UPDATE | Qantas has lashed out at yesterday's report by AAP (Australian Associated Press) which claimed that Virgin Australia carried more Australian domestic passengers in the year to May 2012 than Qantas.
"Qantas, including its regional domestic airline QantasLink, carried 20.25 million passengers over that period" the airline said in a press release issued this morning, while "Virgin Australia (including its regional domestic flying) carried 15.53 million passengers."
"In addition to the 20.25 million domestic Qantas flyers, the Qantas Group's low fares airline Jetstar carried 9.84 million passengers. More Australians continue to fly with Qantas than with any other domestic airline."
PREVIOUS | Virgin Australia has pulled ahead of Qantas in the number of passengers flown around Australia, marking a celebratory 'first' for the challenger.
AAP reports that in the 12 months to May 31 this year, "Virgin Australia carried 15.53 million domestic passengers compared to 15.49m on Qantas-branded flights."
But there are some caveats to be noted before Virgin pops the champagne.
Firstly, that 12 months includes not only the dramatic Qantas shut-down in October 2011 but the many preceding months of cancellations and reduced timetables due to industial action – all of which cost Qantas dearly in terms of bums on seats.
And of course this is a purely Virgin vs Qantas Domestic stoush, not Virgin facing off against the 'Qantas + Jetstar' behemoth.
That said, Virgin CEO John Borghetti has set his sights more on The Red Roo than its low-cost offshoot, especially with this year's debut of domestic business class.
Virgin is claiming an outright win in May, claiming 1.42 million domestic passengers in May compared to 1.37 million Qantas domestic passengers.
"Virgin's domestic operations have previously carried more passengers than Qantas in a single month, but the latest data marks the first time Virgin has out-performed Qantas over a 12-month period" AAP notes.
There's also an interesting aside from CBA analyst Matt Crowe, who says the numbers reflect a growth of Jetstar domestic routes at Qantas' expense.
"Qantas is moving a lot of passengers from domestic to Jetstar, over that period of time, Qantas Domestic has become relatively smaller to Jetstar," he told AAP.