back to all news

London via anywhere: the changing shape of the Kangaroo Route

By David Flynn     Filed under: singapore airlines, emirates, qantas, cathay pacific, Virgin Atlantic, Etihad, British Airways, china southern, Malaysia Airlines, Kangaroo Route

Go back a decade or two, ask a dozen Aussie travellers how they'd likely fly to London and the odds are good that 'Qantas' and 'Singapore' would both rank highly in their answers.

That's with good reason: the traditional Kangaroo Route to London via Singapore, which Qantas pioneered, has long been the backbone of our travel habits.

Hong Kong and Bankok were popular alternatives, and made for appealingly different stopovers compared to the sanitised and anodyne nature of Singapore

Qantas will still fly you to London via those cities – as long as you don't mind changing to a BA flight halfway through - but Cathay Pacific and Virgin Atlantic can take you all the way.

And there are other contenders for your Kangaroo Route dollar.

China Southern recently launched its cleverly-named Canton Route from Sydney to London via Guangzhou, with business class fares as low as $5800 return, and already aims to boost the three-times a week service to a daily frequency by early 2013. [Update: the service will go daily from October 28.]

Other Asian airlines also use their hubs for AU-to-UK hops, of course.

Singapore Airlines will add a fourth daily flight from Singapore to Heathrow in September, and from late November Malaysia Airlines will bolster its current Sydney to London via Kuala Lumpur services with MAS' new Airbus A380 running both legs.

Now add in the hugely competitive middle-eastern carriers, especially Emirates and Virgin Australia partner Etihad, and you can see why the traditional Kangaroo Route has lost its long-assumed primacy among Aussie business travellers.

Do you still favour the Kangaroo Route with its Singapore stop-over? Or has some other route, and some other airline, won your business – and if so, why?

Share your travel tale in the comments box below or shout out on Twitter – we're @AusBT!


About David Flynn

David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 20/6/12 by AusFlyer

I still like, and still choose to fly, the Kangaroo route, mostly because of the bonus points one receives through the Qantas FF program. However, it has to be said that given the new Business Class seats on Cathay Pacific, it is now more tempting to fly with them and forego the points.

Can't say I've been tempted by the "Canton" route yet... I am still favouring the OneWorld flights, and since I find BA to be about the worst airline, that limits me to CX or QF.

2 on 20/6/12 by mrp

I pretty much avoid flying into Heathrow but the last time I flew to Europe it was via Doha. Next trip I'm using up some SQ points so it's back to Singapore. The main reason to use other transit locations is the shorter duration of the connection.

3 on 20/6/12 by JBH

CX, new biz product is better than QAN, the SYD-HKG-LHR route/timings/connection works well.

4 on 20/6/12 by Al

The only reason I would stick with the Kangaroo Route would be similar to AusFlyer, it'd be for the points, and these days I would be more likely to try Sydney - Hong Kong - London with Cathay Pacific or even Hong Kong Airlines.

Another option not on your list would be Air Asia X 'premium class', they have lie-flat seats and very low fares to KL and then onwards to London. Not 'real' business class of course and no lounges but it'd be comfortable enough and the money you save would be better used paying for another few nights in London!

1 on 20/6/12 by tmsmile

Ummm, Air Asia X don't actually fly to Europe any more...

1 on 22/6/12 by Al

Ooops, youre right, "sorry about that chief" as Max Smart would say!

5 on 20/6/12 by aero-seat

I fly the Kangaroo Route but using Sinagpore Airlines because it has a way better business class product. However, I might start turning to China Southern's Canton Route or Cathay Pacific.

6 on 20/6/12 by airtraveladdict

Good article on all the options available guys, but the Canton route won't be a popular option yet. I found out they don't really have lounges in Guangzhou yet, so if you were flying first and business, you are stuck in a terminal with everybody else.

Apart from that, they haven't improved the services at the chinese airport, so people will always choose to transit through HK or Changi, because those airports make travelling a breeze.

In fact, Changi and HK airports are shoulders above Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

1 on 21/6/12 by John

That's not quite correct. China Southern PR sent me a quick snap of their lounge just last week, and it looks just fine. We're in the process of trying to sort out one of our signature AusBT reviews with China Southern so that we can test out exactly what the service is like.

(I agree with you, though -- it'll have to go some way to beat Changi and Hong Kong!)

1 on 21/6/12 by airtraveladdict

Ah ok thanks for clearing that up John, well its good to see they are catching up with lounges because I had considered China Southern biz/first mix fare to LHR later this year, but I've been reading feedback from biz and First class travellers on skytrax and they had complained about the lack facilities including lounge access.

Anyway the other major gripe seems to be about the Chinese Gov's habbit of shutting down airspace with last minute notice for military purposes, which travellers say have caused long delays when transiting through China.

Hopefully they will continue to improve their airport, because nobody beats Changi and Chek Lap Kok. But those two are standouts and they are shoulders above everyone and its hard for any airport to catch up to them. So I shouldn't be so harsh on Guanghzou, because there are plenty of airports around the world which wouldn't match up to Changi and HK, and our airports Melbourne and Sydney aren't exactly super efficient either.

7 on 20/6/12 by Thecdec1308

I am Melbourne based and I am a big fan of Qatar and Etihad. I find the product offerings better and and the service is amazing. While I still love Qantas and will often fly them to Asia and always to Europe I find that on a 24 hour trip direct aisle access is importaint as well as support for sleeping which the Skybed gen 2 doesn't quite have in my opinion. 

8 on 20/6/12 by Thecdec1308

I will also add I have started flying via the US as it allows me to knock off several meetings in one trip while breaking up a flight to Europe

9 on 21/6/12 by Francesco

I still prefer the BA/QF kangaroo route, I'm an executive club member and of course I choose them first for Avios, but also because in my opinion the quality they offer (specially when I fly QF) is superior: the QF A380 is absolutely the best. I can't wait to fly on a BA one. In addiction the lounge in Sydney, Melbourne and London are some of the best in the world. 

I've never flown with a Chinese airline and I'm not going to do it: the prospective to stop in China doesn't tempt me. Alternatevily I would choose CX, which is a great airline where oneworld members can earn miles and it could be useful for business travelers departing from continental Europe who go to Australia. My parents for examples used that way to fly to Australia from Italy, which is not served by QF. 

In conclusion I say the best way to fly to Australia is still the kangaroo route, even if many people are choosing  gulf carriers which are improving their services and their presence all over the world. It would be interesting if one of the three big airline (Ethiad, Qatar and Emirates) would join an alliance: many FF would be attracted. Willie Walsh said he thinks it will happen by the end of the year. 

10 on 21/6/12 by woganfan

CX every time for me, QF are providing less and less services to LHR, CX lounges are magnificent in HKG. Still get the status credits and some points on my QFF card.

As for the Chinese routes, no chance.  Their airspace is forever getting closed by the military for exercises.  Could find yourself delayed by four or five hours which could have ramifiations at the other end if connections are needed. Also, the Chinese airports are not that nice and the constant pushing and shoving gets tiresome.

11 on 21/6/12 by Rufus

From a timing perspective, I think Singapore or HK works better than the Gulf.  The late night ex-Europe and long hop to Singapore, or mid afternoon ex-Oz and short hop to Singapore don't seem to mess with sleeping patterns as much as doing the short hop between the Gulf and Europe. 

Having been looking at a few flights lately, it's disappointing how hard it is now to get a Qantas flight all the way through.  And the Qantas website has been changed so that it will now offer you a combination with 3 of the 4 legs in Economy, when you ask for Business.

12 on 22/6/12 by Peter

London - Singapore - Sydney


Singapore airport is just great. The lounges are really nice and the shopping is great.

Whenever possible I try to stop over for a few days staying at the Marriott on Orchard Road. None of the other routes can offer what Singapore can.

1 on 6/11/14 by abudhabi1

I agree that you cannot beat Singapore as a stopover or even as a destination one visits in theit own right.And the airport is one of the best for connections.I DID THE TRIP ADELAIDE TO LONDON VIA SINGAPORE IN JUNE 2011 RETURN and had the stopover coming home.NICE SHOPPING AND THINGS TO SEE AND DO PLUS THE SAFETY make it a winner in my books.

13 on 22/6/12 by Garry Warren

Are you kidding me. Haven't flown Sydney's airline for 20 years. They just don't get it, shaft as many passengers as you can before they realise they're being ripped off. QF's business class product is not worth 2-3 times that of other carriers such as TG. No wonder they're going broke.

14 on 24/6/12 by DrTGanguly

It is a shame that QF have halved the number of aircraft flying to LHR.  But when people whinge and start comparing to other carriers they forget a few key facts.  QF/BA offer a remarkable range of connections to and from London with QF flight numbers.  4 through SIN, 1 through BKK and 2 through HKG.  There are 7 flights a day allready.  Admittedly not all are available as daily through everycity, but with the exception of Adelaide the other main state captals have multiple daily one stop connections.  If you look further afield BA have 4 flights a day to HKG connecting to the daily connections to BNE, SYD, MEL and 4x weekly connections from PER.  If you are a OW memeber and dont mind which carrier then CX offer daily flights to HKG from PER/ADL/MEL/SYD/BNE with 4 onwards connections to LHR.I realise that strictly speaking HKG and BKK aren't the official 'Kangaroo route, but in terms of OW they are the other two options that provide convenience and FF points.  So from Sydney that is 2 flights via SIN with QF/BA, 1 Via BKK with QF/BA and viaHKG up to 6 with a combination of QF/BA/CX depending on the day.  That is 9 per day. Not too bad and sig. more than Star alliance offers, and way more than non alliance carriers such as Emirates. 

On the slightly un related note of Europe flights that do not go via LHR QF code share on daily flights to Rome/Paris/Helsinki and have a daily FRA service.  Bringing the total number of QF flights (Inc. dirrect to LHR) and code share flights to Europe to 11 daily.  

1 on 24/6/12 by mrp

I don't think you have checked Star Alliance recently as SQ have four daily flights out of Sydney and if you want be flexible and not actually fly through Singapore then perhaps the 2 Thai flights or even the United flight would work.

As for Adelaide QF's 3 flights a week hardly compares favourably with SQ's 10 (starting next month).

The flights into Europe rather than LHR isn't going to end well for QF in the comparison stakes.

1 on 24/6/12 by DrTGanguly

The reference to Star Alliance was aimed directly to their '4 flights a day from SIN -LHR'  On that comparrison basis QF/BA have 4 as well (a QF, 2 BA) all of which carry QF flight numbers.  I dont really consider United via the US as comparable to the Kangaroo route concept as it involves increased time and I would assume is not a highly used option.  At the end of the day the 9 flights a day for OW does eclipse the 6 from Star Alliance by 50% when considering SYD-LHR.As an Adelaide based person I do agree; however, that 3 versus Sinagpores 10 is absurd.  That is a reflection on the Qantas approach to Asia (or lack ther of), rather than a reflection on which carrier dominates the Kangaroo route.

So yes I have checked my info on SQ, they do offer 4 flights a day out of Sydney, which is more than the 3 QF/BA flights to SIN.  But, as I stated in my original post, OW have more.  If you breka it down there are 3 flights a day to SIN, 1 to BKK, up to six to HKG.  The there are 4 from SIN-LHR, 1 from BKK-LHR and a staggering 6 from HKG to LHR.  If this were just a QF/BA Vs SQ comparison to LHR then QF would probably still win.  Because despite all the flights SQ do to Australia QF/BA have 7 flights to LHR from their asian hubs over SQs 4.

You are right that SQ win the europe connections hands down, and the presence of Lufthansa definately helps there.  Here is hoping that the Qantas Sale act gets dropped in time for the 787, we may just see Paris return.....

1 on 24/6/12 by mrp

The key thing for me, aside from the 10 v 3 flights out of Adelaide issue, is the quality of the service and so that puts it between Singapore Airlines and Thai representing Star versus Cathay representing One World since the product offered by QF and BA is just not up to scratch. It will be game on against the MIddle Eastern airlines once the new Doha airport comes on line as the current one is no comparison to Changi or HKIA (although the premium terminal is rather nice).

I can't see QF changing it's focus on Heathrow even with the 787 as it would appear that Alan Joyce is so focused, between complaining about how the world owes him something, on Asia.

1 on 24/6/12 by DrTGanguly

I think its a bit near sighted to simply say that QF/BA dont even compare when it comes to service....I've flown QF and SQ business reccently and they both have their highlights and areas that need improving.SQ are widely criticised for the inconsistency of their J product in the same way QF are.  The SQ regional J seat is pretty similar to the QF skybed mark 1 in terms of comfort, and I've come across as many stone faced SQ FAs as I have grumpy old QF FAs.  Depending on which planes fly there have been periods reccently where SQ only offered the regional angled lie flat to Melbourne, where as QF offer daily A380 flights from MEL-SIN with fully flat Sky Bed II.  QF are the only airline to offer First to HKG.  The QF Cellar is one of the best in the world, food is among the best......I could go on.I am certainly not disputing SQs strengths, but you will notice im not discounting them becuase of a personal subjective view point that I hold.....and I would point out that general consesnus by most is that all of the airlines mentioned in this discussion have good product (hard and soft) and that its price, personal preference and schedule that determine choice.

1 on 24/6/12 by mrp

Maybe I've been lucky but I haven't encountered many stone faced SQ FAs. Can't comment on the variability of SQ J out of Melbourne since I use the Adelaide SQ flights. My biggest criticism of SQ is their need to charge a premium for J on A380/B777-300ER and that was the reason why I decided to try Etihad and Qatar (both of which I like).

2 on 6/11/14 by abudhabi1

Depends on how one looks at it.If you think back to the IRAN AND IRAQ WAR ERA going via the USA was the better option and unlike Qantas and BA with their milk run via ASIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST it was a one stop with PANAM VIA THE US WEST COAST TO LONDON OUT OF SYDNEY AND TWO STOP EX MELBOURNE.

1 on 6/11/14 by mrp

Given the TSA and the USA's inability to understand transit and the length of that combined flight I wouldn't be rushing to take that option now.

15 on 25/6/12 by rcooper

From a business travel perspective there are several key factors that determine a business travellers choice of carrier to Europe/London Company travel policy drives most decisions whether it is "best fare of the day" or corporate deal driven. The business travel market is extremely cost sensitive in Australia regardless of class of travel.The SME market takes a very different approach to large blue chip global corporations when purchasing international tickets It also varies hugely whether you a flying out of Sydney or another capital city. Combined with that it depends on whether the itinerary is just London or multi Europe stops, and whether stopovers are required to and/or from Europe. If the destination is Europe, QF has pretty much lost that market except for the die hard QF frequent flyers. Why would anyone flying Australia to a key European city choose to add and additional stop and terminal transfer at LHR adding 3 - 5 hours to the journey when they could do it one stop with a competitor airline? For business travel ex PER ADL BNE - the prime carriers of choice for London generally are SQ EK CX and then QF due to them offering much more extensive schedule choices and keeping their fares competitive From SYD and MEL if London is prime destination key carriers are SQ QF BA CX EK. Corporates continue to express disappointment with QF's reduction of service to LON and lack of scheduling choice. This is where QF is getting it very wrong believing reducing the schedule limits their availability and therefore raises the fares being sold, it is driving away customers especially "best fare of the day" customers As mentioned yes you can take QF to BKK and then connect to BA - connect times are not great especially inbound or you can take QF to HKG and then onto BA - but the same problem still exists with those options in that they are all late afternoon flights from Australia to connect with overnights to London and on the inbound overnights connecting to overnights Scheduling is now so key for the business travel world, and those overnight choices to Europe are becoming hugely popular for business travel giving you a full working day, overnight flight where you can sleep and then daylight through to Europe arriving late afternoon allowing you to start the next working day refreshed and minimising jet lag. Even the same day flights to Europe with EK despite the very early starts from Australia are becoming very popular as you arrive in Europe in the evening and can get a good nights sleep before starting to work It is not giving the business travel choice of schedule they need, this is where the other carriers are taking so much traffic and continually eroding QF's market share The interesting thing is QF say they are losing money on London, and yes their cost base is way too high and fuel costs have risen hugely, but fuel has risen for all airlines. When you look at what is happening out of Asia/Middle East to Europe/London most airlines are increasing services and capacity as traffic from that region continues to grow - SQ are going to 3 x A380 SIN LHR and adding a fourth service (filling the gap of the dropped QF service), KE CA have both just added LGW to their networks, VN started LON last year, MH is deploying the A380 on LHR, EK continues to convert their LON schedules to A380, BA is adding SEL and has increased HKG, AF and LH continue to deploy the A380 on Asia. CZ start LHR and the list goes on.. QF should not be losing money on that route In terms of product and service - QF have invested a lot of money in upgrading their international product and service. They know they are not SQ CX QR but what they offer is still good quality and ticks a lot of the boxes - how they keep competing on that route is their challenge. They still are first choice for many Australian business travellers, QF needs to ensure they retain that business

16 on 26/6/12 by snoopy7787

has anyone here tried the Southern Cross Route to LA HAVE A stopover to see Beverly Hills,Universal Studios,THE OC,Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm before continiuing onto Europe.I know these days the Visa can be quite a hassle to get but for those of us who can get it I would recommend this way for sure.If You can't be bothered with all these hassles then I recommend going via Singapore in that it's an easy place to get around,practically everyone speaks english and sightseeing while not as exciting as the America Option is good too.I wouldn't recommend Hong Kong or Bangkok though especially the latter if travelling alone.

1 on 31/10/12 by rebekkap

How is "the Visa" (actually a visa waiver) "quite a hassle to get"?

You apply online, it takes about 2 mins and costs less than $15 for an ESTA that's valid two years.

"all these hassles"????


Related News Items


Australian business traveller newsletter

Get Updates as they happen, tailored to your preferences, right in your inbox


What topics interest you?