Australian air tickets now cheaper as flights run with pre-Covid capacity

Airlines have finally managed to rebound from the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, with flight capacity reaching pre-pandemic levels for the first time, according to data from Flight Centre. In April, global seat availability surpassed 100% of 2019 levels, leading to lower airfares for travelers.

Melissa Elf, Managing Director of Flight Centre Corporate, noted that an analysis of key international routes for Australian travelers revealed drops of up to 25% in airfares on some routes out of Australia. This trend is expected to persist throughout the year as more capacity and competition enter the market.

In Australia, international capacity is projected to increase from 95% to 98% next month, while domestic capacity has remained between 98% and 100% for the past few months. Elf highlighted promising signs of further airfare reductions in the future, with major carriers like Delta, Singapore Airlines, and China Southern recently announcing new routes to Australia.

In the first quarter of 2024, flights to Indonesia, Australia’s most popular travel destination, were down by 21% compared to the previous year, with an average return fare of $798. Available seats to Indonesia were at 115% of pre-pandemic capacity. Capacity to Japan, Qatar, and Papua New Guinea has also surpassed pre-COVID levels, while routes to the UK have fully recovered. However, routes to Hong Kong and the US still have significant room for recovery, operating at only 63% and 70% of pre-pandemic capacity, respectively.

Qantas and Jetstar reported that international and domestic seat capacity had recovered to 90% of pre-pandemic levels in the second half of 2023, representing a 25% increase from the previous year.

Despite declining airfares, rising living costs are causing more Australians to either holiday within their own state or cancel travel plans altogether. According to a survey conducted by Pure Profile for the travel industry’s peak body, 70% of respondents planned to go on holiday during the autumn school break, with 41% opting for a vacation within their own state, up from 36% during the summer. Another 21% planned to holiday interstate, while 8% intended to travel overseas.

Margy Osmond, Chief Executive of the Tourism and Transport Forum, expressed satisfaction at seeing Australians support the local economy and tourism operators. However, she also voiced concern about the sector still feeling the impact of cost-of-living pressures, with many families opting for shorter holidays, staying with friends or relatives to save money, or canceling their travel plans altogether. Over half of the survey respondents cited cost-of-living pressures as affecting their travel decisions, with a quarter planning shorter trips as a result.

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