Are we being ripped off by airlines? What the numbers show

Are we being pressured by our airlines? With more hard-earned dollars needed to fly these days, airlines are suspected to have increased fares for Australians.

The costs of running an airline, including fuel, staff, aircraft purchase or lease, terminal space and landing fees, are similar for airlines around the world, but do Australians pay more to fly than anyone else? One way to find out is to compare the cost of airfare per kilometer on board an Australian airline to the charges of other airlines.

The dates selected for this survey recede on May 1, 2023 and return on May 22. This avoids price distortions such as those caused by school and peak holiday periods and is far enough away to be isolated from large price fluctuations. Low-cost airlines are not included and the fare is the cheapest economy round-trip ticket available for these dates. The distance traveled is the total distance for the round trip, not the one-way distance.

domestic flights

Los Angeles to New York

Distance covered: 7910 km

Airline: United Airlines

Fare: $654

Fare per 100 kilometers: $8.27

Sydney to Melbourne

Distance covered: 1410 km

Airline: Virgin Australia

Fare: $298

Fare per 100 kilometers: $21.13

Sydney to Perth

Distance covered: 6554 km

Airline: Qantas

Fare: $779

Fare per 100 kilometers: $11.89

Toronto to Vancouver

Distance covered: 6690 km

Airline: Air Canada

Fare: $586

Fare per 100 kilometers: $8.76

International long haul

Melbourne to London

Distance covered: 33814 km

Airline: Qantas

Fare: $1921

Fare per 100 kilometers: $5.68

London to Melbourne

Distance covered: 33814 km

Airline: Qatar Airways

Fare: $2489

Fare per 100 kilometers: $7.36

Singapore to Paris

Distance covered: 21450 km

Airline: Singapore Airlines

Fare: $1484

Fare per 100 kilometers: $6.92

New York to Rome

Distance covered: 13372 km

Airline: United Airlines

Fare, $855

Fare per 100 kilometers: $6.39

Melbourne to Delhi

Distance covered: 20,376 km


Fare: $1290

Fare per 100 kilometers: $6.33


London to Hamburg

Distance covered: 2136 km (single flight via Frankfurt)


Fare: $319

Fare per 100 kilometers: $14.93

London to Frankfurt

Distance covered: 1306 km


Fare: $232

Fare per 100 kilometers: $17.76

Paris to Nice

Distance covered: 1586 km


Fare: $328

Fare per 100 kilometers: $20.68

long-haul flight

Among the long-haul flights studied, Melbourne to London with Qantas is the winner, cheaper per kilometer than New York to Rome and Singapore to Paris. Also cheaper than the Qatar Airways flight in the opposite direction. In second place is the Qantas flight from Melbourne to Delhi, despite the lack of competition on this route. The only other airline that offers a non-stop flight from Melbourne to Delhi is Air India.

Among long-haul domestic flights, Sydney to Perth with Qantas performs worse compared to US and Canada domestic flights. However, Virgin Australia offers a cheaper non-stop flight on the same dates, bringing the cost down to $8.61 per 100 kilometers, which is about the same as the Toronto-Vancouver flight and only slightly more than the LA-New flight United matches York.

short-haul flights

Sydney to Melbourne has a high cost per kilometer, but the relevant comparison in this case is with the three intra-European flights. Short-haul flights have higher operating costs per kilometer than long-haul flights because fixed costs are more important. Fuel consumption during taxiing and takeoff is the same for every flight and therefore accounts for a larger proportion of the cost of operating a short-haul flight. The time spent on the ground increases relative to the air, and the plane earns nothing when it is stationary. This goes a long way to explaining why Virgin’s Sydney-Melbourne flight looks expensive when viewed through the per-kilometer lens. London’s Heathrow Airport and Frankfurt Airport are both major hubs with frequent daily connections between them and flying between hub cities is usually cheaper than between non-hub cities.

So are we paying over the odds?

Based on this analysis, the price we pay for air travel is unobjectionable. As a travel-loving nation, our airfares are in the same range as the rest of the world.

See Also: Will This Low-Cost Airline’s Return To Australia Push Airfares Down?

See also: Not-So-Merry Christmas as Airfares Soar Given Rising Demand

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