Canberra to Cairns Flights Questioned


This opinion piece was prompted after I received a promotional email from REX talking up its service to Cairns and how they are cheaper than Qantas.


I think, primarily,  it’s really looking at Queensland residents only,  forgetting that there are people in southern parts of Australia who’d like to explore north Queensland.


So I decided to embark on an experiment.

I jumped on the internet to look at the scope of ticket prices and the travel requirements to fly from Canberra to Cairns.


The day I carried out the search was January 31 at 5pm,  looking directly at Qantas, Virgin and Rex for a February 20 travel date, involving a one way adventure.

Keep in mind,   Qantas will normally on-sell Jetstar flights in its bookings process if there’s a cheap alternative,  but no such option was made available.


As I expected,  there wasn’t a direct flight service.   Virgin came out as offering the cheapest economy fare at $309 with a 6am departure from Canberra and arriving just after 10am in Cairns.   Not bad in my opinion.


The Qantas result was interesting.  Not only was Jetstar not part of the options during my search which in my opinion means it didn’t offer anything cheaper,  but the Qantas options allowed you a bit of a sleep in.



A flight from Canberra left at 7:30am via Sydney and arriving in Cairns at 11:30am for $566.


However,  I was surprised to see a cheaper alternative,  leaving Canberra 20 minutes later buy flying south via Melbourne instead for $499 and arriving in Cairns at midday.


REX returned the most shocking result with one of the longest domestic flight schedules I’ve ever seen in my days as an aviation reporter (unless of course you want to break up your trip).

The quote came back  $656  as the most expensive travels out of the three airlines,  which surprised me considering REX normally promotes itself as premium airline, cheaper than Qantas.


But the routing leaves a lot to be desired and perhaps marketing should get involved.


Leave Canberra at 2:15 in the afternoon and arrive in Melbourne at 3:25pm

Leave Melbourne at 8pm and arrive in Sydney at 9:30pm


You spend the night in Sydney before leaving the next day at 7:15am.

But this will only take you to Brisbane, arriving at 7:45am where you connect with a three hour propeller Saab service to north Queensland.

You leave Brisbane at noon and get into Cairns at 3pm.   In total,  getting to you destination more than 24 hours after leaving Canberra.


You could probably fly to the United States in about the same time!

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