Review: QantasLink Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 economy class (Sydney-Canberra)

Even with just 35 minutes from take-off to touchdown, QantasLink still makes time for refreshments, plus beer and wine from 5pm.

Overall Rating

By Chris C., June 22 2021
QantasLink Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 economy class (Sydney-Canberra)

Sydney to Canberra

Aircraft Type

Dash 8 Q400





Cabin Class



8C (aisle)

The Good
  • All refreshments are complimentary, including beer and wine from 5pm
The Bad
  • The flight is short, but prices are high – often from $193 one-way, outside sale periods
  • 70 return flights per week means the airline's schedule should suit your own


Australia's national capital is a mere three-hour drive from its most populous city, but hitting the road isn't always practical – especially for business travellers taking a quick day trip.

That's where flying between Sydney and Canberra has the edge: and with 70 return flights per week, Qantas and QantasLink offer the broadest schedule of any airline on this capital city corridor.

Here's what to expect on the quick hop between cities, when a QantasLink Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 arrives at your gate.


  • Frequent flyer program: Qantas Frequent Flyer, Oneworld.
  • Checked baggage allowance: 1x23kg bag (all Dash 8 flights).
  • Carry-on baggage allowance: 1x7kg, 105cm bag (again applies to all Dash 8 passengers, regardless of status).
    • Plus: One personal item such as a handbag, laptop satchel, overcoat, small camera, duty-free goods or reading material.

Given the small size of the overhead lockers fitted to most QantasLink Dash 8s, bags with wheels are likely to be tagged as "priority hand luggage" at the boarding gate.

These are handed over to ground crew as you board, and retrieved from the steps of the plane upon arrival – still faster than checking-in a bag, but not able to be accessed during the flight.


While a QantasLink economy ticket doesn't provide lounge access by default, this is where your frequent flyer status or lounge membership comes in handy.

At Sydney Airport's Terminal 3, the airline offers both a Qantas Club (for lounge members and Gold cardholders) and a Qantas Business Lounge (for Platinum and Platinum One frequent flyers).

A brief 8am visit to that Qantas Club found a fresh salad of egg, pumpkin and kale, along with a ham, cheese and egg plate with a warmed bread roll, water, and barista-made coffee to start the day.

The Qantas Business Lounge next door typically provides a broader range of hot pre-flight dishes – and of course, there's barista coffee too.

Also read: Airport lounge breakfasts: Qantas vs Virgin Australia


Together, Qantas and QantasLink operate 70 return flights between Sydney and Canberra every week.

These are served by a mix of aircraft including Dash 8 Q300s and Q400s (the latter reviewed here), plus Boeing 717 jets, and the occasional Boeing 737. 

Qantas competes exclusively with Rex on the Sydney-Canberra corridor, with mutual rival Virgin Australia no longer offering non-stop flights between the cities.


The airline's Dash 8 Q400s come in an all-economy layout, with 74 seats in a 2-2 configuration. 

This means every passenger is guaranteed an aisle or window – no middle seats here.

Each seat measures at a standard 17 inches (43cm) wide, with a pitch of 31 inches (79cm).

This translates into legroom that's more than adequate on these quick flights – and if you want to stretch out even further, laptop bags of the size below easily slide into the overhead lockers.

While the seats aren't leisurely wide, the physical gap between them should still provide a little room between your shoulders and those of your neighbour.

Each seat offers a sturdy tray table, as well as a storage pouch for smaller items such as literature, a tablet, or a water bottle:

Tablet holders are also found at the top of every seat, but as these can't be used until after take-off and must be vacated when preparing for landing, the time available to use them is minimal on short hops like Sydney-Canberra.


Even with a flight time of just 35 minutes – and 55 minutes total from gate to gate – passengers are still served light refreshments.

Crew came through the cabin to offer a bottle of water before take-off, followed by a quick pass of the snack cart after wheels-up.

On this 9am departure, tasty chocolate chunky cookies were the snack de jour, with tea, coffee, juice, soft drinks, and water always complimentary.

Between Sydney and Canberra, wine and beer are also free on Qantas and QantasLink flights with a scheduled departure time of 5pm or later each day.

Entertainment & Service

On a route with just enough time to enjoy the refreshments, inflight entertainment is not available on QantasLink's Dash 8s – and nor would most passengers use it, if it were.

Instead, Qantas magazines are available on the ground, and you're welcome to use your own handheld devices from gate to gate: including those with Bluetooth.

Speaking of which, don't forget to pack your noise-cancelling headphones – the propeller noise makes the cabin a much louder environment than found on Qantas' typical Boeing 737s.

On the service front, crew moved through the cabin quickly – and even though the seatbelt sign remained on until 9:30am (from a 9am push-back, arriving at 9:55am), every passenger was served before preparing for landing.

Priority boarding was not available for this flight, with only one lane at the gate in Sydney – but given the smaller passenger count versus a full Boeing 737, boarding was still smooth and efficient.

Overall, a pleasant way to travel between Sydney and Canberra: particularly for a business traveller on a day trip, where a three-hour drive each way simply isn't practical.

Also read: Qantas vs Rex on the short Sydney-Canberra hop

Chris Chamberlin travelled as a guest of QantasLink.

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.


09 May 2020

Total posts 566

My comparison based on flights from Sydney to NSW destinations when comparing QF and ZL flights with the same destinations:

  • 2 flights attendants in Dash 8. 400, 74 seats
  • Compare this to 1 flight attendant in REx Saab 340 33 seats 
  • 4 (or 5) walk through in a 60 min flight (40 min cruise time)
  • Snacks and drinks (sweet or savoury, juice or mineral water)
  • Coffee or tea
  • Mentos sweet
  • Collection of rubbish 
  • (Requests for taxis, depending on rural airport destinations, where it’s at least 15-20 mins from town CBD, so unlikely to have taxi dropping in waiting around)

Yup they work hard for the money in the Saab

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