Domestic airlines satisfaction survey 2010

Before booking your next interstate trip, read how 11,000 CHOICE members rate domestic airlines for price and quality of service.
Learn more

01 .Introduction

Airline satisfaction survey

CHOICE’s latest survey of 11,000 members reveals the best and the worst airlines to fly with in the wake of continuing fare wars among budget airlines. We asked members to rate how satisfied they were for their most recent domestic flight in the last 12 months. They were asked to rate the domestic airlines on:

  • Overall satisfaction
  • Cost
  • In-flight service and entertainment
  • Seat comfort
  • Leg room
  • Food quality
  • Redeeming frequent flyer points
  • Timeliness of flights
  • Baggage allowance
  • Check-in process

CHOICE members have voted Virgin Blue the best domestic airline for the second year running. However, CHOICE’s latest domestic airlines satisfaction survey shows most members still choose to fly Qantas because of its frequent flyer program. Budget carrier Tiger Airways received the lowest overall satisfaction score. About 20% of members who flew Jetstar, Qantas’ budget subsidiary, nominated a good flight schedule as the main reason for choosing the carrier – but service was not among its drawcards. Members who flew with Virgin Blue chose it for its competitive airfares, best flight schedule and good standard of service.

CHOICE members also shared their experiences - good and bad - with the various domestic airlines with us. There were several complaints about the additional credit card fees - for which Qantas and Tiger Airways were each awarded a CHOICE Shonky in 2009 for their sky high surcharges - so we've included a table outlining the extra charges (except for food and entertainment onboard budget airlines) you'll have to pay for booking your tickets online or when you exceed your carry-on baggage weight.

See also the results of our 2010 international airline survey, which covers the best airlines for major international destinations, as voted by members.


Sign up to our free

Receive FREE email updates of our latest tests, consumer news and CHOICE marketing promotions.


Qantas: Not the spirit of Australia

Compared with our last survey, members were more satisfied with Qantas’ pricing and in-flight service – but still rated its service only marginally better than that of Jetstar and Tiger. According to CHOICE member Sandie, “Qantas has some rather bitchy flight attendants.” Several respondents who belong to the Qantas Frequent Flyer program believe the airline treats gold and platinum members more favourably than its regular members. “The spirit of egalitarian Australia? Not bloody likely!” comments Glyn. Our previous survey cited several complaints about Qantas’ poor treatment of handicapped passengers, but such complaints did not emerge in this round.

Jetstar: Reliably unreliable

CHOICE members’ biggest gripe with Jetstar is its frequently delayed flights: “The only reliable thing about Jetstar is that it will depart late,” says Declan. But Janet takes a different view: “The in-flight service was the best I have ever experienced. We were very impressed with the staff.” Members’ other major gripe is Jetstar’s cramped seating. “If you’re more than six feet tall, you’ll be in constant pain as the seats are too close together,” warns Derek. Members also found Jetstar’s web check-in service confusing.

Tiger: Budget prices, budget service

In our previous survey, most member complaints around Tiger Airways related to flight delays. Little has changed – delays without explanation and slow check-in processes continue to grate with members. Those travelling to or from Melbourne (the airline’s Australian hub is at Tullamarine) bore the brunt of Tiger’s infrastructural shortcomings. Says Ashley: “The check-in staff were rude, extremely strict on baggage allowance and only accepted cash for excess luggage. The long walk to baggage collection is fenced off and outdoors – we felt like livestock.” However, many members who flew with the airline were realistic. Says one member: “You get what you pay for – Tiger is a basic, no-frills carrier, but is very cheap. Because I fly quite regularly to visit family interstate, Tiger is the best compromise for me.”

Virgin Blue: Victorious again

Virgin Blue once again tops our member survey as the preferred domestic carrier. Overall, its satisfaction scores ranked first or second across the board. CHOICE member Murray, who flies interstate regularly, says: “The Virgin Blue people have always – and I mean always – given great service.” Virgin Blue also rated well with less able passengers. “My husband is a 120kg paraplegic, and this airline gave service that we have only experienced in US,” says CHOICE member Gene. “They were attentive and professional under the stress of a late departure.” But several members were not happy that Virgin’s in-flight entertainment system was not working on some of its flights. “I travelled with a two-year-old, so it was a priority,” says one. “But it didn’t work and was a disappointment.”

Rex: A touch of personal service

Rex (Regional Express), the only airline to fly to several regional destinations, scored the highest for in-flight service. Many members praise its old-fashioned, personalised service. “Rex is the smallest airline but the best,” says CHOICE member Cathy. “The in-flight crew are always courteous; they give you a cuppa and a muffin, and a mint just before you land, plus they’ll ring a taxi for you – and they always say goodbye as you leave the plane.”





"Qantas staff are very hit and miss - some might not treat you well, others are great and attentive."

"Qantas has gone downhill steadily over the last two or three years. It now respresents very poor value for money and has awful queues to check in, dreadfully inadequate leg room, poor service on the ground and in flight, bad attitudes among the staff, run down, crowded and low quality club lounges and poor food and drink (ground and in flight). I rarely fly with them when I can go on Virgin instead."

"The in-flight staf were very pleasant and helpful but there was little leg room. The seating arrangements were such that big tall men were seated together even though there were multiple empty double seats."

"I was very unhappy with how they ignored my special gluten free meal request. Despite repeated checks during booking, before flying, 50% of the time this has not been noted or delivered, and I am always offered another "special" meal-which is not gluten free. My complaints to the airline has not helped."

"When travelling with my baby over the past year, I have found the Qantas staff to be excellent and very accommodating."


"If you are over 183cms, you are in constant pain as the seats are too close together."

"Our flight was cancelled and Jetstar made no attempt to contact us in advance of our arrival at the airport."

"The only reliable thing about Jetstar is that they will be late in departure, which is OK if you've been stuck in traffic!""

"We were not notified prior to arrival at the airport that our flight was late, there was no staff at the boarding gate or anywhere at the check-in gates and no updates on a screen to suggest when we needed to board. All of a sudden, one hour after the scheduled take-off time, we saw the gate screen flash 'Boarding' and we were rushed onto the plane. Communication was appalling."

"As a Qantas Frequent Flyer I was disappointed that Jetstar do not allow you to accrue points even though the two airlines are affiliated with each other."


"It was a cheap flight. the service was reflected by the price, you get what you pay for! you have to check in two hours before he flight. for the prioce, we didn't mind, but our flight to Melbourne was delayed by more than two hours, which meant we were at the airport for more than four hours. We won't be flying with Tiger again. We'ed rather pay a little more."

"The check-in process was poorly serviced and it took 55 minutes to move from the end of the queue to the counter. The terminal building in Melbourne is very poorly constructed and serviced."

"Very very strict application of baggage limit and extra costs of getting to the airport at 4.30am to catch flight absolutely negated any advantage of the cheaper fare. Be warned."

"We knew we were flying with a budget airline so expected little from the experience. Two biggest issues were: 1. Check in - no courtesy, extremely strict on baggage allowance, only accept cash for excess baggage. 2. Arriving at Melbourne (Tullamarine) airport - long walk from plane to baggage collection which is a fenced off outdoor area which makes you feel like livestock. As I said we knew it was a budget airline but it went a little too far."

"I'm always a bit anxious about delays and cancellations with Tiger, so always allow margin for error, but personally, I have only ever experienced a pretty minor delay. Basically, I get what I pay for and happy with that." 


"Standards have dropped over the years, I have been flying for over 30 years and compared to then, quality has dropped, but prices now are at least more affordable comparing then to what is offered today."

"The flight was good but it would be good if the price was cheaper then I would use it more often."

"Small operator who obviously cares about customer service and are helpful and courteous."

"I've flown Rex more than 20 times this year. Every time, without exeption, I've found the pilots need to apolgise for something. Generally it's for late take-off / arrival. I wouldn't fly Rex if they had a competitor on the Broken Hill route."

"They were very obliging in giving me the seat I requested."

Virgin Blue:

"Virgin offers the best economy flight in terms of service to the public. You feel they are doing the best they can for you rather than you having to abide by THEIR conditions of service."

"The flights from Sydney to Melbourne were delayed both going to and returning. The delays were roughly 45min each, but we were kept informed."

"This was the first time I've flown Virgin Blue. I found the food better than Qantas, and worth the small charge levied. Seats seemed to be roomier than Qantas."

"Virgin Blue maintained the standards of convenience and service I've come to expect from them from all my years of domestic air travel with them."

"I don't mind Virgin charging for food (it keeps the prices down). I just wish their range was better (and better quality). On a flight to Adelaide I want more choice in edible food than Pringles."

Your say - Choice voice

Make a Comment

Members – Sign in on the top right to contribute to comments