia’s third largest airline group, Rex, saw on-time departures of 79.3 per cent and on-time arrivals of 75.5 per cent, with just 0.8 per cent of flights cancelled.

However, according to a spokesperson, the official BITRE figures account for Rex’s domestic and regional operations together, and the airline’s own figures show on-time departures of 84.6 per cent and on-time arrivals of 83 per cent for its domestic jet services.

“Rex has outperformed major airlines Qantas and Virgin Australia and low-budget provider Bonza to be the most reliable airline in terms of cancellations for the 18th consecutive month, latest figures show,” the spokesperson said.

“Data released today by the Bureau of Infrastructure and Transport Research Economics (BITRE) reveals more than 99 per cent of Rex’s 5,552 scheduled flights took to the skies in March.

“Rex can also unveil its superior on-time arrivals and departure performance for key domestic routes. A comparison of major carriers shows Rex ahead of Jetstar, Qantas and Virgin Australia.”

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