Australian flag carrier Qantas has seen its domestic market share increase from pre-pandemic levels, at the expense of rival Virgin Australia, which entered — and subsequently exited from —administration amid the coronavirus outbreak in 2020.

In a report on domestic airline competition, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) says Qantas’ market share as at December 2020 was at 74%, up from the 60% share it held in December 2019.


Source: Wikimedia Commons

Qantas saw its domestic market share rise from pre-pandemic levels.

Compared to September 2020, however, Qantas saw its market share dip slightly, down from 76% that month.

The ACCC also notes that Qantas retained the lion’s share on flights between regional destinations, at close to 90% in December 2020. This was comparable to its pre-pandemic market share.

Qantas also operated more routes — 114 domestic routes — in December 2020 than it did the previous year, the only Australian carrier to have reported network growth from pre-pandemic levels.

As for Virgin Australia, its total market share shrank from 38% in December 2019, to 24% a year later. This was because of its network consolidation as part of business restructuring under new owners Bain Capital.

Still, the ACCC notes that its market share was on the upswing since it exited administration as a mid-market carrier — in September 2020, the carrier held just 20% market share.

Regional Express (REX), which recently began mainline operations with jet aircraft, saw its overall market share dip from 4% in September 2020, to below 2% in December 2020.

“The fall was primarily due to increased interstate flying by the Qantas Group and Virgin, with Rex’s operations focused on regional intrastate routes. Rex’s market share on regional routes also fell as QantasLink increased flights as the sole operator on some existing routes,” states the competition watchdog.

Airline routes_ACCC

Source: ACCC

A breakdown of the number of routes operated by airline groups

Both Virgin Australia and Rex operated fewer routes in December 2020 compared to the year before, at 53 and 36 respectively. The ACCC notes that the two carriers “have not yet resumed services on as many routes as they flew pre-Covid”.


In its report, the ACCC also notes that “domestic aviation activity recovered at an accelerating rate” through December. This was aided by the reopening of state borders, as well as pent-up travel demand during the southern hemisphere’s summer season.

As at December 2020, domestic traffic was at 41% pre-pandemic levels, up from 13% the previous quarter. Monthly capacity also increased to 3.4 million seats in December.

Because of reopened state borders, the report notes that major interstate routes have reclaimed their position among the busiest domestic routes.

Busiest domestic routes_ACCC

Source: ACCC

A comparison between the busiest routes in September and December.

In December, the top three busies routes were trunk interstate routes: Melbourne to Sydney in first place, followed by Brisbane-Sydney and Brisbane-Melbourne. The ACCC adds that eight of the top 10 busiest routes for the month were interstate.

In September, however, only two of the ten busiest routes were interstate: Adelaide-Brisbane was seventh busiest, followed by Melbourne-Sydney in ninth place.

The ACCC notes that pre-pandemic traffic data shows that the top ten busiest domestic routes were all interstate routes, “suggesting that people have increasingly chosen to holiday within their state during the summer period, potentially in part due to concerns of further Covid-related interruptions”.