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FLIGHT REVIEW: Sydney to Melbourne in Qantas Economy – call that a meal?

FLIGHT REVIEW: Sydney to Melbourne in Qantas Economy – call that a meal?
Series: TRIP: Sydney Melbourne return in Economy, April, 2023

I wouldn’t normally report on a pedestrian trip like a Melbourne to Sydney domestic flight. However, as one of the busiest routes in Australia, and in fact in the world, I thought it might be interesting to document the service on this well-patronised route.

Qantas Flight 477 Sydney to Melbourne Economy cabin
Qantas Flight 477 Sydney to Melbourne, Economy cabin, the start of service


Qantas essentially runs flights every 15 minutes during the peak periods of the day. Flights are often delayed, although usually by minutes rather than hours, and because it is a busy route, flights get cancelled more frequently than on some other routes. You can see where this is heading, can’t you?

According to Lucas Baird in the AFR, Qantas isn’t doing too bad in the cancellation (3.4%) and on-time departure (75.5%) statistics, but its sister low-cost airline Jetstar is cancelling one out of every six Sydney to Melbourne flights (15.7%)!.

Flight Information

Flight: QF 477
Route: Sydney (SYD) – Melbourne (MEL)
Date: Friday, 14 April 2023
Depart: 5:45 PM
Arrive: 7:20 PM
Duration: 1hr 35 min
Aircraft: Boeing 737-800
Seat: 22 F (Economy Class)
Cost: part of a return ticket AU$402 

What we booked

We were originally booked on flight QF479 departing 6 pm on Friday, which [spoiler alert] is basically when we departed – but on a different earlier flight.

During the day on Friday, we received several contacts from Qantas, including when we went to check in, inviting us to move to an earlier flight at no cost. Having secured one of my favoured sets of seats on the flight, I was unwilling to change. We were also not on any deadline for arrival, so knowing that there were more than half a dozen flights leaving after our booked flight, I was not worried… other than a slight foreboding.

Boarding QF 477
Boarding view from row 22 F

Flight cancelled

We received notification at 12:37 that our original QF479 flight has been cancelled by text. We got a follow-up message at 12:37 advising that we had been rebooked on flight QF477, departing at 17:45 – 15 minutes before our previous flight.

Guess what?

That didn’t happen.

We didn’t pull back from the gate until 18:07, with the safety video being played simultaneously. It was 18:13 when we left the ground, with cabin service starting fairly promptly at 18:28.

The captain apologised for the delay, saying that the cabin crew had arrived late into Sydney, thus causing the delay.

Now, this is not intended as a brag, just a statement of fact. I have had some kind of premium status with Qantas for probably 15, maybe 20 years. That has allowed me to choose seats at the front of the plane. For a long time, before Qantas started charging for them, we used to book rows 13 or 14 – the exit rows on a Qantas 737-800. Since I have been Platinum, I have had access to the front of Economy class, so for the last five or more years, I just haven’t had a seat beyond, say, row 8. Row 22 is a long way from there.


It’s universally recognised that catering has gone backwards on domestic flights in Economy. I am pretty sure I can remember back in the 1980s when you still got a full hot meal on melamine crockery with metal cutlery and on a tray on this short hop to Melbourne.

a bottle of wine and a plastic cup on a table

This is what we got – in a cardboard box, but hot.

'Chicken Croquettes' apparently served as a meal on a Sydney to Melbourne Qantas flight April 2023

… and this is what was inside. I will call them torpedo-shaped, but I have heard rather unkinder descriptions. Still can’t identify this food? Let me help you with the description on the packet:

a black box with white text on it

I’m not sure what I find more frightening, the notion of Soy Protein Isolate, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, or an ingredient that is called ‘Natural Flavours’, or the fact that Marinated Chicken is only 11.4% actual chicken.

My late mother couldn’t have eaten this as she was allergic to eggs and crustacea, and neither could my cousin, who can’t eat gluten. Of course, there was no alternative unless you call a small bag of pretzels a substitute.

On the positive side, the Shiraz was good. Cheap but good.

Sydney T3 Change – nixed the travolator

And finally, just a change at Terminal 3 that should be noted. The travelator running between the main security entrance and the teen-numbered gates has been removed. I would be interested if this is of concern to passengers with physical disabilities.

people walking in a large airport
Observant travellers will note that the travelators and faux Qantas aircraft hull have been removed…
a white tunnel with a red tape around it
… It hadn’t been working for a while. Makes the trudge significantly longer if you have a physical disability though.

2PAXfly Takeout

I used to defend Qantas pricing against that of Virgin Australia and Jetstar by arguing that if you included the cost of checked baggage, the meal and refreshments, Qantas cost about the same, along with (on the whole) better service from check-in through Lounge and onboard service. I’m no longer sure about that.

You could be ahead if you travel on Qantas during happy hour when free wine and beer are distributed. That is as long as you are prepared to insist on a second drink since they don’t seem to be offered voluntarily these days. If you want spirits, you better travel on Virgin Australia and buy your drink, especially if it is rum or gin-based.

But now, with meals of this deplorable quality, maybe it’s better to save some money on the fare and buy on board something that you actually want to eat, which puts you back to travelling on Virgin Australia or Jetstar. I’m excluding Bonza and REX from this comparison since I have not travelled on either.

Other Posts in the Series
<< INTRODUCTION: Sydney to Melbourne in Economy, an exhibition, a play and a Le Méridian stay, April, 2023HOTEL REVIEW: New Le Méridien, Melbourne. Where I used to dance my sox off! >>


  1. Ban

    Most people could walk between Sydney and Melbourne without eating.

    • 2paxfly

      Sure – happy to see you walk 878 kilometres without eating. That’s not my point. My point is the decline in onboard food service, while airfares are high – as is Qantas profit.

  2. Sinosoul

    You’re lucky you get free wine on a 1.5 hr flight… in the US, you wouldn’t get jack.

    • 2paxfly

      Don’t worry. Like there is never a free lunch, you pay for the wine one way or another.

  3. Michael

    Honestly anyone complaining about the lack of a meal on a flight between these two cities has too much time on their hands. Yes you are right many years ago they used to serve meals which even then was completely un-necessary and none of that was “free” but it was totally wasteful. Current pricing has zero to do with the food offered, I know that and you know that and frankly apart from the peak hours between the 2 cities the prices and points required are pretty much back to normal. The other side of those snacks they now provide is that it is keeping regional Australian businesses in the game, something we should all support.

    • 2paxfly

      Thanks for your comment. My observation was about the quality of the meal served, not the lack of one. ACCC monitoring reports disagree with you on price, showing that airline prices ‘Average revenue per passenger in April 2023 was 2% higher than pre-pandemic
      levels (April 2019) in real terms and 17% higher in nominal terms’. For the explanation of ‘real’ v ‘nominal, head to page 20 of the report, which explains the difference and their importance. There is also a chart you might find interesting. Your point about Regional businesses may be valid, although sometimes, like Bunderberg Rum (produced at a factory in Victoria), the regionality is only in the name.

      • Michael

        It’s July. I didn’t look 4 months ago because it’s not relevant – I went online and found return flights for 8,000 points which is as cheap as they have ever been and one way flights for just north of $120 ….. as to the quality there is nothing at all wrong with that food if you feel you must eat on a flight of that duration or of course you could just say no.

        • 2paxfly

          Thanks again Michael. You are correct about the points required for redemption having not changed. The last Qantas points devaluation was just before the Pandemic in September 2019. I used April figures, which are the latest the ACCC has provided. On your anecdote regarding Sydney to Melbourne airfares, you may be onto something. The figures from BITRE – although more general and to do with ‘restricted’ or ‘discount’ airfares tend to support your speculation if my statistics knowledge holds up.

  4. Marcel

    Clearly you haven’t flown short haul anywhere in the world during the past 20 years. 🤦

    • 2paxfly

      Marcel, thanks for your comment. However, you are incorrect. I have flown short-haul elsewhere in the world quite recently. Perhaps, and I am speculating here, you do not have experience flying domestically here in Australia and internationally over the last 50 years.

  5. Dennis

    Interesting observations. However if you are going to comment on things you should check the details. You made mention that the Marinated Chicken was only 11.4% actual chicken. Wrong! What the packaging says is that Marinated Chicken accounts for 11.4% of the filling in the croquette. Nothing to be frightened of with the chicken but 88.6% of other stuff, that might be a worry.

    • 2paxfly

      Thanks for your comment Dennis. OK, OK, sprung! I did take some poetic license with that factoid. You are of course correct about the percentage of chicken, and your cautionary concern about the other stuff.


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