What is Qantas Explorer?
Qantas Explorer is a special type of multi-city airline ticket that allows international travelers to explore over 100 destinations in Australia and New Zealand. This gives tourists the chance to craft some fantastic itineraries on such a long trip (click here for the 5-week, 8-city itinerary that I booked). However, there are some special conditions to adhere to before you go ahead and start making a booking.
This article is part of the Planet Patrick Ultimate Australia Guide.
How does Qantas Explorer Work?
1. Book all your Economy flights together
It is best to plan your itinerary and flights on paper before you start to make a booking. You can ONLY book the lower-cost Qantas Explorer internal flights when you start your multi-city booking to Australia or New Zealand on an International Economy flight. Yes, on Economy only.
2. How should I plan my itinerary?
My experience is that it's best to know your in and out dates and airport, so that you can frame the itinerary. On my trip, I decided to fly in and out of Perth, Western Australia, using the direct Qantas QF10 flight (full review here). This offered a free add-on extension to Melbourne. Then it's simply a matter of listing the world-class sights that you really must see and planning a circular route that gets you back to your departure airport most easily. It's great to start with a major city like Sydney, Melbourne or Perth and give yourself time to adjust to the timezone. Then set out on your adventure to the Great Barrier Reef, Alice Springs or Uluru, or explore the beauty of Auckland, the sensational vistas of Queenstown and bustling hubs of Wellington or Christchurch in New Zealand.
3. What are Qantas Explorer Zones & how do they work?
Qantas Explorer is based on three Zones (1, 2, 3). Zone 1 attracts the lowest fares because they are between two comparatively close destinations. The flights covered in Zone 2 and Zone 3 are across increased distances and thus attract an increased fare.
All New Zealand to New Zealand destinations are in Zone 1.
4. What are the benefits of using Qantas Explorer?
Qantas puts forward 6 benefits for using this special Qantas Explorer ticket:
- Network – Qantas covers over 100 routes in Australia and New Zealand
- Discounts – the ticket price for these internal flights is much lower than just booking it yourself.
- Seamless booking – you book your entire trip in one step.
- All-inclusive – you get food, drinks and entertainment on Qantas flights (see my comments on this)
- Baggage included – you get the same baggage allowance as your international flight for free.
- Qantas Attitude – they say Qantas crew are friendly.
The Planet Patrick take on the promised benefits
Let's weigh up the benefits that Qantas promotes against my experience.
- Network: I was able to get to every city that I wanted to visit and at reasonable times.
- Discounts: The price was MUCH cheaper, particularly as I flew all over the country. I got 6 flights, including 30 kg of checked baggage for around $800 AUD. There will be more detail in my itinerary review post, coming in Summer 2023.
- Booking experience: this is like a standard multi-city booking, which can be a bit fiddly and take time to add all of your details. In the end, it worked out fine. I'd like for Qantas to add a walk-through video of the process to their website.
- All-inclusive: yes, this was true on Qantas flights regarding food and soft drinks. However, there was often no in-flight entertainment on some internal flights.
- Baggage: I was able to take a full-size bag up to 30kg, which meant I never had to worry about packing too much.
- Attitude: people are people – you get some nice ones and some more formal experiences and that was my experience with Qantas (not a complaint).
- Other: the only downside is that you can't include a connecting flight from Australia-New Zealand for the lower price.
Qantas Explorer: Inspiring Itineraries
East Coast Hopper
Melbourne > Sydney > Gold Coast > Cairns
Picture taken in Melbourne, Australia by Patrick Hughes
The Grand Circle
Perth > Adelaide > Melbourne > Cairns > Darwin
Picture taken in Perth, Australia by Patrick Hughes
Planet Patrick All-Stars Route
Perth > Melbourne > Sydney > Alice Springs > Uluru > Darwin > Melbourne
Picture taken in Alice Springs, Australia by Patrick Hughes
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I get the Qantas Explorer fares if I've already booked my international flight?
No. You must book the Qantas Explorer fares at the same time as booking your international flight.
Can I get the Qantas Explorer fares if I'm arriving in a premium cabin like business class or first class?
No. This special Qantas Explorer ticket is only available to International Economy passengers. You will have to book all of your internal flights separately.
Does Qantas Explorer include flights between Australia and New Zealand?
No. These flights are not included at special Qantas Explorer rates, although you can – of course – book them via Qantas, or another supplier if you so wish.
Which airlines are included in the Qantas Explorer tickets?
Qantas Explorer flights may be in Qantas, Jetstar or Qantaslink (which includes Sunstate, Alliance Airlines, Network Aviation, National Jet Systems and Eastern).
Is there a full list of Qantas Explorer Zones 1-3?
Yes, you can find the full list of destinations by clicking here to visit the Qantas Explorer Zones listings (new window).