The Playbook For The Modern Man

Unlikely Aircraft Qantas Is Now Using For Sydney To Melbourne Flights

Started in a 737, now we here.

Will 2020 go down in history as the travel industry’s 2008? Only time (and next year’s rebound) will tell. In the meantime, let’s focus on the light-hearted travel news we have on-eyeball. This morning that’s Qantas’ decision to start running a glorified crop duster turboprop on flights from Sydney to Melbourne.

Symbolic but heartwarming.

Last year, an any given day, the Sydney to Melbourne corridor would have seen 70 plus flights operating each way. This long weekend was a different story: on Saturday, April the 11th, Virgin Australia had no flights and Qantas had a single service down to Melbourne.

That flight was a turboprop and it went via Canberra.

As Simple Flying, an aviation news website, reported on Sunday, “On Saturday morning, a 74 seat QantasLink Q400 (the turboprop, otherwise known as the ‘Dash 8’) trundled down to Melbourne via Canberra. It took nearly three hours. In the evening, Qantas’ low-cost subsidiary Jetstar flew an A320 down to Melbourne. This later flight went direct.”


“If you think that’s an anemic schedule, the pickings will be slimmer next week.”

Fast forward to today and that rings true: “Disregarding a smattering of government underwritten international services, freight flights, and FIFO mining operations,” (Simple Flying), Qantas and Virgin Australia have all but grounded their domestic fleets (their international fleets have been grounded since the end of March).


Virgin Australia is operating a singular domestic service, six days a week, return, between Sydney and Melbourne. A quick check of their booking page suggests these will not be full flights (at the time of writing, there are still seats available).

Qantas, meanwhile, is now running a single daily Boeing 737 return service between Sydney and Melbourne, supplemented by a singular Jetstar service on Saturday and the aforementioned Q400 turboprop service, operating on Monday, Friday, and Sunday via Canberra.

Some Australian residents, like Geoff Power, a cattle and vegetable grower in Western Australia, have taken to Twitter to herald the decision, and suggest it become a permanent addition to the roster.

This may not be as far fetched as it sounds: while the turboprop – an aircraft which uses a gas turbine core to turn a propeller – is not exactly a common aircraft these days, it is still used – even under normal circumstances – by Qantas for short routes where reaching maximum speed is not a priority (like Rockhamption to Brisbane).


This is because, provided you don’t need to go too fast, Turboprops are more fuel-efficient for shorter journeys than jets (and are also lighter, giving them greater performance for takeoff).


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However, given the number of people who usually look to commute from Melbourne to Sydney, and how quickly they’d like to do it, we’d say once things are back to normal the turboprop will be put back on it’s normal duties of shorter, less in-demand hops.

For Qantas to be using a turboprop for the Sydney to Melbourne route though, is a sign of the times – the drastic reduction in traffic for the corridor comes with a nasty drop in revenue. As Simple Flying reported on Sunday, “This route [usually] earns Qantas more than USD$630 million annually in revenue. Add in Virgin Australia’s take and the route between Sydney and Melbourne is a billion dollar revenue stream that’s vanished.”

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has said Qantas wants to help ferry essential workers and equipment around the country. But the airline, of course, as we reported last week, is also in a position where it must preserve cash – a fine line to walk.


Last week both Qantas and Virgin Australia tightened their loyalty programs in what appears a bid to reduce the number of customers ‘cashing out’ their points (to buy products) all in one go.

Both airlines have also offered 12 month status extensions to frequent flyers and increased customer’s options when it comes to cancelling or re-booking their flights at this time.

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  • Bill Reynolds

    Don’t be so disdainful of turboprops, and the Dash-8/Q400 in particular. There are a few of us who love them. I’ve particularly enjoyed my flights in Qantas Link Q400s.

  • Jimmy

    Doubt you’d be so chipper about it if you had to fly them a dozen times a month.

  • Bill Reynolds

    You may have a point. It’s a rare experience for me.

  • Dieseled

    May not be ideal, but at least it’s practical for the short term. Considering a Dash 8 400 costs only about $3-$4k + an hr give or take to run, compared to about $12-14k+ an hr give or take for a 737, the Dash wins no argument. Won’t in the race for speed or distance, but does for efficiency!

  • James

    What do you love about them?

  • James

    As a passenger which do you prefer?

  • JasonC

    well, given the choice between a seat on a q400, or no seat because it isn’t economical to fly a 737 I think most will take the Dash

  • James

    fair enough

  • JasonC

    and the dash you pictured in the banner isn’t a Q400, it is the smaller classic (200 or 300)

  • Dieseled

    I like the Dash which is fine for short hauls & better suited to regional areas that don’t have huge RPT numbers . 737 is far better suited to the Syd/Mel run etc, only because passenger numbers warrant it. But obviously now due to a huge change in circumstances running a 737/757/A320/330 etc is no longer viable at least at the moment .

  • Gerko

    Turboprops hardly common? There are hundreds and hundreds of Dash 8’s and ATR42/72’s around the word, plus a few Brasilians, F50s, and the like. Rex wouldn’t be around were it not for the Saab 340. Personally I’ll take a jet anytime as these smaller props can get very bumpy. But most Aussie regional routes cannot afford small regional jets like the E170 so expect to see turboprops around well into the future.

  • James

    Nice. I’ve heard they are better in that you feel ‘more like you’re flying’ but the downside is they’re noiser.

  • James

    I’ve given myself 400 lashes in penance

  • James

    Would you like to see one go regularly from Melb to Sydney, once everything is back to normal (assuming Qantas was willing to run it)?

  • Gerko

    No certainly not. I said I’m not a huge fan of them and when flying to places like Ballina and Canberra I always aim for the jet services. I particularly like the 717. Would much rather see RJ’s on regional routes but the fact is that the highly powered Q400 can almost match jet times on shorter routes and is far cheaper to buy, operate and maintain.

  • Gerko

    Why does it have to be Q400 vs 737? There are plenty of jets between these sizes. QF loves their B717’s as they are reliable and easy to maintain. Kendall was using the Canadair jets before Ansett collapsed. Plenty of options out there.


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