Regardless of the mode of transport we take when travelling, we don’t often talk about the journey itself unless it’s eventful, and usually that’s when something went wrong along the way. So, just how many planes are flying around Australia each day, how often do they run on time, and which airlines are the most reliable for getting you from A to B?

According to data from the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (BITRE), there were 544,256 domestic flights in 2015 over 7 separate carriers[1]. That’s 1,728 per day, and more than 1 per minute.

With so many flights and airports scattered across the nation, it all needs to function like a well-oiled machine. To get an idea of just how well-oiled, the map below shows the top 20 Australian airports and how many domestic and international flights took off in 2015.


Information source

And here is the where they traveled to in 2015 for day trips alone, and why they did it – according to Austrade.

Holidays Visiting friends & family Business
NSW 25,279 16,106 5,551
VIC 21,602 14,268 4,488
QLD 17,982 10,993 4,326
WA 8,955 5,305 2,337
SA 5,817 3,212 1,310
TAS 2,674 1,210 584
ACT 958 549 Not available
NT 639 307 226

Now we know where domestic flights are going, but when are they heading there? The graph below (from BITRE) shows that the total number of flights fluctuate month to month, from its lowest in February (54,557) to its highest in July (63,250).

Interestingly, the most popular months to travel differ for domestic and international flights. Most domestic flights are in July and October, whereas for international flights the peak is in December and January.

HOT TIP: For price-savvy air travellers the least popular times to fly domestically and internationally is during February, so it could be a good idea to look out for great deals during the lead up to this quiet month!

With literally hundreds of planes in the air every day, it’s no surprise that some are late, early, or cancelled entirely. What is the chance of your flight going 100% to plan, and who are the best airlines for punctuality?

1# Departures

On-time depatures

The on-time departure figures are impressive for our top three airlines, with Regional Express taking out the top spot at 88%. To get a clearer picture, that means only 12 out of every 100 flights are delayed. Qantas sit pretty in second on 87.3%, and Virgin Australia come in a close third on 86.6%.

2# Arrivals

On-time arrivals

According to the stats from, you have a higher chance of your flight departing on time than arriving. Across all domestic flights, there’s a 15.2% chance your flight will depart late, but a 16.8% chance your flight will not arrive at the destination on time.

Qantas outperform the rest when it comes to getting their planes to the terminal and disembarking passengers at the scheduled time, with Virgin Australia and Regional Express biting at their heels. With an 86% chance your flight will arrival on time; only 14 planes out of every 100 are estimated to arrive late.

3# Cancellations

Fewest cancellations

As far as air travel goes, having your flight cancelled is probably one of the worst things that can happen. Especially if there’s somewhere you need to be and there isn’t much room to maneuver!

When travelling domestically Qantas, Tigerair and Regional Express record the lowest chances of cancelling flights:

  1. Regional Express: 1 in 333
  2. Tigerair: 1 in a 111
  3. Qantas: 1 in 83

Across all domestic flights you have an 83.2% chance of arriving on time, an 84.8% chance of departing on time and a 1.3% chance of it being cancelled.

Related: Our guide to travelling with your kids on a plane

10 ways to avoid a flightmare

If you have the flexibility to choose airlines, airports, dates, times and keep your luggage to a minimum, the below tips could provide some sanity-saving advice to help you avoid a ‘flightmare’.

  1. Fly early. If you fly earlier in the morning you stand a good chance of catching a flight the same day if yours is cancelled.
  2. Fly big. Larger planes often take priority if there is a backlog of planes waiting to take off or land, in order to move larger aircraft and the most people in the event of a delay.
  3. Fly light. If you’ve checked you bags in and then you’re flight is cancelled, you could face a long wait before everything is in order and you can be confident in getting onto another flight. Having your luggage with you gives to the ability to take any available spots quickly and without delay.
  4. Be direct. The fewer changes you have to make the smaller the chance of delays. With every connecting flight you’re rolling the dice again.
  5. Watch the weather. Take a look at your route and see if there’s a high chance of the weather being an issue at that time of year.
  6. Pack for the worst. If you’re checking in bags, don’t put any essentials in there. Even on short flights, carrying the very basic overnight essentials in your carry on will stop you being too uncomfortable if the unexpected happens.
  7. Be ready. Even if the airline send a message to say the flight it delayed, this doesn’t mean it still can’t take off on time. Unless you get instructions from the airline to not come to the airport, then your best bet is to arrive as though your flight is leaving on time.
  8. Act quickly. Many articles recommend if your flight is cancelled you’re best to try calling the airline straight away to assess your options and identify if you can easily rebook your flight.
  9. Compare airports. According to, Sydney airport delays are “excessive”, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide are “moderate” and Perth is “very low”. Sydney is one of only two airports globally with an excessive amount of delays – so prepare for the worst in Sydney!
  10. Choose the right airline. When choosing international, airline performance reports from can let you know which companies are most likely to get you to A to B on time – check it out here.

While flight delays are unlikely and unpredictable, they certainly aren’t unusual. Often delays are minimal and might see you travelling within half an hour of the scheduled times but sometimes you find yourself grounded for the foreseeable future. Even choosing the best airline and best airport cannot guarantee a smooth flight, so the thing to do is be prepared for the worst, just in case.

And remember, a great way to protect yourself from the unexpected is with a good travel insurance policy.


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