Australia to the UK: stopover, or fly straight through?

By David Flynn, August 2 2013
Australia to the UK: stopover, or fly straight through?

It's been four months since the Qantas-Emirates alliance officially swung into gear, and in the process titled Australia's travel globe tilted on its axis by shifting the pivot point for Qantas's Kangaroo Route from Singapore to Dubai.

Despite the benefits of Dubai as Emirates' geographically-advantaged superhub which puts dozens of European cities just one stop away, not everyone has been thrilled about losing Singapore as the traditional stopover en route to London.

Qantas' own poll of Australia travellers, taken prior to the Qantas-Emirates launch, saw Singapore rated ahead of Dubai and Hong Kong as the most popular transit point or stopover city for flights to Europe.

That said, it was a narrow margin: 64 per cent reportedly favoured the Lion City against a claimed 61 per cent for Dubai (a surprisingly high position, considering that at the time of the poll no Qantas flights stopped at Dubai).

Hong Kong was reportedly the traveller's third choice for a transit or stopover, at 60 per cent, followed by Abu Dhabi, Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.

Most of those cities already play a part in alternatives to the Kangaroo Route – especially Hong Kong, which is served by Cathay Pacific and Virgin Atlantic from Australia as well as British Airways on the London-Hong Kong leg.

Read: The other Kangaroo Routes – eight one-hop ways to get to London

Dally in Dubai, or shoot straight through?

It remains to be seen if Dubai will in time enjoy the same stopover status as Singapore, to the point where travellers opt to break their journey for a day or two before they tackle the second leg of this globetrotting trek.

One factor may well be the flying time to each hub.

For example, from Sydney to Singapore is an eight hour flight, which makes it tempting to stop over before embarking on the remaining 13 hours of the journey.

Dubai flips this equation so that the bulk of your flying time – around 14 hours and 30 minutes – is spent en route to the United Arab Emirates.

Once you arrive there, London is less than eight hours away, which could see many travellers grit their teeth and shoot straight on to Heathrow.

Doing the Kangaroo Route without a hop

But what if you could skip the stopover altogether?

What if you could step onto your plane in Sydney, Melbourne or any other sizeable capital city and not have to land until London?

Sir Richard Branson promises that's on the way thanks to Virgin Galactic's combination of supersonic and sub-orbital technologies, although commercial services are still estimated to be a good 20 years out.

Some of today's conventional aircraft can in fact do London to Sydney in a single run, as long as they've got few passengers and bags to weight them down.

A better bet are the new ultra-long-range variants of the Boeing 777, the forthcoming Airbus A350 and possibly even the Airbus A380.

A second-gen upgrade for the A380 has seen design and engineering tweaks boost the superjumbo's performance efficiency and extend its range sufficient to make a direct Sydney-New York flight possible.

If aircraft manufacturers continue to build on performance and fuel efficiency, non-stop flights from Sydney or Melbourne to London could follow.

In for the long haul

There are some caveats, of course.

The savings in time wouldn't be that substantial: say, 20 hours for a direct flight between the two cities against 24 hours (including your stopover 'downtime').

And you'd have to factor in how totally buggered you may feel after stepping off such a long flight, even if you were ensconced in business class.

And spending that long in economy would be a true medal-winning feat.

I've flown in economy from Sydney to Dallas, which is a 15 hour and 30 minute trek, and after 12 hours my legs were screaming for the release of a good straight-out stretch.

Eighteen-plus hours in today's narrow, cramped economy seats sounds less like the start of a holiday and more like a spell in solitary confinement.

But in a lie-flat business class seat, with a decent menu and plenty of latest-release movies, flying non-stop to London might beat a stopover in Singapore, Dubai or anywhere else.

Would you rather stop over or fly straight through to the UK? And if you do break your journey, what's your stopover city of choice?

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

10 Mar 2011

Total posts 529

It has to be said that there is something nice about being able to stretch your legs for a bit on a stopover, and to be honest, the thought of spending 20 hours on a plane without a stopover is not particularly inviting.

I recently flew via Dubai (albeit without stopping there, although I have been before) and it was great. I don't really understand why people focus on the fact that it is now 14 hours to Dubai then 7 hours to London instead of the other way around when you fly through Singapore or Hong Kong, since it is just the reverse now since you still fly back from London to Australia. Dubai itself is not a bad place... albeit very over the top. Like any other country you visit, you have to abide by their local laws and customs.

I found it so much nicer to be able to jump on a plane from somewhere else in Europe and not have to fly back to London first before flying home. There is nothing that Singapore offers as a transit point that you don't get in Dubai. The biggest plus is simply that you can now avoid Heathrow. It is unlikely I would do a stopover, whether it is Dubai, Singapore or Hong Kong, since I prefer to just get to the destination.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 May 2011

Total posts 231

Direct flights to London and New York sound like a recepie for more cases of DVT to me.

QantasFF Platinum

16 Feb 2012

Total posts 153

What if you could step onto your plane in Sydney, Melbourne or any other sizeable capital city and not have to land until London?

I think it would be a pleasent experience to travel on the B787 non-stop SYD-LHR. 

14 Nov 2011

Total posts 11

There is nothing glamorous or pleasant about staying on an aircraft for 20 hours, be it in first/business/economy. I always break my trip with either an airside hotel for a few hours to take a real shower, have a real bed and a proper walk, to the best solution of calculate an extra day each way and have a proper rest, stay at a hotel,  breath fresh air, take in a sight or two and arrive at my final destination ready to work or play.


12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1464

It is OK if you just "flying around" and have plenty of spare time - i.e. you on holiday and do not really care if you lose few days in London in favor of Singapore or any other place for this merit. But if I flying to the destination, I would really prefer to do it in one hit, though minimumin Business and no freaking way even in PE!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2212

This is precisely why SRB is trying Virgin Galactic.

16 Dec 2011

Total posts 49

I think wher direct flights to istanbul come on line it will be very interesting in terms of Europe.  No benefit flying straight to Heathrow unless London is your final destination.

Cathay Pacific - Asia Miles

27 Nov 2012

Total posts 43

A few years ago I flew BKK to LAX in Thai business class on an A340-500 non stop. It took about 17 hours there, and 18 return, and I was trashed-out at the end of each sector. Should have taken the stopover at NRT option.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

27 Apr 2013

Total posts 2

I'd prefer to fly non stop Oz to LHR. flying this route is torture even with a stopover, I'd just rather fore go the 2 hour stopover & get to my hotel bed or bed at home 2 hours sooner.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 May 2012

Total posts 137

David, I'd love to be able to fly Perth to London non-stop every trip.  I know Queen Elizabeth did it non-stop  in her BA-supplied jet in 2012 after the Commonwealth Heads of Government jamboree in Perth.  I think she set a record at around 17 hours.  How good would that be?  I'd go for a few pints just for the weekend!

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2549

Drgmarshall: and I think Tony Blair also did London-Sydney non-stop in a BA 777... the benefits of low passenger count and not much cargo either!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Aug 2013

Total posts 1

It would be interesting to know how such a flight would be crewed and catered for, such a long flight would demand a huge amount of food and beverage for a nearly 24 hours. You certainly would want any delays on the ground once passengers had boarded, or a diversion due to fog....

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 451

I don't know about the rest of you but I would do straight through going over and have my stopover usually Singapore coming home.Done this before on my sole visit to the UK TO date flying Singapore Airlines and I felt a drink and walk through the terminal plus some hours to read my travel guide on Great Britain before continuing onwards to London was the best.26.35 hour ADL-SIN-LHR.I wonder using Emirates what the best connection through Dubai be like these days and how long would I be waiting around for the connecting flight.

Jetstar Airways - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 May 2017

Total posts 17

Goodbye Dubai! And adios Doha!.. used Qantas A380 and Quatar 330ER .. Missed the sublime Singapore karma and found cabin crews overworked, understaffed.

Love Cathay for its English speaking crew and efficient stewards. Hong Kong no match for Singapore...try the roof garden for smokers!

06 Dec 2017

Total posts 111

not uk related but flew adelaide to budapest recently coming home from munich via doha connection was pretty good four hours both ways and no doubling back to and from some point in europe or a 16 hour wait in singapore like when i went to part was in transit while the sq options would have barely got me partway home.

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