The Second Tier of Australia’s Busiest Domestic Airline Routes

The Australian Government’s Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities, and Regional Development (BITRE) pumps out some great statistics. At the moment, aviation statistics for August 2019 are landing in inboxes. BITRE publishes statistics on how busy airports, airlines, and routes are, both within Australia and on international flights in and out of Australia.

The headline stats are always the top ten this or that. In this post I want to look at the next band, the domestic airline routes that weren’t busy enough to star in the top ten. Rather, they fall into the next band – the eleventh to twentieth busiest domestic airlines routes in Australia. They are the John Oates of Australia’s domestic airline routes.


At number 20 is Launceston – Melbourne with passenger traffic of 67,800 in August 2019. The route across the Bass Strait is about 250 nautical miles and QantasLink, Virgin Australia, and Jetstar compete on it. Jetstar has the most flights.


At number 19 is Brisbane – Mackay. Mackay is midway up the Queensland coast, about 430 nautical miles north of Brisbane. 69,400 passengers made the trip up the coast in August 2019. Qantas, Jetstar, and Virgin Australia are all on the route.


At number 18 is Adelaide – Brisbane with passenger traffic of 73,800 in August 2019. You’d think this route between two capital cities might be further up the ladder. Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin Australia, and Tiger all compete on the route with Qantas having the most flights.


At number 17 is Brisbane – Perth with passenger traffic of 79,200 in August 2019. This is one of Australia’s longest domestic flights at 2,662 nautical miles. Virgin Australia and Qantas compete on the route. This route is one of the few domestic routes you can do on a wide body aircraft with international standard business class cabins. The trick is to make sure you book in the right flights.

No. 16

At number 16 is Cairns – Melbourne with 82,100 passengers making the 1,256 nautical mile trip in August 2019. Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin Australia, and Tiger Airways all fight for customers on this route. It’s worth noting that a few of the Jetstar services use 787-8s on this route (they go on to or come from Japan). Everything else on this route is in single aisle planes.


At number 15 is the Canberra – Sydney route with 84,500 passengers travelling on it in August 2019. It’s one of the shortest domestic routes in Australia at 134 nautical miles and is top heavy with politicians and bureaucrats all swanning about on the public’s dime. Virgin Australia and Qantas compete on the route. The majority of services are turbo props but Qantas also puts on a few 717 services over the peak hour rush.


At number 14 is Brisbane – Townsville with 91,900 passengers in August 2019. The 600 nautical mile route up the Queensland coast is served by Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia. There’s a lot of government, military and education business going on in Townsville which contributes to the passenger numbers on this route.


At number 13 is Cairns – Sydney. 98,600 passengers flew the route in August 2019. Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar and Tiger Airways all compete on the route. Qantas has a daily A330 service (QF922 to Cairns and QF923 back to Sydney) meaning passengers with points or dollars to burn can lounge away in the very good Business Suites onboard. Everything else is just the bog standard aisle jets.


At number 12 is Canberra – Melbourne, another route frequented by politicians and government officials. 101,300 passengers flew the 252 nautical mile trip in August 2019. The route is dominated by Qantas. Virgin Australia also flies it and interestingly, Tiger Airways has a daily service.


At number 11, and just shy of the top ten, is Brisbane – Cairns. This links the Queensland capital to the key northern Queensland tourist city. In August 2019, 115,800 passengers made the 750 nautical mile trip. On the route you’ll find Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar, and Tiger Airways.

The top ten

I’m not going to discuss it in-depth, but I’ll summarise the top ten busiest domestic airline routes in Australia in August 2019 purely because curiosity might be aroused and I’d hate you go flick over to another website.

RoutesPassengers (08/19)
1Sydney – Melbourne – Sydney769,500
2Sydney – Brisbane – Sydney413,600
3Brisbane – Melbourne – Brisbane306,300
4Sydney – Gold Coast – Sydney217,200
5Adelaide – Melbourne – Adelaide212,000
6Melbourne – Gold Coast – Melbourne177,600
7Melbourne – Perth – Melbourne168,900
8Adelaide – Sydney – Adelaide149,000
9Sydney – Perth – Sydney133,500
10Melbourne – Hobart – Melbourne125,100

Over the next week I’ll draw on more BITRE statistics concerning airports and international routes.


Categories: Airlines

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