While I was in Australia I had the opportunity to fly both Qantas and Virgin Australia domestically. I found both airlines to be very good, but extremely different. When I booked my flights I paid cash for 2 on Virgin Australia and used miles for 2 on Qantas. The reason I didn’t pay for Qantas – they cost more. But, are they better?
The two airlines are difficult to compare because their pricing and products are surprisingly different. For this post, I priced flights from Sydney to Brisbane on May 8, 2014. Qantas’ Red Deal price was $145 Aus, and Virgin Australia’s Saver was $135 Aus. I remember the price difference when I booked being wider, but flight prices are so dynamic that this is not an unreasonable sample. So how do they fare?
I really liked Qantas’ check in experience at the airport. It’s a totally animated system (with one or two employees around to assist) and although I hate to know that jobs are cut for this automation, Qantas made it a good experience.
The Planes and Environment
All Virgin airlines have modern planes with leather seats, mood lighting and in seat entertainment systems. Qantas had fabric seats, regular lights and no entertainment system. Qantas offered a slightly more “professional” feel, compared to Virgin Australia’s more hip feeling.
I’m fine without a TV on a short flight, I tend to read anyway. But I do prefer leather seats.
I believe one of my planes on Virgin Australia was very new, it was one of the new Boeing 737’s, it’s nice to know you’re on a new plane, even if it really makes no difference.
I had one free checked bag with each airline, and you would with the fake tickets I booked for this sample.
I’m generally not fussed about food on a short flight, but I do enjoy a drink and a snack. But Qantas clearly wins this category. When I flew Qantas I always had a meal, and this sample flight included a meal to. On top of that, the food was good! It was a pleasant and welcome surprise. On virgin Australia though all I got was a drink choice of tea, water or coffee. It was fine, but still disappointing – no soda, no juice, no crappy little bag of pretzels. It actually felt a little cheap that there was so little choice and no snack – kinda made the american airlines look generous…
My final feelings on the two airlines, I would happily fly either again. Both provided a good experience and a safe flight. Virgin Australia offered a nice plane and better environment, but Qantas has a more professional feeling to it and food. With just a $10 difference, I think my choice might be dependent on a couple different factors – length of flight, if I was mid trip and wanted to avoid purchasing a meal, if I wanted to have a TV to watch (more likely on a longer flight). Either way, neither will be a bad choice.