Flight Review: Qantas remain the domestic red eye to beat out of Darwin (QF829)

Those who have flown in and out of Darwin know that many flights to and from Australia’s only 24 hour airport are red eyes – and if my recent flight with them is any indication, it seems that Qantas remains the red eye service to Sydney to beat. Here’s a look at the experience in today’s Flight Review.

Airline: Qantas
Route: Darwin to Sydney (QF829)
Seat: 20F (Window in a 3-3 layout)
Airplane Type: Boeing 737-800
Flight Time: 4 hours 5 minutes flight time

Arriving at Darwin International Airport

At Darwin, even on the red eye flights, pretty much everything is open. Even though this is Australia’s only 24 hour airport (as it’s also an active Air Force base), this does sit as surprising for frequent travellers used to arriving to an empty airport upon a late night departure. There’s Hector’s Bar, DÔME, Hungry Jacks. You can shop at Rip Curl, and a massive newsagency which connects to the tourist gift shop Australian Way.

Check-In and Baggage

Baggage is included with Qantas tickets, and check-in is a breeze at Darwin International Airport – check in online, and then drop your bag on arrival. Was heading through security in minutes!


The service was excellent all flight, and the Qantas staff were incredibly friendly. Final call made 20 minutes before the flight was due to leave, boarding started about 10 minutes earlier that that. Arrived to massive queue on the drawbridge as everyone boarded at once.

Entertainment in Flight

There’s no screens on this service; they make an announcement to remind you to download the free app on your own device for entertainment before you take off. There are holders for tablets on the back of the seats – a popular, cost-cutting feature among some airlines. The app has a tonne of entertainment options, including entire season box sets. Definitely superior to the Virgin offering. Though the film options are minimal – which makes it well suited for short haul services.

Those who don’t want to use their own device can rent one on board, or plug their earphones into the armrest, where a few channels of music are constantly playing. And one of the channels syncs up to overhead TVs. They’re still a bit old school at Qantas in that respect – there’s no other airline in Australia that still has that. Safety video comes down from screens above, while crew members show the usual seatbelt and life jacket motions. The latest King Arthur film was then screened on the TV screens for everyone. Though most people would be sleeping on this red eye service (including yours truly) and wouldn’t be partaking in any entertainment whatsoever.


The seats are standard – comfortable enough, but could definitely use a bit more cushion and leg room. A pillow and blanket awaits you on every seat, which definitely aids in your necessity to sleep on the service..

Food & Drink 

Supper was offered shortly after take off, with a non-alcoholic beverage, and then cabin lights were turned off. It was a lamb pie with tomato sauce; nothing special but did the trick before a sleep.


Without question, Qantas offer the best domestic service for the Darwin to Sydney red eye. It’s full service, even if the definition of this has been reduced over the years, it’s still miles ahead of their competitors in the same time slot. But this doesn’t mean they’re the most expensive either; the Jetstar flight on the same day was listed as more expensive when I booked, due to capacity. So always compare! Thanks to increased competition, rates across the Qantas network may surprise you these days. It should be noted, too, that Virgin only operate day flights between the two capital cities.

The author flew at his own expense.


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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.

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