Qantas, Emirates lead as Australia's top international airlines

By David Flynn, May 29 2014
Qantas, Emirates lead as Australia's top international airlines

Qantas partner Emirates has surged ahead of Singapore Airlines to claim number two spot on the leaderboard of Australia's most popular international airlines.

The Gulf carrier was previously parked in third place behind Singapore Airlines in 2012, based on the number of international passengers carried by each airline throughout the year as recorded by the Federal Government's Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE).

But Emirates recorded a 16.7 percent increase in passengers during 2013 against SQ's more modest 3.3 percent gain.

Qantas not only remains in the lead for 2013 with a 17 percent market share of international air travel, it notched up a small but welcome increase of 1.4 percent against the previous year.

Air New Zealand took out fourth place on the back of the evergreen trans-Tasman route, with a 2.8 percent uplift between 2012 and 2013 giving the Kiwi carrier a total 7.8 percent market share.

AirNZ partner Virgin Australia and Qantas' low-cost offshoot Jetstar were duking it out for fifth place at 7.7 percent apiece, although both saw passenger numbers drop by an average of 1.6 percent on a year-on-year basis.

Cathay Pacific and Malaysia Airlines followed with 4.5 percent and 4.1 percent shares, respectively, with Air Asia X and Thai Airways closing out the top ten list.






2013 market share














Singapore Airlines






Air New Zealand






Virgin Australia












Cathay Pacific






Malaysia Airlines






AirAsia X






Thai Airways





Source: CAPA

But a static market share figure doesn't tell the whole story, with several airlines recording exceptionally high growth which could put them in good shape for a boost in 2014.

While Etihad Airways finished 2013 at 12th position with 642,763 passengers and a 2.1 percent slice of the international travel pie, it enjoyed an 18.2 percent year-on-year increase.

With Perth-Abu Dhabi flights due to begin in July this year, and an Airbus A380 taking over one of the Etihad's two Sydney-Abu Dhabi services in July 2015, Etihad looks set to break into the top ten chart.

"Etihad has a strong if contentious brand in Australia thanks to its strategic and equity partnership with Virgin Australia" suggests the number-crunchers at industry analyst firm CAPA. "Prior to that Etihad positioned itself strongly, for example branding one of Melbourne's sport stadiums the Etihad Stadium."

"But in terms of international passengers to and from Australia, Etihad is still a small player.

CAPA also notes that between Emirates, Etihad and Qatar, "Gulf carriers flew 11.5% of all international passengers to/from Australia".

This means that at least one in ten Aussie travellers now count a Gulf city as either their destination or stop-over – and that's without adding Qantas' own flights to Dubai and London to the tally.

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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 527

These are interesting statistics. It must go to show that there has been some benefit (albeit maybe more for Emirates) to the partnership with QF and EK. Malaysia's increase by 16.6% could possibly be attributed to them joining OneWorld. Surprising to see Cathay Pacific drop though.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

07 Jan 2014

Total posts 32

I agree AusFlyer - it makes for interesting analysis.

Another thing to consider is the two Gulf based airlines are spending big and expanding while Qantas is scaling back on its spending. 

While the partnership would be a contributing factor to Emirates claiming second spot, I think its incresed investment in the market is the driving factor - as is the 18.2 per cent growth of Etihad. 


12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1501

I bet that statistic is dodgy - they count tickets, not places. Thus if one bought QF tickets on EK metal he counts as QF passenger. I simply cannot believe this statistic considering that QF flies in very few destinations and with each new booking it became more and more difficult to book Qantas metal.

10 Mar 2011

Total posts 527

You could argue the same for Virgin then couldn't you? That would probably put them way down the list if you had to separate it out.


12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1501

Yes, logic says that it should be uniform. I cannot comment Virgin, but I cannot say that Qantas international represent more aircrafts that even Emirathes – neither in airports or booking. Perth is gone and plenty of destination can be done only via Sydney. If stats is true passengers count on airlines metals, than I am really surprised by it.

For example MEL-SIN we have EK405, JQ7, SQ228, SQ238, SQ218 and only one QF35. Plus plenty of other parties with one stop.

MEL-LHR CZ322+CZ303, MU738+MU551, MH148+MH4, CX178+CX257, AI301+AI115, EY461+EY19, TG462+TG916, CX104+CX251, SQ208+SQ306, SQ228+SQ332 (and may be more) and only one QF9.

Indeed I gotta feeling in my tail that stats is dodgy indeed.

15 Dec 2013

Total posts 42

I think you're forgetting that trans-Tasman traffic is "international".


04 Nov 2010

Total posts 670

Wow, I had no idea that Cathay Pacific would rank so low, only in 7th place! Yes, clearly shows huge benefits to Emirates flowing from the Qantas partnership. And given that all of AirNZ's Aussie flights are trans-Tasman this only goes to show how big the trans-Tasman market is, that AirNZ can record such a result just with those flights.

20 Feb 2012

Total posts 125

Cathay ranks low as their aircraft have a greater % of premium seats- each A330-300 only seats 240

Drop from last year due to premium economy...

Australian government refuses to open Australia to CX like it does for SQ/EK etc, for some reason Aussie is more scared of Hong Kong.

as  well aware CX only focuses on Business class and Cargo.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1378

Jetstar shrinking versus AirAsiaX growing 30+% is interesting

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Feb 2014

Total posts 445

What I find interesting is that both MH and D7 post massive gains.

Although comparing D7 with JQ is like chalk and cheese IMO.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Dec 2012

Total posts 170

Does an EK flight sold as (coded) a QF ticket count towards a passenger on EK or QF?

undertheradar Banned
undertheradar Banned

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 654

that's a good question...and vice versa..could help both, going both ways...and i agree...great article/info

undertheradar Banned
undertheradar Banned

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 654

this is my 'pot stirrer' for today...the first thing i noticed in the pic of this article, is AJ wearing a purple tie, very similar to the 'VA purple'... made me giggle... nothing more/nothing less..someone will now pick this up and run with some 'airline based political' comment....ahhhh..the power of 'suggestion'

now back to regular programming :-)

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Dec 2012

Total posts 170

So David,


Which airlines do codeshare passengers count for? EK passengers on QF flights and vice-versa.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Dec 2012

Total posts 170

So David,

Which airlines do codeshare passengers count for? EK passengers on QF flights and vice-versa.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 May 2014

Total posts 1

After MA's recent much publicised " mystery flight tours " can't see them making the top 10 in the next 12 months..

Looks like strong growth continuing for Gulf carrriers!

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