Australia is an incredible country. We are blessed to have some of the most stunning nature in the world here. Beaches, mountain ranges, coral reefs, wildlife, rainforests and cliff side ocean roads that just take your breath away. But did you know that all of Australia’s major cities are around 700km (if not significantly more!) from the next major city! (I’m excluding Canberra in this once instance) It’s often the biggest shock when you tell someone a drive from Melbourne to Sydney is 9 hours. Australia really is a big country.
We have a relatively small population of 23 million people. Majority of people live in cities along the coast. And when time comes to travel around, we turn to flying very quickly. It’s definitely the fastest and easiest way to get around. So it’s not surprising to learn that flights between Melbourne and Sydney are the 6th busiest in the world.
So how can you get the cheapest airfare when you need to travel around Australia? Be smart! Plan appropriately, and know your distances. When travelling the East coast of Australia most flights are around 2-3 hours. East to West coast are approximately 5 hours flight. The price of your flight will depend on distance, dates, and popularity. The less frequent the flight, the more you’ll pay. So without further ado, here are my tips on how to get cheap flight in Australia.
KNOW YOUR AIRLINES
We have 4 major carriers in Australia. 2 full service, 2 budget.
The home grown airline that started as a military airline has grown to be one of the worlds most recognised and safest airlines. Qantas are the biggest airline in Australia, and they pretty much fly everywhere, combining Qantas and QantasLink (little propeller planes) to get you where you need to go. As they are a full service airline, their prices are often the highest for domestic flights. That said, they get you where you need to go. Sometimes, you just have no choice.
Richard Branson ventured into the Australian market in August 2000 with Virgin Blue, the answer to Australia’s budget travelling woes. Since then the airline has morphed into Virgin Australia, a now full service airline. Virgin play in both full service and budget markets very well, and often can be priced very similarly (if not just above) Jetstar. I always enjoy my free snack, and if i’m flying between 5 and 7pm on a weekday, a complimentary glass of wine, beer or soft drink! Virgin Australia are definitely my carrier of choice when I choose to fly. The aircraft are pretty cool, new, and the service is top notch. And best of all, they are almost always on time.
Qantas’s offshoot for budget travel, Jetstar meets your budget airline expectations. Simple seat options sold, with relatively good network across Australia (and internationally). Snacks and drinks can be purchased onboard – although feel free to bring your own. If I can’t fly Virgin, I will always opt for Jetstar as my second choice. Jetstar is *mostly* ontime, and have ok seats. As Jetstar is a Qantas brand airline, they are inherently cautious with safety, which can sometimes land the airline in hot water for delays. If I fly Jetstar, I normally allow 30 minutes “delay time” into my plan. Overall, a good airline.
When Tiger Air started off in Australia, they earned themselves a bad reputation for sketchy service and long delays. The Australian public have taken a long time to forget the troubled past, and still hate on it. BUT! Over the years, the service and delays have improved significantly. There are some factors with Tiger that still give Jetstar my vote. Tigers network is still small. I appreciate that they fly most popular routes multiple times a day, but the destinations are still somewhat limited. This unfortunately is the biggest factor in my decision. If I can’t fly there with you, I simply don’t fly with you. Tiger runs a very similar model onboard to Jetstar. The only minus I have found is that their seats are a little less comfortable. I also always allocate a 30 minute “delay time” when flying Tiger. Overall, it’s OK.
To get a cheap flight in Australia, you are most likely to score a good airfare with Tiger and Jetstar as they are the budget carriers. Use websites like skyscanner and Kayak to find the cheapest flight. People will tell you different things, but make sure that you clear your browsers cookies or buy your flight while on Incognito mode. Some airlines and websites do track this data and put the price up because of it. I always recommend booking directly with the airline in Australia. Prices tend to be the same or just marginally different to the third party websites, but the airline website let’s you avoid booking fees (mentioned below).
Don’t discount Virgin Australia as an option just because it’s full service. Often Virgin’s prices can be $15-20 more than Jetstar or Tiger, but consider that Virgin has luggage included, a drink and snack included, and are almost always on time. When you add these costs (if you need luggage) on a Jetstar or Tiger flight, it will be the same. Now, how does a free cookie sound?
BOOK IN ADVANCE
My number one piece of advice, if you want to get a cheap flight, book it in advance. Depending on your particular route, generally you should book at least 3 weeks in advance to get a cheap flight. On less frequent routes, the prices tend to go up faster, so don’t wait. In warmer months (November to February), I recommend booking at least a month in advance. If not, you’ll definitely be paying more than normal.
You can definitely score a cheap flight in Australia in peak travel times, just keep an eye out for sales. Virgin Australia has a weekly ‘Happy Hour’ on Thursdays from 4pm – 11pm. Jetstar has ‘Friday Frenzy’ from 4pm – 8pm, and Tiger has ‘Tiger Tuesdays’ from 12pm Tuesday to 12pm Wednesday. Tiger occasionally also do ‘Saturday Flight Fever’ on Saturday’s from 12pm to 8pm.
BE FLEXIBLE WITH YOUR TIMES AND DATES
Weekends are usually the most expensive times to fly, with Friday night and Monday morning in particular the most pricey. On any day, flights between 5-7pm will generally be the most expensive, so look at the last flight of the day. Yes it might be at 9pm, but look at the benefits. Less traffic to get to the airport. Less stress as you can have dinner at home or the airport, and you can still have a drink at 36,000ft to cap off the week!
If you want to have an extra day off, consider taking Friday off work and flying out Thursday night or early Friday morning instead. The flights will always be cheaper. For the flight home, the last flight on Sunday is usually the cheapest. Or better yet, turn it into a 4 day weekend and fly Monday evening.
Keep in mind that Australian public holidays can be different in every state, so do your research and check Public Holidays in Australia. If the flights you want to book are unreasonably high for just one day, there may be a public holiday in one or both states, an AFL or Cricket match (on that day), or some event that drives the price up. Sometimes the airline gods just wave their hand and prices magically jump up for no reason. Either way, be flexible and try to book flights that aren’t on the actual public holiday, but a day before or after. I suggest booking several months in advance to get a cheap flight on a public holiday. People tend to forget until it’s close, and the airlines milk it.
BE WARY OF SCHOOL HOLIDAYS
For the uni student and working professional out there, travelling during school holidays is a nightmare. Prices are often ridiculously inflated, so do your research and find out when the school holidays in your state end. Last year I saved $450 on flights to Bali by delaying my trip a week. $850 airfare during school holidays vs $400 airfare one week later! Cha-Ching!
THE BOOKING FEE FAIRIES
There’s nothing quite like scoring an awesome airfare and then finding out you have to pay an exorbitant amount in order to book it. The airlines in Australia are being investigated in regards to these fees, so hopefully they won’t be around too much longer. But in the mean time, here are the ways to avoid paying a booking fee.
Offered by Virgin Australia, Qantas and Jetstar, POLi is essentially an automated form filler which helps you transfer from your online banking account to the airline directly, completely securely. Only Australian banks can be used when booking with these airlines, but the process is ridiculously easy. Select POLi Pay as your payment method online, select your bank, login and then transfers will automatically load with all fields pre-filled. Hit pay, and you’re done with no booking fees!
Tigerair might not have POLi, however if you have an Australian MasterCard debit card, you can also be spared booking fees! Simply select MasterCard debit card, and you too will have no booking fees.
A LITTLE THING CALLED THE JETSTAR PRICE BEAT GUARANTEE
This is my go to for guaranteeing a cheap airfare. Say you have 2 flight options from Melbourne to Sydney with two different airlines:
Jetstar MEL – SYD 2:20 PM $70
Tiger MEL – SYD 1:50PM $50
Jetstar will offer you 10% off the Tiger price, and for you to fly with them. So, in the above example, that means you fly at 2:20pm for $45 with Jetstar.
The Jetstar Price Beat Guarantee can be used throughout the entire Jetstar network – domestic and international! That means Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hawaii and so on! I’ve used it for flights from Singapore to Bangkok, Melbourne to Gold Coast and it was as easy as ever! There are a few conditions (more of which you can read on the page) but the competitors flight must be leaving and going to the same destination, it must be a direct flight, and it must be within 60 minutes of a Jetstar flight.
Simply start a chat with Jetstar here, they just need to verify that the competitor price is in fact cheaper and scheduled to depart within 60 minutes of a Jetstar flight, and 10% off is yours!
Jetstar obviously know a lot of people use this, so for some destinations you’ll find they have sneakily made departure times for their flight 65 minutes or even 70 minutes before/after competitors, meaning no price beat guarantee! Not the case for all destinations, but it happens!
So there you have it, my top tips for buying a cheap flight in Australia. Do you have any tips I missed?