The Kangaroo Route: Which airline is the best option?

The most famous route in the sky is the “Kangaroo Route”. It’s a historic way to travel from London to Australia but with which airline would you choose to fly?

Qantas B747 taking off from Sydney
Qantas B747 taking off from Sydney

The Kangaroo Route traditionally refers to air routes flown by between Australia and the United Kingdom via the Eastern Hemisphere. The term is actually trademarked by Qantas, although it is used in the media and by airline competitors. By 2014, 20 airlines operated a one-stop service between London and Australia, including: British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad, Garuda Indonesia, Korean Air, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Thai Airways, and Singapore Airlines.

kangaroo1

As aircraft have improved their ranges and payloads, flights to the other side of the world have become much simpler. As you can see from the diagram above, a trip from Sydney to London or vice-versa, would have at least SIX intermediate stops, including overnights in Singapore and Cairo! Nowadays, for British Airways, for example, only a transit stop in Singapore (I think for just a few hours) is required to complete the so-called Kangaroo Route. No need now to detour to Libya enroute! Other competitors, such as Singapore Airlines, also have a big market share of the traffic between London and Australia (Sydney and Melbourne, mainly) with just the one stop in Singapore, although Qantas themselves now have their one stop in Dubai, rather than in Singapore like before, due to their “strategic alliance” with Emirates.

heathrow

sydneyairport

Basically, you can fly from one side of the world to the other with just one stop nowadays. Which airline you choose to fly with is entirely up to you, and for most of us, this decision is based on cost. Some airlines are known to be cheaper than others, but remember that in the aviation world, you get what you pay for, so whereas some airlines like Singapore Airlines for instance will charge a slight premium, others, like Air India, are cheaper but with a much more basic service. You need to ask yourself, too, which country you may want to transit in. Singapore or Delhi/Mumbai? I know which I would prefer (and one is about £100 cheaper for a UK national, too!).

The airlines that will fly you from London to Sydney with one intermediate stop are:

  • Air China (via Beijing or Shanghai)
  • Air India (via Delhi)
  • Asiana (via Seoul)
  • British Airways (via Singapore)
  • Cathay Pacific (via Hong Kong)
  • China Airlines (via Taipei)
  • China Southern (via Guangzhou)
  • Emirates (via Dubai)
  • Etihad (via Abu Dhabi)
  • Garuda Indonesia (via Jakarta)
  • Philippine Airlines (via Manila)
  • Japan Airlines (via Tokyo)
  • Korean Air (via Seoul)
  • Malaysia Airlines (via Kuala Lumpur)
  • Qantas (via Dubai)
  • Singapore Airlines (via Singapore)
  • Thai (via Bangkok)

United, LAN, Delta, Air New Zealand, and Air Canada can also make the journey with one or two intermediate stops, although these five airlines would fly the opposite way around the world (via the Americas), which is not strictly the true “Kangaroo Route”, so I will not be including them in my analysis.

Interesting that Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, EVA, and ANA cannot fly the Kangaroo Route (as of late 2015), although obviously QR and TK are always looking to include Sydney in their flight plans at some stage, and now that QR have the 787 Dreamliner and the A380, it looks as though it’s just a matter of time.

Etihad's B777 is a comfortable option
Etihad’s B777 is a comfortable option

From the middle-east, Etihad would be a great option, who now fly their prestigious A380 from London to Abu Dhabi, and then the B777 from Abu Dhabi to Sydney. This final leg may be upwards of 15 hours, but in the hands of the kind and professional Etihad crew, you will still enjoy yourself. Etihad also usually have some competitive fares on the Kangaroo Route.

garudab7772

If you fancy a stopover in Jakarta, then Garuda Indonesia is a fantastic bet to get from London to Sydney. They are now known as one of the most prestigious airlines in the region and always offer a fantastic service, regardless of class of carriage. One thing that lets Garuda down though is their fares. I find them to be a little on the expensive side, and certainly not as cheap as the likes of Malaysia Airlines. Jakarta may not be the best place for a stopover, as the city is very congested and does not have many tourist attractions. However, for some, the temptation to fly longhaul with the ultra-modern Garuda Indonesia is just too good to turn down.

China Southern 787 Dreamliner would be a safe bet
China Southern 787 Dreamliner would be a safe bet

An emerging power in the aviation world is certainly China Southern. With a modernising fleet and a well-trained staff, they have a good reputation nowadays, unlike many other airlines based in mainland China. While Guangzhou Baiyun Airport is not exactly the best place for a stopover, you will no doubt be enticed by the competitively low fares of China Southern to flights to Sydney, on what they call “the Canton Route”. They fly the 787 Dreamliner on the CAN-SYD leg.

sqa3801

For me, though, flying from London to Sydney on the Kangaroo Route means just one thing: Singapore Airlines. I cannot think of a better way to fly around the world than on the SQ A380 in the careful hands of the Singapore Girls. A transit stop in Singapore is also one of the best places to stop, as Singapore Airlines offer free stopovers (I think for 1 night) in a choice of hotels. If your onwards flight to Sydney does not require a 1 night stopover, perhaps merely 8 hours or so, then SQ also offer free transit city tours, where you can hope on their coach and be given a guide to the city to pass some time. I don’t think you are allowed off the bus, but then again, why would you need to get off anyway?

When you do finally arrive in Sydney, and whichever airline you fly with, make sure you enjoy yourselves in Australia’s main city!

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9 thoughts on “The Kangaroo Route: Which airline is the best option?

    1. Garuda is a good choice, and they are improving all the time. They have a very good reputation among Europeans now, and I would always consider flying with them if I had the chance. However, from London (where I live) I think I would stick to Singapore Airlines. But the good thing with Garuda is that they fly to Sydney and Melbourne from both CGK and DPS, which gives a good option for travellers.

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  1. This is a good analysis but you have omitted Philippine Airlines via Manila. PAL flies in Australia to Darwin, Melbourne and Sydney nonstop ex Manila and to Brisbane with a stop in Darwin, while it also flies nonstop between Manila and London Heathrow.

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    1. Hi there. Thanks for the tip off, I have now added the Philippine Airlines routing to the list. 🙂 I didn’t know they flew to Brisbane via Darwin. It seems Philippine Airlines serve Australian cities very well, and they could be a good underrated option for the Kangaroo Route for anyone coming from London! 😀

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