The Australian domestic aviation landscape is dominated by four airlines: Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar and Tigerair. Qantas is widely regarded as the market leader, with Virgin Australia sharing the premium travel market. Meanwhile, low-cost airlines Jetstar and Tigerair compete for travellers on a budget.

One AFF member recently travelled on all four domestic airlines – and all on the same day. With one flight on each airline given a “spot test”, which airline offered the best service? Which airline offered the worst service? And which airline was a surprise runner-up?

The day began with a dawn flight to Melbourne on Tigerair. Tiger has not achieved the greatest of reputations, having been plagued by safety concerns and stories of disgruntled passengers in its early days. However, it seems the budget airline has been changing for the better. Our member was actually quite impressed by the service received on Tigerair. With tickets on Tigerair often costing just a fraction of the price of a Qantas or Virgin ticket, the airline may be a good alternative for budget-conscious travellers.

Overall, I was pretty happy with this flight. It wasn’t quite up to the standard of service I expect on Qantas, but it was also about a third of the price of a Qantas flight on the same route (at around $50). The service on board was professional & friendly, and although we arrived 10 minutes late, I can live with that.

From Melbourne our member travelled onwards to Newcastle, and then Brisbane with Virgin Australia and Qantas respectively. One of these airlines impressed greatly, while another left a little to be desired. Virgin Australia in recent years has been on a transformation to “full service airline” status. Did they deliver, or is there still some way to go?

To finish off the day our member returned to Sydney on a Jetstar flight. The on-board cabin crew were good, but it was other things that seem to have let the low-cost carrier down in this instance. Poor service on the ground and uncomfortable seating made the journey less pleasant than it otherwise could have been.

Jestar’s position as a low-cost airline was highlighted that evening by the way in which a fellow passenger was treated. An elderly lady, unable to walk, was forced out of her wheelchair and told she would have to climb the stairs onto the aircraft by herself. The ground staff abruptly informed the passenger that they could not help as they were “already boarding two wheelchair passengers”.

Despite the odd hiccup, our member believes that we are ultimately quite lucky in Australia. None of the flights were unacceptably late and the entire day ran seamlessly.

I think my experiment proves in a way just how lucky we are in Australia. All four flights were pleasant, more or less on-time and the on-board service was generally good all-round. I have been somewhat critical about certain aspects of each of the airlines. But on the whole, I think we have it pretty good. Although I do prefer certain airlines over others, I would happily fly any of our domestic airlines again. This is not something I could say about the airlines in many other countries around the world.

Having said that, there was ultimately a winner and a loser for best & worst service on the day. Which airline took out the top spot? FIND OUT HERE.

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]