People wait for flights at Sydney Airport.
Domestic aviation performance figures show one-in-three departures in November were not on time. Image by Nikki Short/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

Airlines cop heavy flak as number of late flights soars

Andrew Brown December 21, 2023

If you’ve been stuck at airport departure gates for hours wondering if your flight will ever show up, latest data shows you’re far from alone.

Domestic aviation performance figures showed one-in-three departures in November were not on time, which the federal transport minister said showed why people were “fed up” with airlines.

The monthly data showed 65.9 per cent of domestic departures were on time, the lowest average for more than a year and well below the long-term average of 82.3 per cent of on-time departures.

November flights data
 The most cancelled route for November were flights from Melbourne to Sydney at 9.1 per cent. Image by Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS 

Meanwhile, 64.1 per cent of domestic flights arrived on time, down from the average of 81.1 per cent.

Transport Minister Catherine King said the on-time figures for domestic airlines was too low.

“Given these very disappointing results , it is no wonder that so many Australians remain fed up with our major airlines,” she said.

“Like all Australians, the government wants an aviation sector that supports our nation’s way of life and this means services need to be reliable, competitive and affordable.”

Bonza had the best on-time performance with 73.9 per cent of flights making targets, followed by Rex with 70.5 per cent and then Qantas on 66.3 per cent.

Virgin was the worst performing airline during November, with just over half of all flights being on time.

The data revealed 3.7 per cent of all flights were cancelled during the month, compared to the long-term average of 2.2 per cent

Virgin aircraft at Sydney Airport
 Virgin was the worst performing airline during November, with just over half of all flights on time. Image by Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS 

The most cancelled route for November were flights from Melbourne to Sydney, with 9.1 per cent not getting off the ground.

Flights going the other direction weren’t much better, with 8.8 per cent of Sydney to Melbourne flights getting cancelled.

Opposition transport spokeswoman Bridget McKenzie said the increase in cancelled or delayed flights was appalling.

“Performance in Australia’s airline industry plummeted further last month, leaving Australians travelling to see friends and family or for work, disrupted by sky high delays and cancellations,” she said.

“The high level of delays and cancellations across the entire aviation network are exacerbated by the gaming of airline slots at Sydney Airport, of which Labor could fix tomorrow.”

The government is expected to hand down its aviation white paper in mid-2024 on reforms to the sector.

“This will include consideration of how we can better protect the interests of consumers, whether that be a stronger ombudsman model or other measures implemented in overseas jurisdictions,” Ms King said.

People board a Bonza flight.
 Bonza had the best on-time performance with 73.9 per cent of flights making targets. Image by HANDOUT/BONZA 

A spokesman for Virgin Australia said there were multiple factors behind the on-time performance figures.

“We apologise that in November our operational performance standard did not meet all of our customers’ expectations,” the spokesman said.

“Factors include aircraft maintenance, crew resourcing, weather and air traffic controller shortages impacted our performance last month.”

A spokesman for Qantas said while the airline’s November performance was below target levels, the Flying Kangaroo was still the most reliable major domestic airline.

“November was a challenging month operationally, with major storm activity on both the east and west coasts of the country and air traffic control issues,” the spokesman said.

“There were also a significant number of engineering related delays, with safety always coming before schedule.”