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How To Find Cheap Australia Flights
Let’s face it, even cheap Australia flights still aren’t cheap.
Your flight to Australia may very well be the biggest expense of the whole trip.
But because it is such a big expense, you can save a considerable chunk of money by making sure you get the cheapest Australia flight possible.
There is no single best way to find cheap Australia flights. It all depends where you come from, and where in Australia you want to go. It depends on how flexible you are with your schedule, how long you plan to stay in Australia, and what you plan to do when you are here.
In this section I put together some tips for all the different scenarios, and I point you to the best online resources where you can compare flights to Australia.
I hope it helps you to find the cheapest flights to Australia to suit you and your unique situation.
Finding Cheap Flights To Australia
Flights To Sydney, Australia – Flights To Melbourne, Australia
The largest number of cheap return flights to Australia goes to either Sydney or Melbourne, so that are generally the cheapest flights to Australia you can get.
Return flights to Sydney or Melbourne also offer the greatest flexibility regarding schedules and connections.
But the travel distances in Australia are huge, and Australian domestic flights into any Outback regions are usually expensive.
For most people it is actually not the best option to book a return flight to/from Sydney or Melbourne, because it often means you have to travel some additional thousands of kilometres, just to get back to your port of departure. You may waste money, and you definitely waste precious time.
Don’t automatically assume that a cheap flight to Sydney or Melbourne is your best bet. Depending on what you want to see you may end up paying more once you add all expenses together.
On the other hand,
- if you only want to see the east coast anyway, where Australian domestic flights are frequent and affordable,
- if you plan to stay in Australia for a long time, or to work your way around, say on a working holiday visa,
- if you really are on a shoestring budget like I always used to be, and know how to get around spending very little, e.g. by hitchhiking etc,
then a cheap flight to Sydney, Australia (or Melbourne) is indeed your best bet.
Cheap Australia Flights – Timing And Seasons
To find a cheap flight to Australia you have to start shopping around early. Don’t hope for last minute or similar flight deals to Australia. In Australia, if you want to fly cheap you book early, period.
October to February is the main tourist season in the south of Australia, and is the time with the most expensive flights.
The Christmas/New Year period is of course ridiculously busy. No cheap Australia flights during that time. If you want to fly around that time book very early!
September to November is better, and June through September is your best chance to find good flight deals to Australia.
June to August, however, is also a peak holiday season in Australia, and especially Australia’s north gets busy. Domestic flights and flights to Darwin, Brisbane or Cairns are full early and will be more expensive. If you can get a seat at all, that is.
Cheap Australia Flights – Airlines
“The Flying Kangaroo”, Qantas, has of course the most options and packages that combine international with Australian domestic flights. They have also partnered with dozens of other international carriers, so you can get flights where one of the partners carries you for part of the trip, and you fly Qantas on the last leg of the journey or on the domestic flights.
As far as flexibility and choice are concerned, you can’t beat Qantas as airline of choice for flying to Australia.
Opinions on Qantas appear somewhat divided:
A recent small survey by Choice consumer magazine has shown that Australian travellers aren’t all that impressed with Qantas’ service anymore. Only 63% of travellers are satisfied with the value they got for their money. (Which led to the not very flattering nickname “Flying Kangarude”. ). But my personal experience with them has always been excellent.
A much larger survey of international travellers (the prestiguous Skytrax World Airline Awards) rated Qantas as number two in the world in 2005 and 2006
Singapore Airlines, Emirates, and Air New Zealand were recommended by travellers as good value for money.
Malaysia Airlines is my personal favourite in terms of service and comfort. (I have never flown Emirates or Air New Zealand, but I will be able to tell you about Emirates flights to Australia soon. They had the cheapest flight I could find for August/September, so I’m on my way to find out. (Update: Emirates is excellent! Best food I have had on an airplane.)
A great cheap airline that few people have heard of is Royal Brunei, who fly from both Frankfurt or London (also Auckland, and many destinations in Asia).
This is not a low budget, low service carrier. The service is excellent. They have a four star rating at Skytrax, the same as Qantas, British Airways, Lufthansa and many other big names. How they can offer such cheap Australian flights I have no idea.
Apart from Sydney, Royal Brunei also fly into Brisbane, Darwin and Perth.
The drawbacks are that they don’t fly every day of the week, sell out quickly, that there is no alcohol at all available on the flights (that might matter to some, since we are talking about awfully long flights), and that the tiny airport in Brunei offers no distractions whatsoever on your stopover. Still, Royal Brunei is always my first choice when visiting my family in Europe.
And another tip regarding airlines:
Don’t assume that because your chosen travel agent can’t find a flight, or because your favourite online resource shows no flights, that there are no flights. If you left it too late, and everybody tells you everything is full, ring the airlines directly!
I once managed to get my mother on a flight to Australia for Christmas, at only a few weeks notice. (Those flights are usually full a year in advance. ) Every travel agent we knew had given up, and it only took one phone call to Qantas to get her a seat, at a civil price at that.
See, the airlines never make all the seats available to agents. Ring them and see what they can do for you. They may just surprise you.
Cheap Australia Flights – Booking
Should you try to book a cheap Australia flight online or use a travel agent?
Only 30% of travellers to Australia book online. For the average tourist a flight to Australia is a comparatively complex affair, with at least one stopover, often more, and often different ports of arrival and departure.
On top of that many tourists would be well advised to choose a package that includes domestic flights.
If you are coming over here for only a few weeks, are restricted in arrival and departure dates, and don’t know Australia at all, then you are probably better off getting help from an experienced Australia travel agent.
On the other hand, if you plan to come over for a few months to a year, like many students and working holiday makers do, and if you don’t need a package with domestic flights, then there is a good chance that your cheapest option would be found online.
But it pays to understand how the travel industry works, and also to spend some time looking. Go through all the dates, as far as you are willing to move them. I just saved $300 on an Australia/Europe return flight by flying one week later. The prices are different for every day of the week, and airlines have all sorts of special deals.
Experiment with arrival and departure ports if you can. Even though I live very close to Darwin it turned out cheaper to fly domestic from here to Perth first, 3000 km in the wrong direction, and then to Europe. And I’m not talking a few dollars cheaper. $1200 cheaper!! Of course it takes longer.
A savvy Australia travel agent knows all those options, and is aware of special deals. You can find those cheap flights to Australia yourself, and cheaper, by digging through various online services at special flight search engines, but you will have to spend the time searching. That’s the trade off.
Good luck with your search for a cheap Australia flight!