Low(er)-Cost Carriers In Australia And New Zealand

May 27, 2014

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TPG contributor Lori Zaino takes a look at few low/lower cost airlines that operate in Australia and New Zealand. If you have any experience or have suggestions, please feel free to share them in the comments.

Simply put, Australia and New Zealand are far away from the US. When all is said and done, you’re looking at a full day of travel  just to get there, and that doesn’t include finding your way to all the hidden gems the two countries have to offer. That’s where the low-cost carriers come in. These budget (or semi-budget) airlines will allow you to explore Oceania on the cheap, leaving you extra cash to enjoy other activities during your trip. The most well known is Jet Star, but there are several others that may serve your needs. Other posts in this series include Maximizing Low-Cost Carriers In Europe, Leveraging Low-Cost Carriers To Travel Cheaply Around Central and South America and Maximizing Low-Cost Carriers In Asia And The Middle East.

Australia is bigger than it looks!
Australia is bigger than it looks!

*Please keep in mind that these rules and regulations are extremely specific and constantly changing. The information below is a basic guide to some of the most popular low-cost carriers, but be sure to check for new information and details online prior to booking. If you have any personal experiences with these low-cost/semi low-cost carriers or others in Australia, we’d love to hear about them in the comments section below.

Jet Star
Jet Star

Jet Star. Possibly the only “true” low-cost carrier in Oceania, Jet Star has its headquarters in Melbourne, and is the the budget airline subsidiary of Qantas. Eastablished in 2003, the airline describes itself as “value based”.

Routes: Besides flying to several cities within Australia, Jet Star also flies to Cambodia, China, Fiji, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, The Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Hawaii and Vietnam.

Sample Itinerary: Melbourne/Sydney, Australia in June 2014 is $92 on Jet Star and $184 on Qantas.

Fare Classes: Economy Starter, Economy Plus, Economy Max and Business Class

  • Economy: 10 kg (22 lbs) of carry-on baggage (one bag plus small purse), Jet Star selects your seat, no checked baggage.
  • Economy Starter: 10 kg (22 lbs) of carry-on baggage (one bag plus small purse), no change fees, you can select your seat, earn Qantas points, $5 AU inflight food/drink voucher ($4.65), no checked baggage.
  • Economy Max: 10 kg (22 lbs) of carry-on baggage (one bag plus small purse), full refundable ticket, earn Qantas points, you can select your seat, $5 AU inflight food/drink voucher ($4.65), 20 kg (44 lbs) checked bag allowance  included- more than 1 checked bag is allowed, but cannot exceed total weight limit of 20 kg (44 lbs).
  • Business: 20 kg (44 lbs) of carry on baggage (two items weighing up to 10 kg (22 lbs) EACH), seat in Business cabin, change fees waived (date, time, name, origin & destination), in flight entertainment (on flights over 90 minutes), meal (on International flights), snacks (on Domestic and International flights) and beverages, comfort pack (on International flights), 30 kg (66 lbs) checked bag allowance  included- more than 1 checked bag is allowed, but cannot exceed total weight limit of 30 kg (66 lbs).


  • Main carry on item must not exceed the dimensions of 56 x 36 x 23 cm (22 x 14 x 9 in).
  • You can purchase more checked baggage at the time of booking or at the airport for an added fee
  • Comfort packs are available for purchase and include a blanket, pillow, toothbrush, socks, cosmetics and eye mask.
  • On board you have the option to rent an iPad loaded with movies, TV shows and games for $10 AUD ($9 USD). On flights longer than 2 hours, it costs $18 AUD ($16 USD) and you can rent them at the time of booking.

Qantas Miles: You can earn Qantas miles by flying on Jet Star, and you can book award travel on Jet Star with Qantas miles. Only the Economy Starter, Economy Max and Business classes allow you to earn Qantas miles; regular Economy fares are excluded from earning miles .

Jet Star Credit Cards: There are several Jet Star Mastercards available.

For a more detailed account and review, read about TPG’s flight from Melbourne to Hamilton on Jet Star.

Rex is a regional carrier
Rex is a regional carrier.

Rex. Deriving its name as an acronym for “Regional Express”, Rex is not necessarily a budget carrier, but in some cases it can be the cheaper option. It operates only within Australia using Saab planes.

Routes: Rex operates many routes that no other airlines fly, such as Adelaide to Broken Hill. In many cases, Rex operates the only direct flight between destinations in Australia. Cities they fly to include Ceduna, Mildura, Port Lincoln, Kingscote and more.

Sample Itinerary: Sydney/Wagga Wagga Australia, May 27-31, 2014 is $208 on Rex and $224 on Qantas

Fare Classes: Rex Promo, Rex Net, Rex Saver, Rex Biz, Rex Flex. Each of these fare classes differs mainly with regard to the cancellation policy and other rules such as name change or advance purchase.

Carry-on Baggage: Regardless of fare class, each passenger can take two small bags, each not exceeding a size of 23 x 34 x 48 cm (9 x 13 x 19 in) or a weight of 7 kg (15 lbs). Passengers can also carry on a purse, coat, camera, reading material or walking stick.

Checked Baggage: Passengers can check one bag with a maximum weight of 15 kg (33 lbs) and a maximum combined dimension (length + width + height) of 140 cm (55 in). Business class passgengers may have the option to check more in some cases.

Lounges: Rex Lounges are located at Gate G2 in Sydney Domestic Terminal 2 and Gate 10 in Adelaide Terminal 1. Due to the Melbourne airport terminal upgrade, the Melbourne lounge is currently closed. A temporary lounge will operate for Rex Lounge members starting May 15, 2014. Rex Lounge annual membership costs $299 AU ($278). Membership provides access to Rex Lounges on the day of departure or arrival on Rex flights. All members are given a four-digit lounge access code, and have their fingerprints enrolled in the fingerprint scanner. To gain access to the Lounge, you must key in your access code and scan your enrolled finger, and the doors will open if verification is successful. Rex Lounge members can invite a maximum of two guests to join them in the Rex Lounge (guests must also be flying on Rex). Guest passes cost $20 AU ($18.50), are valid for one visit, and are available at the Rex check-in counter or departure gates.

Casual Lounge access is now available at Sydney and Adelaide to Regional Express passengers with a valid boarding pass for a fee of $33 AU ($30.60). Casual Lounge access can only be purchased on weekdays between 9am and 2pm and during lounge opening hours on weekends. Casual Lounge Access can be purchased from check in, the Lounge Attendant or at the gate lounge at Sydney and Adelaide airports. Entry is subject to space availability.

Frequent Flyer Program: Rex has recently terminated their frequent flyer program due to budget cuts.

Virgin Australia...not a true "low-cost" but save a few bucks with their saver lite fares!
Virgin Australia: not a true “low-cost” airline, but you can save a few bucks with their saver lite fares!

Virgin Australia. This airline has absorbed a number of low-cost and regional Australian carriers in past years, such as Pacific Blue, Virgin Blue, Skywest and V Australia. While Virgin Australia isn’t a low-cost carrier, it does consider itself to be a “New World Carrier”, meaning that they can offer the customer both a basic, no frills option (the saver/saver lite fares) and a luxury option.

Routes: You can fly pretty much all over the world with Virgin Australia, especially via their partnerships with Virgin America and Virgin Atlantic, not to mention partnerships with Delta, Hawaiian, Singapore, Etihad and Air New Zealand. They are also transfer partners with Starwood Hotels and a number of other hotels and car rental chains.

Sample Itinerary: Sydney, Australia/Los Angeles, California, US, May 23-June 3, 2014 is $1004 on Virgin Australia and $1731 on Qantas.

Fare Classes Domestic: Saver Lite, Saver, Flexi, Business Saver and Business. All fare classes include 7 kg (15 lbs) of carry-on baggage. The Saver and Flexi fares include 23 kg (50 lbs) of checked baggage. The Saver/Saver Lite fares are non-refundable, and the Flexi fare is refundable with a fee. The Business Saver fares include a wider seat, extra legroom, two pieces of baggage up to 32 kg (70 lbs) each, in-flight entertainment, a premium dining experience, Priority Check-in and exclusive access to the Virgin Australia lounge. The difference  between Business Saver and Business is that only the Business fare is refundable.

Fare Classes International Short Haul: Saver Lite, Saver, Flexi, Premium Saver, Premium, Business Saver and Business. All fares include 7 kg (15 lbs) of carry on baggage. The Saver and Flexi fares include 23 kg (50 lbs) of checked baggage. The Saver/Saver Lite/Premium Saver/Business Saver fares are non-refundable, and the Flexi fare is refundable with a fee. Premium Saver fares include a wider seat, extra legroom, two pieces of baggage up to 32 kg (70 lbs) each, in-flight entertainment, a premium dining experience and Priority Check-in. Premium fares are the same as Premium Saver, but fully refundable. Business Saver and Business fares include a wider seat, extra legroom, two pieces of baggage up to 32 kg (70 lbs) each, in-flight entertainment, a premium dining experience, Priority Check-in and access to the Virgin Australia lounge, but only the Business fare is fully refundable.

Fare Classes International Long Haul: These fares are the same as the International Short Haul fares, except there is no Saver Lite fare, so all fares have checked luggage included.

Velocity Frequent Flyer Program: The Virgin Australia loyalty program offers points earning and redemption for flights and other partners like hotels and car rentals. Benefits include Priority Check-in, and Gold and Platinum members can enjoy Priority Boarding, Guaranteed Reward Seats, Lounge Access and complimentary membership with hotel and car rental partner programs. There are also options for various credit cards associated with Virgin Australia.

For a personal account of TPG’s Hamilton/Sydney flight on Virgin Australia, read the post here.

As a final note, some Asian low-cost carriers operate flights within Australia, such as Tigerair and AirAsia. For more information on these budget carriers, check out this post on Low-Cost Carriers In Asia.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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