Cheap flights: World's cheapest airlines named, based on cost per kilometre

Australians may like to grumble about the cost of flights and the long distances we have to travel in order to get anywhere, but flying from Australia is pretty good value for money, new figures show.

The Global Flight Pricing report compiled by travel planning site Rome2Rio found that Australia's airlines are among the world's cheapest, based on price by distance travelled.

Tigerair may not be Australia's most reliable airline, but on this basis it is not just the cheapest carrier in the country, but in the entire world. Flights with Tigerair average out to be just US6¢ (8¢) per kilometre.

Jetstar wasn't far behind, coming at No. 4 in the global rankings at US9¢ per kilometre.

When limited to international flights, AirAsia X came out on top, with an average cost of US7¢ per kilometre. Surprisingly, Qantas was the top-ranking Australian airline among international carriers, coming in at eighth place with an average cost of US10¢ per kilometre, while Virgin Australia was 10th and Jetstar 22nd.

How does a full-service carrier like Qantas end up cheaper than its low-cost offshoot Jetstar? It's due to the long distances the Flying Kangaroo covers. With long-haul flights to London, the US and the Middle East, including some of the world's longest routes, Qantas averages 13,000 kilometres (including one-stop flights to Britain), while Jetstar averages just 3000 kilometres. 

Conversely, Qantas was the most expensive major airline for domestic flights, followed by Virgin and Jetstar. Tigerair no longer makes the international list after the airline dropped its Bali route in January 2017 due to a dispute over licensing with Indonesian authorities.

The cheapest full service airline turned out to be Etihad, with a cost of US10¢ per kilometre. The airline flies from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth to Abu Dhabi, but will be ending its Perth flights in October.

Rome2Rio's study analysed more than 1.5 million economy-class prices from 200 airlines. The company issued a disclaimer, of course, pointing out that the cost of flights can vary depending on a wide variety of factors, such as when a booking is made and the popularity of particular routes.


The average cost of flights increased from the last pricing report two years ago, rising from US17.75¢ per km to US18.8¢ in 2018.

Kirsteene Phelan, chief operating officer at Rome2rio said higher fuel prices had increased costs for airlines, forcing some carriers to find ways to save money.

"The romance of air travel, whilst not dead, is certainly waning, with more airlines tipped to scale back their inflight offerings in favour of pay-to-play service to help boost profits," she said.

"Paying less for a seat may mean travelling without luggage or being left with a middle seat on a long-haul flight."

Pity those looking to explore the spectacular mountains and culture of Nepal – they'll be faced with some of the most expensive flights on the planet. Of the 200 airlines covered by the study, the two most expensive commercial carriers were Buddha Air ($US1.18 per km) and Yeti Airlines ($US1.08 per km), both Nepal-based airlines.

Despite Australia's major carriers featuring heavily among the best-value flights, Australia only ranked as the 13th cheapest country on the list. The expense of regional flights by Regional Express (US59¢) and JetGo (US46¢) pushed the average prices up.

On this ranking, Chile was rated the world's cheapest country to fly in, followed by Indonesia, Turkey, India and Bulgaria.

World's 25 cheapest airlines (by price per kilometre travelled in $US)

  1. Tigerair Australia 0.06
  2. AirAsia X 0.07
  3. Indonesia AirAsia 0.08
  4. Jetstar 0.09
  5. Etihad 0.10
  6. Citilink Indonesia 0.10
  7. WOW air 0.10
  8. Oman Air 0.10
  9. Lion Mentari Airlines 0.10
  10. Ryanair 0.10
  11. Qatar Airways 0.11
  12. Kuwait Airways 0.11
  13. Royal Brunei Airlines 0.11
  14. Virgin Australia 0.11
  15. Thai Vietjet Air 0.11
  16. Batik Air 0.11
  17. SriLankan Airlines 0.11
  18. Gulf Air Bahrain 0.11
  19. Jet Airways 0.11
  20. Qantas 0.11
  21. IndiGo Airlines 0.11
  22. Air India Limited 0.11
  23. Emirates 0.11
  24. Thai Lion Mentari 0.11
  25. PT. Sriwijaya Air 0.11

The world's cheapest international carriers

  1. AirAsia X 0.07
  2. Air India Express 0.08
  3. Indonesia AirAsia 0.08
  4. Primera Air 0.09
  5. IndiGo Airlines 0.10
  6. Etihad 0.10
  7. Ryanair 0.10
  8. Qantas 0.10
  9. WOW air 0.10
  10. Virgin Australia 0.10

See also: World's safest, and least safe, airlines named

See also: World's best airline for 2017 named as Qantas hits lowest ranking

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