Credit by Airline Passenger | NY Post
Most Packed and Least Packed Airlines Flying to Australia

Most Packed and Least Packed Airlines Flying to Australia

Wouldn’t you rather score an empty seat beside you — or even a whole row to yourself?

 It can happen, if you know where to look.

Overbooking isn’t a common occurrence in Australia, and even in the US, only about one in 16,000 passengers got bumped last year — the lowest rate since at least the mid-1990s.

But the practice has been in the spotlight since initial reports of a passenger being dragged off a United Airlines plane suggested the flight was overbooked.

But want to score that elusive spare seat next to you? Ditch your plans to travel in December, and book a flight in October instead.

Forget forking out for first class tickets. Jut fly in October for your best chance of little extra space.Source:istock
Forget forking out for first class tickets. Jut fly in October for your best chance of little extra space.Source:istock

That’s the hot tip from the travel gurus at, who have looked into records of flights from Australia to help travellers increase chances of getting an empty seat next to them.
Oh, and rather than flying to Japan or the US, you might want to consider the Philippines, Papua New Guinea or Vanuatu.

The most packed-out flights are with:

  • All Nippon Airways,
  • American Airlines,
  • Delta
  • Cathay Pacific.

The least crowded are with:

  • Air Niugini,
  • Cebu Pacific,
  • Philippine Airlines
  • Air Vanuatu, where planes are on average a little more than half full.
No awkward squeeze past the aisle-seat passenger necessary.Source:istock
No awkward squeeze past the aisle-seat passenger necessary.Source:istock

Here are more of’s top tips for scoring a less-crowded flight:


  • On average, planes departing Australia are the emptiest in October, with flights only 72 % full. That means if you’re looking for an empty to row to catch some sleep or hate full flights, aim to book then.
  • May and February were close seconds, flying on average at 74 % capacity
  • December is the busiest month, with planes flying out at a 88 % capacity — which doesn’t leave much elbow room.
  • On the whole, planes departing Australia in 2016 were 78 % full, up from 72 per cent in 2006.


  • All Nippon Airways (which flies to Japan) has flown the most consistently packed planes at 91 % capacity on average, despite starting flights from Australia in 2015.
  • American Airlines was second at 88 %, closely followed by Delta Air Lines (USA) 87 %  seat utilisation each over the past four years.
  • Aussies flying to Papua New Guinea or the Philippines may end up flying on half empty planes: Air Niugini (flies to Papua New Guinea) has an average of only 54 % bums-on-seats, while Cebu Pacific (flies to The Philippines) has an average capacity of 59 %.
  • Qantas sits at No. 19 and flies at an average of 79.9 % capacity.


  1. All Nippon Airways 91.3%
  2. American Airlines 87.7%
  3. Delta Air Lines 87.3%
  4. Cathay Pacific Airways 86.5%
  5. British Airways 85.6%
  6. Etihad Airways 85.3%
  7. Japan Airlines 84.3%
  8. Aerolineas Argentinas 83.9%
  9. Air Canada 82.6%
  10. Qatar Airways 82.4%
  11. Fiji Airways 81.8%
  12. Air New Zealand 81.5%
  13. United Airlines 81.4%
  14. China Eastern Airlines 80.8%
  15. China Southern Airlines 80.5%
  16. Singapore Airlines 80.5%
  17. Korean Air 80.3%
  18. Air China 80.3%
  19. Qantas Airways 79.9%
  20. LAN Airlines 78.7%
  21. Jetstar 78.3%
  22.  Virgin Atlantic Airways 78.1%
  23. Vietnam Airlines 76.7
  24. Emirates 76.7%
  25. Tigerair 76.5%
  26. China Airlines 76.2%
  27. Xiamen Airlines 76.1%
  28. Jetstar Asia 76.0%
  29. Asiana Airlines 75.9%
  30. Virgin Australia 75.8%
  31. Hawaiian Airlines 75.5%
  32. AirAsia X 75.1%
  33. Air Caledonie International 74.7%
  34. Scoot 74.5%
  35. Air Caledonie 74.1%
  36. Garuda Indonesia 73.0%
  37. Silk Air 72.9%
  38. South African Airways 72.9%
  39. Indonesia AirAsia 72.9%
  40. Air India 72.1%
  41. Air Mauritius 72.0%
  42. Malaysia Airlines 71.8%
  43. Thai Airways International 70.0%
  44. Royal Brunei Airlines 69.1%
  45. Sichuan Airlines 68.4%
  46. Indonesia AirAsia Extra 67.4%
  47. Malindo Air 63.6%
  48. Air Vanuatu 62.3%
  49. Philippine Airlines 60.1%
  50. Cebu Pacific Air 59.5%
  51. Air Niugini 54.1%

Figures are averages of the past four years of data, except where airlines did not have four years of data. In these cases the average of the number of available years was used.

This article was first published on on the 19th April 2017

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