Airline revenue data on Melbourne-Sydney air route is food for thought

Airline revenue data on Melbourne-Sydney air route is food for thought
Airline revenue data on Melbourne-Sydney air route is food for thought

Air travel data company OAG recently published data that assessed the world's top ten city pairs by revenue - which airline makes the most money on an individual route - and Qantas and its Melbourne-Sydney route was given second place.

Between April 2017 and March 2018, OAG reports Qantas earned $854,692,402 USD ($1.051 billion AUD using March 2018 exchange rates) by flying between Melbourne & Sydney.

The highest earning route was British Airways' London-Heathrow to New York-JFK route ($1,037,724,867 USD / $1.276 billion AUD) and the third highest earning route was Emirates' Dubai to London-Heathrow route ($819,409,702 USD / $1.008 billion AUD).

As OAG points out, 5 of the top 10 routes have London on one side of the city pair but all but the Australian route are either trans-continental or inter-continental flights (New York to Los Angeles, San Francisco; Toronto to Vancouver; London to Hong Kong, Singapore, New York, Doha, Dubai; and Sydney to Singapore).  

Airline revenue data on Melbourne-Sydney air route is food for thought
Top 10 Revenue Routes - image: OAG

Melbourne and Sydney is a considerably shorter route compared to the North American trans-continental flights and the lack of any other major city pairs located within 1000km of each other in the top 10 list provided by OAG speaks to the heavy reliance on aviation we have in Australia.

In the top air routes by traffic (either the number of frequencies or the name of passengers flown), those city pairs are dominated by domestic routes around the world, especially those that are less than 1000km apart.  

Seoul to Jeju, Tokyo to Sapporo, Tokyo to Fukuoka, Tokyo to Osaka, Delhi to Mumbai, Melbourne to Sydney, Beijing to Shanghai, Sao Paulo to Rio de Janiero and Johannesburg to Cape Town have all at some stage made it to a 10 busiest air route list.

With the exception of Tokyo to Osaka, and Beijing to Shanghai, those common city pairs all have very little in the way of fast land transport links that would compete on a time basis with aviation. (Japan's Shinkansen network technically reaches Fukuoka and Sapporo, for the most part, however, the travel times can be upwards of 5 hours by rail, Beijing to Shanghai via the fastest train still takes a touch under 5 hours).

None of the aforementioned top busiest routes get a mention in the OAG routes by revenue release, except for Melbourne to Sydney.

The prevailing dismissive argument for high-speed rail in Australia amongst advocates and anyone engaged in transport issues - those who like to highlight existing problems or those who are passionate about how we might do things differently - is that Australia's population is too sparse for it to work in this country.

Casual reminder: the numbers above are for Qantas only (I assume it also includes Jetstar) - Virgin Australia, although the smaller of the two mainline operators has a significant amount of services flying between the two cities each day as well, the real amount of money earned by airlines between Melbourne & Sydney will be much more than just over $1billion AUD per annum.

Seeing the dollar amounts associated with the very high volume of people who travel between Melbourne and Sydney offers up some fairly significant food for thought. The current revenue that Qantas earns roughly correlates with the projected revenue figures from the 2012 & Rudd Government-era East Coast High-Speed Rail study.

In that study, it projected roughly $2 billion in revenue shortly after the opening of a high-speed rail link between Melbourne & Sydney (Sydney & Canberra would open first with a projected ~$500 million in operator revenue).

Alastair Taylor

Alastair Taylor

Alastair Taylor is a co-founder of Urban.com.au. Now a freelance writer, Alastair focuses on the intersection of public transport, public policy and related impacts on medium and high-density development.

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Aviation Qantas Travel High Speed Rail

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