One-way flights from Australia to the UK
Booking one-way flights from Australia to the UK
Consider your mental and physical wellbeing
Before you choose your flight route, airline and airfares – consider your mental and physical wellbeing. The flight from Australia to the UK is very, very, very long. You will feel absolutely knackered when you arrive (unless you’re a ninja).
TOP 5 Recommendations
- Choose the flight route and the airline/s that give you a safe and comfortable travel experience.
- Book the fastest flights (bigger planes), with the fewest legs/stopovers, to reduce your overall journey time.
- Choose seats with the maximum width and legroom you can afford (even if it means you have to pay for pre-selection).
- Consider Premium Economy if comfort is important.
- Choose flights with the best departure and arrival times. Leave Australia and arrive in the UK at reasonable hours if you can. We arrived in the UK on a Sunday evening so we could be fresh for Monday morning, the start of the week.
Our experience (Flying from Brisbane to Glasgow)
- Our total travel time from Brisbane to Glasgow (in 2016) was about 35 hours, including transit (walking, trains and buses), flights and stop-overs.
- We woke up at 7 am on a Sunday morning in Australia. We travelled an hour by train to Brisbane airport, checking in two hours before our flight. We flew to Singapore (an 8-hour flight) and enjoyed a leg stretch during a 3-hour stop-over at Changi Airport. We got next to no sleep while flying from Singapore to London (a 13.5-hour flight).
- We spent 3 hours at Heathrow, clearing Customs, getting our ‘Welcome to the UK’ greeting, and enjoying breakfast while waiting to board our domestic flight to Edinburgh (1 hour).
- About an hour after landing in Scotland, we secured seats on the airport bus and travelled to Glasgow (1 hour).
- Jet-lagged and hungry, we walked 15 minutes to our temporary accommodation. We dropped our luggage and walked 15 minutes into the city to grab a quick dinner. It took us 30 minutes to walk back, climbing some of Glasgow city’s steepest streets with our eyes half-closed and dragging our feet like extras in the movie World War Z.
- 35 hours later, at about 10 pm on Sunday evening in the UK, we hit the pillow and slept for 10 hours, waking up at 8 am on Monday morning Glasgow time.
- On day 1 in the UK, we woke up reasonably refreshed to venture out, activate our UK Ancestry Visa, get a mobile SIM and start looking for rental properties.
Impact of Covid on flying from Australia to the UK
Covid has made flying more challenging, more costly, and more complicated. Restrictions and precautions include the need for travellers to obtain a Government exemption to leave and cover the additional expense of quarantine. If you can secure and afford a flight, leaving Australia is one of the hardest parts of relocating to the UK.
Qantas website warnings (August 2021):
If you’re an Australian citizen or a permanent resident, you cannot leave Australia due to COVID-19 restrictions unless you have an exemption. Visit the Australian Department of Home Affairs website for more information.
Before you book and before travel, ensure you check the latest government travel requirements, which may include mandatory health declarations, use of face masks, entry permits, pre-approval and quarantine (possibly at your own expense), or you could be denied entry.
The Covid-19 pandemic is constantly changing, and the global response, including by the Australian and UK Governments, impacts flights, domestic and international travel, and immigration movements. This article will help you when the Covid situation improves and/or when you can book a flight to leave Australia.
Choose the flight route
- Consider the departure, transit, and arrival cities. Do you have a preference on which countries you want to fly over or through? Do you want to fly through Asia, the Middle East, or Europe? Having a preference will help you choose which airline to fly with (and which airlines you don’t need to consider).
- Total travel time: Do you want to be travelling for 28 or 36 hours? Some routes will extend your total trip time.
- Minimising the number of connecting flights and the total time spent in transit in airports (rather than flying to the UK), will impact the total journey time. Your flight route may also impact the total cost of your flight (for better or worse). If flying to Glasgow, do you land in Manchester and fly to Glasgow or do you land in London and fly to Edinburgh or Glasgow?
Choose an airline
Safety and comfort considerations
- Choose an airline with a good safety record that has a reputation for providing good customer service. Research flight reviews on the airline, its flight route and the aircraft you will be flying on.
- The aircraft type used by each airline will also influence seat dimensions (width and legroom), facilities (e.g., charging points, entertainment) and comfort. The larger the plane, the smoother the ride (less turbulence experienced), so an airbus A380 for the longer leg will be best for comfort.
Changes and connections
- Try and book the same airline – or affiliated airlines – in a consolidated booking.
- Make sure you don’t have to change airports or terminals. If you do, know before you get there (if possible) and make sure your connection time allows for the transit time.
- Make sure you don’t have to change airports or terminals, and if you do, know before you get there (if possible) and make sure your connection time allows for the transit time.
- Does a certain airline or ticket type give you more luggage (numbers of items, weight and dimensions of each item)?
- Our Qantas flight allowed each person to have one large suitcase up to 23kg, one carry-on bag up to 7kg, and one small handbag, computer bag or backpack.
- Can it be checked through from Australia to London, or do you have to go through baggage claim, customs and security multiple times to make sure your bags arrive when you do? Could you be doing something better with your time than queuing (like stretching your legs with a walk, eating or shopping in the airport)?
- Make sure you don’t have to change airports or terminals and if you do, know before you get there (if possible) and make sure your connection time allows for the transit time.
- What is included in your ticket cost? What are the meals like? Are you happy to eat the food the airline is likely to serve?
Airlines (Routes & Flight Duration)
You might like the airline\’s flight route and the airfare. However, the aircraft type (which is different for each airline and flight route) will determine how comfortable you are. Information on aircraft type and seating follow this section.
Example flight routes by the main airlines (as of September 2021):
- Brisbane – Hong Kong 8h 35m
- Layover Hong Kong 1h 40m
- Hong Kong – London 13h 5m
- Total flight/layover time: Brisbane to London via Hong Kong = 23h 20m
- Brisbane – Singapore 8h
- Layover in Singapore 2h 45m
- Singapore – London 13h 25m
- Total flight/layover time: Brisbane to London via Singapore = 24h 10m
Qantas & British Airways
- Brisbane – Sydney 1h 35m
- Layover in Sydney 3h 5m
- Sydney – Singapore 8h 15m
- Layover in Singapore 1h 30m
- Singapore – London 13h 30m
- Total flight/layover time: Brisbane to London via Sydney and Singapore = 27h 55m
- Brisbane – Melbourne 2h 25m
- Layover in Melbourne 1h 55m
- Melbourne – Abu Dhabi 14h 5m
- Layover in Abu Dhabi 2h 15m
- Abu Dhabi – London 7h 15m
- Total flight/layover time: Brisbane to London via Melbourne and Abu Dhabi = 27h 55m
- Brisbane – Melbourne 2h 25m
- Layover in Melbourne 2h 15m
- Melbourne – Dohar 14h
- Layover 2h 5m
- Dohar – London 7h 15m
- Total flight/layover time: Brisbane to London via Melbourne and Dohar = 28h
- Brisbane – Singapore 8h 15m
- Layover Singapore 6h 25m
- Singapore – Helsinki 11h 50m
- Layover Helsinki 1h 45m
- Helsinki – London 3h 10m
- Total flight/layover time: Brisbane to London via Singapore and Helsinki = 31h 25m
- Brisbane – Singapore 8h 15m
- Layover in Singapore 4h 50m
- Singapore – Tokyo 7h
- Layover in Tokyo 5h 30m
- Tokyo – London 12h 30m
- Total flight/layover time: Brisbane to London via Singapore and Tokyo = 38h 5m
Cathay Pacific and Lufthansa
- Brisbane – Hong Kong 8h 35m
- Layover in Hong Kong 15h 55m
- Hong Kong – Frankfurt 11h 50m
- Layover in Frankfurt 2h 45m
- Frankfurt – London 1h 40m
- Total flight/layover time: Brisbane to London via Hong Kong and Frankfurt = 40h 45m
Etihad, Emirates & Qatar
- About 14-15h from Australia to London via the Middle East
- Emirates – Dubai to Glasgow
- Etihad – to London
- Qatar – Doha to Edinburgh, but maybe the seats have a smaller width
- Etihad and Qatar have tail-cam
- Emirates – Dubai airport is known as a dirtier and busier airport
Aircraft Type (Seating & Comfort)
- Research the type of aircraft you will be flying on for each leg, especially the longer legs of 8 hours or more.
- Make sure that the aircraft type and flight you are booking have everything you need. For example, do you want laptop power or on-demand TV?
- How wide is your airline seat?
- How far back can your seat recline?
- How much legroom will you have?
- What is the seat configuration? For example, if travelling in a group, do they have 2, 4, 2 seat clusters or something different?
- Does each seat have entertainment and its own dedicated screen?
- Not all economy seats are equal! SeatGuru has a great long-haul economy class comparison chart.
Most airlines have either a better pitch (distance between seats = legroom) or width (distance between armrests = bum/hip width), not both. Choose what is more important to you. Depending on which model of aircraft you book, your economy seat dimensions will be in the following range:
- Seat pitch (distance between seats = legroom): 31-34 inches (79-91cm). Some airlines offer 27-30 inches (this is not enough to be comfortable). Some airlines argue that width is more important than pitch (legroom). You want to aim for 34-35 inches if you can afford it. Beware of descriptions like ‘up to 30 inches’.
- Seat width (distance between armrests = bum/hip width): 17-19 (43-46cm). Some airlines offer less than 17 inches (again, not enough to be comfortable). Apparently, sleep quality, and overall comfort are best with at least an 18-inch width. You want closer to 20 inches.
- Economy seating on wide-body jets (e.g. Airbus A330 series, Boeing 747-400 and 787-9): width (W): 17 to 17.5 inches – legroom/pitch (P): 31 to 32 inches.
- Economy seating on narrow-body jets (e.g. Boeing 717-200, 737-800, Airbus A320 neo): width: 17-18 inches – pitch: 30-31 inches.
- Regarding where to sit, apparently, a Popular Mechanics study found that passengers sitting near the tail of a plane were 40% more likely to survive a crash than those sitting in the first few rows.
- Avoid the narrow, non-reclining seats that are glued to the back of the bulkhead.
- You’ll usually have a 2-4-2 or a 3-4-3 seat configuration. Some airlines have a 3-5-3 configuration. I would dread being in the middle seat of the 5 or on the window seat (less foot/legroom, possibly inability to spread your knees apart).
- Emergency exit seats have more legroom than most, but they are sometimes narrower as the tray table has to fit in the armrest, and sometimes they don’t recline as much.
- The closer to the bulkhead (divider between first/business and economy), the sooner you will be fed, and sometimes you get more legroom. But, parents with babies often sit here, so it could be noisier.
- Too close to the toilet, and you have to deal with the smells and the noise of the door and flush (annoying when trying to sleep). If the meal service is slow, it will be difficult to manoeuvre to and from the toilet until the trolleys are packed away. You might want to choose to be slightly closer to the toilet but not directly near it.
- A window seat gives you somewhere to rest your head when trying to sleep, you don’t have to keep getting up when somebody needs to go to the toilet or have a leg stretch, and you can control the window shade.
- Sitting closer to the front may get you fed sooner and will be quieter.
- Sitting in the middle of the plane, over the wings, is apparently a smoother ride.
- If travelling as a couple, you could book the window and the aisle seat and hope nobody chooses the seat between you. Nobody really likes the middle seat.
- Travel in a quiet time to get cheaper tickets and increase your chances of having an empty seat beside you.
Each airline may have different aircraft and seating configurations
Generally speaking, expect the following – width (W) and pitch (P) in inches:
- Qantas – Airbus A330-300 – Brisbane to Singapore (W 31, P 17)
- British Airways – Boeing 787-9 – Singapore to London (W 31, P 17.5)
- Finnair – Airbus A330-300 – Brisbane to Singapore (W 32, P 18)
- Finnair – Airbus A350-900 – Singapore/Helsinki to London (W 31, P 18)
- Etihad – Boeing 787-9 – Melbourne to Abu Dhabi (W 31-32, P 17.1-17.2)
- Etihad – Boeing 787-10 – Abu Dhabi to London (W 31-32, P 17.1-17.2)
- Lufthansa – Boeing 747-800 – Hong Kong to Frankfurt (W 31, P 17.1)
- Lufthansa – Airbus A320 neo – Frankfurt to London (W 30, P 18)
- Cathay Pacific – Airbus A350-900 – Brisbane to Hong Kong and London (W 32, P 18)
- Singapore Airlines – Airbus A350-900 – Brisbane to Singapore (W 32, P 18)
- Singapore Airlines – Airbus A380-800 – Singapore to London (W 32, P 19)
- Japan Airlines – Airbus A330-300 – Brisbane to Singapore (W 32, P 18)
- Japan Airlines – Boeing 767 – Singapore to Tokyo (W 31-34, P 17.6-18.5)
- Japan Airlines – Boeing 777-300 – Tokyo to London (W 31, P 17.3)
- Qatar Airways – Airbus A350-1000 – Melbourne to Dohar (W 31-32, P 16.9-17.4)
- Qatar Airways – Boeing 777-300ER – Dohar to London (W 31-33, P 17)
Airfare (Costs & Refunds)
- Covid has impacted fares in a ridiculous way. The cost of a one-way flight can range from AUD 1,000 to AUD 20,000 and beyond. Fingers crossed that 2022 sees more flights and lower airfares.
- Generally, the cheapest time to fly from Australia to the UK is in February (winter). And, it’s cheaper to fly from the UK to Australia from mid-April to late June (Aussie winter).
- Advance purchase tickets save you money. Book at least three to six months before the date of travel (advance purchase fares). You can book your flight at a travel show and pay a small deposit to secure the best fares. Flight Centre offer amazing discounts at bi-annual, free entry, and travel conventions in most major cities. Visit their blog and subscribe to their newsletter to be alerted when their next travel show is scheduled.
- Research the flight refund and rebooking fees (especially during Covid restrictions).
- Travel insurance may not cover cancellations and changes, and you will have to rely on an airline’s flexible booking policy.
- Choosing a flexible fare type might be wiser if you think the dates/times you fly may be subject to change.
- You might want to pay for premium economy on long-haul flights to get more seat pitch and/or width. The seat pitch is usually 38 inches (96cm) and the seat width between 18.5-21 inches (47-53cm). You also usually get a larger recline angle, a leg rest, lumbar support, and an adjustable headrest. An extra free check-in bag is also included sometimes. The premium economy might give you a 2-3-2 seat configuration which is excellent for accessing the aisle.
- Sometimes you can upgrade at check-in for a small sum. Otherwise, it will cost about 40% more.
- You may be able to get a cheaper premium flight if you buy a package holiday deal (with flight and hotel) in advance, and sometimes the total cost of a package is better than the create-your-own option.
- Some airlines also offer an opportunity to bid on an upgrade, with premium upgrades available by bidding for about 20-40% of the full-price upgrade fee. Search the website of the airline you are flying with to find out how to do this.
Getting a quote to fly to the UK
When you request a quote from a travel agent to fly one-way from Australia to the UK, they will usually ask you the following questions:
- How many tickets? Just yourself? Or, are you flying with others?
- What date? Is your date flexible?
- From what city? To what city?
- Economy class or other?
- Any special needs?
I’m hoping that this article prepares you for when they ask if you have any preferences – and, if they don’t, that you tell them:
- Fly with a particular airline
- Fly a particular route
- Departure and arrival times
Please share any other questions you have and your experience with booking flights and travelling to the UK from Australia in the comments below.
Keep reading: Moving to the UK Checklist.