Best way to fly to Australia from UK or Ireland

Qantas QF10 at Perth Airport Western Australia - Photo copyright of Patrick Hughes 2019
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What is the best way to fly to Australia from the UK or Ireland? Here’s the short answer: you can fly direct to the West coast, or do a ‘touchdown’ stopover to just get there, or stopover and experience another fantastic destination. Read on for prices, frank advice and where you should stop off!

Direct Flights from UK to Australia

There is only one direct flight from the UK to Australia: Qantas flying from London Heathrow to Perth, Western Australia. The flight takes around 17 hours and touches down in Perth, where you can disembark, before the flight continues on to Melbourne. If you wanted to continue to Sydney instead, you can book an onward journey from Perth and it’ll take around 4 hours 10 minutes.

Qantas Dreamliner

I took this flight from London – Perth in 2019. Read my Qantas QF10 flight report.

Irish passengers need a positioning flight to get to Heathrow. I’d seriously recommend flying the evening before and staying at an airport hotel to avoid onward impact. Compare London Heathrow airport hotel prices here.

Qantas Direct Flight Pricing

The direct flight from Qantas is typically more expensive than flights with a stopover. The following prices are for a two week return trip from London to Perth direct in October 2023. Usually you can grab a stopover ticket from just under £1000 return.

Stopover Flights

Stopover flights are broken into two legs (or more for some cheaper tickets). It opens up tons of options of where you can fly FROM* as well as the chance to visit a fascinating city in the Middle East or South East Asia. These flights are much more competitive, meaning better prices. In this section, I look at TOUCHDOWN flights (stops but no overnights) and STOP & STAYOVER options.

[*Note: stopover flights open up where you fly FROM, avoiding Heathrow, e.g., you can fly from Dublin to Dubai direct, connecting onwards; or Birmingham to Dubai with Emirates].

Touchdown, no Stopover

Let’s start with the Touchdown, no Stay option, for people who just want to get to Oz asap. Let’s be honest, the trip from the UK to Australia, with a short layover in an airport, is exhausting. If you’re up for that (especially if you can sleep on planes), this could work for you.

Typical Touchdown Journey with British Airways

All major airlines that fly via the main hubs (Dubai, Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur) offer a connecting flight that you can book with them. For example, British Airways flies via Changi (Singapore) using its own aircraft and the layover is just 1 hour and 40 minutes. You can also book via BA and use BA and their codeshare partners. For example, you can fly via Doha with BA from London and use Qatar Airways to Sydney. However, these mixed flights often have long layovers, even if they offer the cheapest economy tickets.

Check out the following example, flying out 2 October and returning 16 October 2023.

Cheapest ‘Touchdown’ Flight

I want to show you that the cheapest Touchdown flights to Australia come with a major compromise: layover waits in the airport you touchdown in. Ugh! Paying NOT MUCH more makes this slightly less horrific. Check out this typical price breakdown:

Air India: Cheapest for my dates of 2 -16 October 2023 return. Be careful about Air India’s Economy Class (lack of comfort, reputation) and check out that total flight time of 33 hours including layover. What can you get for a bit more?

Cathay Pacific: Cathay has a much better reputation (I’ve flown this route to Sydney via Hong Kong in business and was impressed). BUT this flight time is crazy – total of 39 hours each way. Jet lag, much?

Malaysia Airlines: This airline used to be highly regarded but lots of people haven’t flown them since the disappearance of Flight 370 in 2014. Their reviews are a mixed bag right now. This ticket costs £54 more than Air India, but saves you a massive 10 hours of journey time on your way. That’s worth it, even just counting the food and drinks you’ll need to buy to cope with 33-39 hours of travel day with the other two airlines.

Even if you’re on a budget, don’t go for the very cheapest flight if paying a little more gets you a shorter travel time, better airline and more comfortable seat.

Where to Stopover en route to Australia or New Zealand in 2023

If you are doing a two-leg journey to Australia (or indeed New Zealand) from Europe, you are really spoiled for choice in terms of cities to visit and rest for a couple of days.

I think there are 5 cities seriously worth considering: Singapore, Bangkok, Dubai, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur. Some of your decision will depend on the price of flights that route through those cities (Singapore Airlines is often more expensive than Malaysia Airlines, for example). But I don’t think you can lose. Two to three days is optimum to rest, recover and get in some sightseeing. I’ve written an entire guide to the Top 5 Cities to Stopover en route to Australia or New Zealand, click below to read it.

Click here to read Top 5 Places to Stopover en route to Australia or New Zealand in 2023

Safe Travels

However you get to Australia, I hope you have a fantastic trip. It’s a great country that I keep returning to again and again. And I just love New Zealand. Three visits racked up and I feel I’m just getting to know it.

I'm Patrick, your Irish guide to the skies and beyond. With 58 countries visited, my journeys have taken me from busy economy to fabulous first-class.

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