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Canberra Today 15°/20° | Friday, February 23, 2024 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

The long and the short of getting to Cairns

Rex… it’s a a long way to get to Cairns.

Aviation writer SCOTT MAYMAN started musing about the cost of a flight from Canberra to Cairns and found there were a few choices, but one shocker amongst them. 

A promotional email from Rex, ostensibly aimed at Queenslanders talking up its air service to Cairns and spruiking how it’s cheaper than Qantas, got me wondering about ticket prices there for passengers from the south.

So, at 5pm, on January 31, I started scoping the ticket prices and travel requirements to fly from Canberra to Cairns. As I expected, there wasn’t a direct flight service.

I looked at Qantas, Virgin and Rex for a February 20 travel date, involving a one-way adventure. Qantas will normally on-sell Jetstar flights in its bookings process if there’s a cheap alternative,  but no such option was made available.

Virgin offered the cheapest economy fare at $309 with a 6am departure from Canberra and arriving just after 10am in Cairns. Not bad, in my opinion.

Qantas was interesting. Not only was Jetstar not a choice during my search (which suggests it didn’t offer anything cheaper), but the Qantas options would allow me a bit of a sleep in. A flight from Canberra left at 7.30am via Sydney, arriving in Cairns at 11.30am for $566.

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

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 of the three airlines, which surprised me considering Rex likes to promote itself as cheaper than Qantas.

But the routing leaves a lot to be desired: leave Canberra at 2.15pm and arrive in Melbourne at 3.25pm. Leave Melbourne at 8pm and arrive in Sydney at 9.30pm. Overnight in Sydney before leaving the next day at 7.15am for Brisbane, arriving at 7.45am, where you connect with a three-hour propeller Saab service at noon and get into Cairns at 3pm.

In total,  more than 24 hours after leaving Canberra.

You could probably fly to Los Angeles in about the same time!

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Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor

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