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Virgin ends Qantas’ 19-month reliability winning streak

written by Jake Nelson | May 21, 2024

John Abslolon shot these Qantas and Virgin 737-800s.

Virgin Australia has dethroned Qantas as Australia’s most reliable major domestic airline group.

Official BITRE data for April 2024 showed Virgin climbing above the Flying Kangaroo in on-time departures, on-time arrivals, and cancellations, ending a 19-month run of lagging Qantas in some or all of these measures. Virgin also matched or beat the long-term average in all three areas.

The Virgin Australia network recorded 82.1 per cent on-time departures and 81.2 per cent on-time arrivals, as well as 1.7 per cent cancellations for April, compared to Qantas’ 79.9 per cent on-time departures, 79.0 per cent on-time arrivals, and 2.3 per cent cancellations across all QF-designated services (Qantas and QantasLink combined).

Virgin also beat Rex’s 80.7 per cent on-time arrivals, though the smaller carrier still came out ahead in on-time departures (83.3 per cent) and cancellations (1.0 per cent). Jetstar slipped back into last place with 72.7 per cent on-time departures and 74.9 per cent on-time arrivals, though 2.2 per cent cancellations were just ahead of Qantas and QantasLink combined.

Celebrating the result, Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka said the airline has been “intensely focused on improving performance”.

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“April 2024 marked a return to pre-COVID levels of on-time performance and cancellations for Virgin Australia. The post-COVID recovery has been challenging for the aviation industry but it is promising to see reliability and on-time performance improve across Australian airlines,” Hrdlicka said.

“We know that on any given day various factors including weather, air traffic control, unscheduled aircraft maintenance, and crew resources can impact airline operations. But our ability to manage these disruptions has improved, while at the same time, we have focused on simplifying our growing operation.”

Across all participating airlines (Hinterland, Jetstar, Qantas, QantasLink, Rex Airlines, Skytrans, Virgin Australia and Virgin Australia Regional Airlines; Bonza was excluded for the first time since November), performance averaged 79.9 per cent for on-time departures and 79.2 per cent for on-time arrivals, with 2.3 per cent cancellations, compared to long-term averages of 82.1 per cent on-time departures, 81.0 per cent on-time arrivals, and 2.2 per cent cancellations.

Daniel Dihen, head of Qantas’ Operations Centre, said this was still Qantas’ best-performing month since January 2023, with May’s on-time performance tracking close to 80 per cent.

“Our people have put in a lot of hard work to improve our reliability and it’s great to see our results climbing back towards the long-term average,” Dihen said.

“Our mishandled baggage rates are now among the lowest globally for a full-service network carrier.

“While there’s a lot we can be proud of, we know there’s more work to be done. Our team is committed to ensuring our customers have a great experience with us.”

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