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International Flights

Unless you are already living in Australia and want to explore your own country, you will first have to consider how to get to Australia. The most obvious way is of course by plane and Qantas (originally this is an acronym for "Queensland and Northern Territory Air Service") offers more flights to Australia than any other airline and if your distination is not one of the major cities, Qantas and OneWorld Alliance partners might actually be your only choice at least for the last leg of your journey.

As you can see, alliances are quite important as no airline can service all destinations. So let's look at these first.


Apart from individual agreements between airlines there are three major airline alliances in the world. These are - in order of size - Star Alliance, OneWorld Alliance and SkyTeam. Qantas, the major Australian airline is member of OneWorld, so this alliance might be the most important one for you.

OneWorld Alliance

Qantas is part of the OneWorld Alliance and offers code share flights with partner airlines. The major partners are British Airways and Iberia in Europe (Iberia having a strong network to South America as well) and American Airlines in North America. AirBerlin, a German airline, has joined the alliance recently.

Star Alliance

This is the largest of the three major airline alliances of which the strongest members are Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, United and US Airways (both USA) and Thai Airways. Air New Zealand is also a member of Star Alliance and one of the few airlines that offers flights from Europe via America (so called Southern Cross Route) rather than via South-East Asia (so called Kangaroo Route). They all offer code share flights so that you can get to Australia for example with a Lufthansa flight number, although the flight might actually be operated by Singapore Airlines or Thai Airways.


Being the smallest of the three major alliances, to my knowledge SkyTeam does not have a partner in Australia. The major members are KLM, AirFrance (both Europe) and Delta Airlines (USA). With China Airlines, China Eastern and China Southern as well as Korean Air, the alliance has a strong presence in the south-east Asia. Unfortunately some Chinese airlines have a poor safety rating and personally I would not fly with those.

Individual agreements relevant for Australia

Qantas - Emirates

Recently Qantas has anounced a strategic alliance with Emirates. As a result Qantas will shift the previous stopover destination for flights from Europe to Australia from Singapore to Dubai. Qantas has also anounced to reduce the number of destinations in Europe it services directly. In the future many passengers flying for example from Germany will find that when they book a flight with Qantas it is actually operated by Emirates

If you ask me, that not a bad thing. Emirates has the largest Airbus A380 fleet in the world and a reputation for excellent service and safety and if you book this with Qantas rather than Emirates, you will even be able to collect Qantas Frequent Flyer Points that count towards your OneWorld Alliance Membership status.

Virgin Australia - Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines has many flights servicing major cities in Australia and with this partnership has in Virgin Australia found a domestic carrier for the Australian market. As a result you can now book flights to regional destinations in Australia together with your Singapore Airlines long-haul flight and enjoy checked through baggage just like with Qantas and OneWorld Alliance airlines.

Which airline is best for flights to Australia?

Every answer to this question depends on a number of parameters like your budget, which class you book, where you are from and what is your destination, etc. And even if you have found the answer to all these questions, there is still an element of personal preference. What you read now is my personal view and you might agree or disagree.


Qantas A380Qantas Airbus A380As stated in the beginning, no other airline services more destinations in Australia, certainly a big plus depending on where you actually want to go. In addition, Qantas is the second oldest continuously operating airline in the world (since 1920) and has never lost a jet. If you fly from Europe, your flight will have a stopover in Dubai and last about 22 hours to Sydney (varying a bit depending on where you start).

For flights from the USA, the gateway to Australia is Los Angeles from where you can reach Sydney in a bit over 15 hours. Connecting flights operated by American Airlines or other OneWorld member airlines ensure you have a network that covers pretty much all of North America.

If you are a member of one of the frequent flyer programmes with another OneWorld Alliance airline (e. g. British Airways or American Airlines) you will be glad to hear that you can earn points and status credits on Qantas flights.


Given their new alliance with Qantas, Emirates is now a good choice as well, as you have no trouble with connecting flights to regional cities in Australia anymore. It also has a very high safety and service standard. Just as with Qantas, if you fly from Europe, your stopover will be in Dubai. Emirates A380Emirates Airbus A380Emirates also services most large airports in the USA from where you fly to Australia with a stopover in Dubai. Personally, I would rather book with Qantas. If flying from North America, the Qantas route via Los Angeles to Sydney is shorter than the Emirates route via Dubai. And if I had to fly from Europe, I would rather look for a code share flight that is operated by Emirates rather than booking directly with Emirates so I can collect points with my OneWorld Alliance frequent flyer account.

Singapore Airlines

One of the best airlines in the world both in terms of safety and comfort, Singapore Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance which gives you access to the largest network. The entertainment system on their new Airbus A380 is second to none and I never had a better economy class flight. As if that was not enough, as icing on the cake you get the partnership with a Virgin Australia, putting regional destinations in Australia within easy reach as well.

If you come from Europe, your stopover will be in Singapore. If you fly from western North America, your flight will be via Tokyo while Eastern North America will be via Europa (Frankfurt, Germany) and Singapore.

Singapore A380Singapore Airlines Airbus A380Unfortunately the comfort comes at a price and Singapore Airlines is usually among the more expensive options. You might be better off booking with Lufthansa and trying to get a code share flight that is actually operated by Singapore Airlines. However, this will only work if your destination in Australia is serviced directly by Singapore Airlines as the Australian partner Virgin Australia is not a member of the Star Alliance. For that reason only flights booked directly with Singapore Airlines can profit from this partnership.


Lufthansa is one of the largest airline groups in the world and founding member of the Star Alliance. While it does not fly to Australia, it has a strong network all over Europe, to North America and to south-east Asia. The route from Europe to Australia is usually operated via Singapore (code share with Singapore Airlines) or Bangkok (code share with Thai Airways) with the respective second part of the flight being operated by the other airline. Flights from North America connect first to Frankfurt and then follow the aforementioned route.

While I found the Lufthansa economy class cabin - even in the Airbus A380 - no match to the competition of Singapore Airlines, there are some advantages. Lufthansa is based in Germany, and as such subject to strict EU regulations around flight cancellation and delays that give significant rights to customers. If I don't need connecting flights to regional Australian airports which only OneWorld Alliance airlines, Emirates and Singapore Airlines can offer, I would always consider booking with Lufthansa and trying to get on a code share flight that is operated by Singapore Airlines.

Austrian Airlines

Austrian Airlines is part of the Lufthansa corporation and just like the parent company it uses Star Alliance partner airlines to reach Australia. The airline is strong when it comes to connections to eastern Europe and if you fly from Australia it might be an alternative for you, rather than booking with Lufthansa.


Swiss is part of the Lufthansa Group and operates flights from Zurich (Switzerland) to destinations in south-east Asia. From there you will get code share flights with various Star Alliance partner airlines but also with Qantas to different locations in Australia. Especially if you are living in Switzerland or south-western Germany, Swiss might be an alternative for you.

Thai Airways

Thai Airways is another member of the Star Alliance and has flights from Europe to Thailand (mainly Bangkok) and from their to many destinations in Australia. While I found the service to be excellent, the comfort significantly varies with the plane. While many claim they found the newer Airbus A380 very good, I did not have that luck and got a flight from Frankfurt via Bangkok to Sydney on a Boeing 747 which had no personal entertainment system but just the old fashioned screen for the whole cabin. Certainly not what you are looking for in a flight that lasts more than 20 hours.

In addition I found the airport in Bangkok to be a maze with poor signage and a layout that is far from intuitive. For these reasons - unless you want to get a longer stop-over in Bangkok - you are probably better off booking with Lufthansa and looking out for a code share flight with Singapore Airlines.

KLM and AirFrance

KLM Boeing777KLM Boeing 777KLM and AirFrance have merged in 2004, forming now the AirFrance KLM Group but still operating under their individual brands. The large hubs in Europe are Amsterdam (KLM) and Paris (AirFrance) and flights usually connect to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) or China, from where code share flights operated my Malaysian Airlines or Chinese SkyTeam member airlines connect to Australia.

If you need to get the cheapest flights available, flying with these Chinese partners might be for you, but given the bad reputation some of these airlines have for safety, I certainly would not. KLM has a separate code share agreements with Malaysia and Qantas for selected flights, so that you might be able to get a flight with a KLM jet to Kuala Lumpur or Hong Kong and from there with a code share partner (Malaysian Airlines or Qantas) to Australia.

Flights from North America are operated by Delta, the world's largest airline and go via Los Angeles.

Best fares

Unlike some years ago when the majority of bookings was done with travel agents, airlines have by now learned that operating their own online booking system is much cheaper than paying commisions to travel agents. Many airlines even give you a lowest price guarantee, when you book via their own website so that booking through a travel agent is no longer advisable. Unless of course, you have special needs that make it necessary to use a travel agent (i. e. complex flight connections that are not operated by any single alliance but require cross-alliance bookings). For the majority of travellers though, I recommend to book your flight directly with the airline of your choice. To the right you will find a list of the most important airlines for flights to and from Australia.

Earning Frequent Flyer Points

With most airlines you will earn frequent flyer points and status credits that are valid within the respective alliance. The only exception to this is Emirates which is not a member of any of the large alliances. Unless you have your OneWorld Alliance frequent flyer account with Qantas, which has now a partnership with Emirates - your points earned on Emirates will only be valid with Emirates. For that reason - as mentioned above - I would recommend booking with Qantas rather than Emirates, so that your points are true OneWorld Alliance points.

AirlinesQuick links to some carriers

Austrian Airlines Logo



Fly Emirates


KLM logo





Swiss - einfach fliegen

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