I’ve always been a big fan of budget airlines on the basis they offer cheap flights to some great destinations and therefore increase the possibility of me being able to travel there!
Never one to mind about roughing it slightly, 9 times out of 10, I’m happy to remove the need for any frills when travelling if doing away with them makes a ticket more affordable.
Perhaps it’s a sign that I’m getting older, or perhaps it’s a case of being a more experienced traveller, but I’ve got to admit that I’m not sure the budget airline option necessarily holds greater value for me nowadays.
Flying down to Adelaide from Brisbane with Qantas, the premium carrier, and then returning with Jetstar, the budget airline, actually gave me the perfect testing ground to compare the 2 services and answer that mother of all questions ….
… Qantas vs Jetstar: Are budget airlines worth it?
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Below are the details of the flights I caught:
Qantas QF661 Brisbane – Adelaide
Departure: Thursday 8:25am
Price $159 AUD
Jetstar JQ773 Adelaide – Brisbane
Departure: Saturday 9:30am
Price: $129 AUD
As you can see, both airplanes departed from and arrived at the same airports within roughly one hour of each other.
Flight durations were the same and so was the class I travelled on.
This means the 2 services were fairly easy to compare.
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#2 Good Walking Shoes – There will be a lot of walking in Australia – from cities to national park! Make sure your feet are comfortable therefore with a pair of New Balance Trainers. Perfect for stylish strollling, I love mine
#3 Good Guidebook – I’m still a massive fan of the Lonely Planet Guidebooks and do think their Australia edition is well put together
#4 Good Water Bottle – Travelling in hot old Australia can be thirsty work, so make sure you have a metal water bottle that you can refill as you go, because tap water is drinkable… and free!
#5 Good Sun Hat – And there’s no denying you’ll need a good sun hat for protection in Australia too. In my opinion you can’t go past this Hello Sunshine one, which is both gorgeous and ideal for keeping the rays off your face.
The main factor that led me to compare the two flights initially was the price of the two tickets.
Despite being the premium carrier, the flight with Qantas was only $30 AUD more expensive than my return leg on Jetstar, the budget carrier.
$30 AUD equates to about $23.50 USD, £15.50 GBP or about €21.50 EUR, so you can see that really, it’s a minimal amount.
For this small amount I was forced to question, even as a budget traveller, whether the saving was worthwhile.
Benefits of Qantas (Premium Carrier)
That’s because for just $30 AUD more, the level of service and comfort on the Qantas flight was incomparable to my Jetstar experience.
It was, I felt, a gap worth far more than $30.
For a start, there were the freebies.
With my Qantas ticket I received a free newspaper (or 2!), free coffee on board and free inflight entertainment. Although I didn’t watch it, this would no doubt be a lifesaver if you were travelling with kids.
I had also had an infinitely comfier seat on the Qantas flight and, as you would expect, oodles more legroom, which is a really important factor on flights for tall beans like myself.
Even for shorter people however, legroom is an issue, because if you happen to be in an aisle seat and people are manoeuvring past you to get to the toilet then, believe me, you’ll be glad of the extra space between yourself and the seat infront too!
Now, I’m no clean freak, but judging from the state of the bathrooms, I bet Qantas have a premium cleaning service too, or at least they have a service. I’m really not sure the same can be said for Jetstar!
Frequent Flyer Points
With my Qantas ticket, I was also able to earn some frequent flyer miles, as they are part of the One World Alliance, along with AA, BA, Iberia etc.
Essentially, this equates to me getting a small amount of money back in terms of discounted flights in the future.
Credit Card Fees
It was also free to book the ticket with Qantas, i.e. there were no charges for using a credit card, unlike Jetstar who sting you on this front.
And, most importantly, with Qantas, you are able to check-in luggage weighing up to 20kg for free.
This is a massive incentive for anyone travelling anywhere for more than a few days, as it can quickly narrow the margins between the so-called cheap budget airline ticket price and that of the premium carrier.
Now, I’m really not one for luxury, but all the little things do add up, especially for such a minimal fee of $30 AUD.
Benefits of Jetstar (Budget Carrier)
Umm, the saving of $30 AUD?
I’m not joking, I really think this was the only benefit.
Now normally it’s a benefit large enough to make it worthwhile, but for $30 AUD?
If you’re travelling with luggage, you’d probably spend near enough this amount paying to check baggage in anyway.
Add to this any booking fees and coffees you might buy and you’re probably already over $30 AUD!
This essentially means the budget flight would have cost roughly the same as the premium airline ticket.
It’s also worth mentioning that Jetstar is a subsidiary of Qantas and therefore, it is possible, that the two airlines work their pricing in tandem in order to ensure you book at least one of their services, rather than that of a competitor – ooh sneaky!
So … Are Budget Airlines Worth it?
In my opinion, I’d definitely have to say that from now on, I will look into paying the extra $30 AUD to get a different class of flight experience.
Especially because you’re hardly likely to think about $30 AUD after it’s left your account, but you are definitely likely to think about it for a whole lot longer while you’re on the flight and afterwards!
As such, I will definitely be looking more closely at the price of budget airline tickets and working out, after considering luggage and booking fees etc, whether they do actually end up cheaper.
Skyscanner is a great resource in this way, as it lets you compare a range of both budget and premium airlines.
Using Skyscanner, as well as little maths, can reveal a lot about what initially looks like a cheaper ticket!
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I Realise This is Just One Example…
I am aware that my experience of Qantas vs Jetstar cannot be applied to all budget airlines and that each flight and experience is likely to differ vastly.
Some budget travel companies only fly from minor airports or at weird and wonderful times of the day. Another reason to ask: are budget airlines are worth it?
Their value might also depend on your flight duration and perhaps how tall you are – can you put up with limited legroom and for how long?!
On the other hand, some premium carriers are much more expensive, with ticket prices that don’t reflect the few service frills they throw in.
Some might not offer frequent flyer miles or free newspapers either!
I just thought my Qantas vs Jetstar experience was a useful comparison model that I could share with readers, especially those travelling or living in Australia.
For those elsewhere in the globe it might be a useful article to get you thinking about the real value of flying budget
Essentially the Message Is…
Spend some time doing a bit of research into exactly what the total cost of a budget flight will be and then work out whether paying a few extra dollars for a coffee, a newspaper, some frequent flyer miles and some more legroom might not be such a bad thing!