Australian travelers face expensive international airfares for at least ‘four or five years’ | Air industry

Australians keen to travel abroad and reunite with loved ones after two years of pandemic border restrictions are facing costly international airfares, with new analysis showing prices have risen on average by more than 50% across all countries. destinations compared to pre-pandemic travel.

Many airlines cut all services and closed local offices at the height of strict quarantine arrival caps in 2021 as they slowly rebuild and resume services to the country, the cost of international travel to and from from Australia is expected to remain high.

International airlines are operating around a fifth of the number of passenger services to Australia from pre-pandemic levels – not including Western Australia, where traffic is 1% – according to the Board of Airline Representatives of Australia.

Economy class seat prices are on average 54% higher than pre-pandemic levels, according to data from the Kayak travel website provided to Guardian Australia. The data was based on searches for flights between February 1 and February 13 that departed within 180 days of the search date.

New Delhi was the most sought-after international destination in early February by Australians looking to book holidays, with airfare to the Indian capital being among the most expensive compared to pre-pandemic costs, the data showed.

The average price for a round-trip economy class flight to New Delhi is currently $1,584, up from an average of $1,025 in February 2020.

Bali is the second most popular international destination for Australians, with return flights to Denpasar costing an average of $622. Airfares to Bali are among the closest to pre-pandemic costs, just 13% more expensive than in February 2020 on average.

Flights to London – the third most popular destination for Australians in February so far – cost an average of $1,832 for a return ticket. In February 2020, the average cost was $1,477.

Manila is the fourth most searched destination, with an average round-trip airfare of $1,352. This represents an 81% increase over pre-pandemic prices, when an average fare was $746 in February 2020.

Australians are also eager to travel to New Zealand – which still has strict Covid entry rules but has announced it will accept vaccinated New Zealand citizens and visa holders from Australia from February 27 – with flights to Auckland the sixth most searched destination. . Round-trip tickets cost an average of $674, up 46% from pre-pandemic levels.

The average cost of a round-trip ticket to Los Angeles is $1,666, up from $1,074 in February 2020.

Many international airlines have announced the resumption of some Australian routes and increased frequency on others since the Morrison government announced it would reopen the country’s borders to allow all remaining visa holders, including tourists , to enter from 21 February.

In the days following the announcement, searches for flights to Australia increased by 80%, with most searches coming from the UK, US and South Korea.

People hoping to travel to Australia face slightly cheaper airfares, with data from Kayak showing round-trip fare prices with a round trip are on average around 40% higher than pre-pandemic costs.

Dr Tony Webber, of the University of New South Wales School of Aviation, said he expects air fares to remain high for “at least four or five years”.

Webber, who is also chief executive of the Airline Intelligence and Research group and former chief economist at Qantas, said this was partly due to the huge financial hit airlines have taken throughout Covid.

“Airlines are still repairing their balance sheets, they haven’t made any profit in recent years, so they need to charge more on tickets, they need to get more revenue from customers.”

“If you have 80% fewer available seats, but a lot more seat requests, then the prices must be higher,” Webber said. “Airlines will not immediately increase their services to meet demand, because it is still so uncertain and risky, they will be cautious in returning supply.”

Webber added that fuel costs – which plummeted at the start of the pandemic – have risen again and are now about 20% above pre-pandemic levels, contributing to higher airfares.

Webber predicted that the high cost of international flights would encourage more Australian tourists to take domestic flights – which have resumed at a much faster rate than international levels – with increased demand which could also push up local airfares.

Meanwhile Qantas has angered some local travellers, with a recent booking issue resulting in a hold charge for the cost of some flights being placed on some customers’ credit cards, despite them having already deducted the cost of the price at the time of purchase.

An affected customer, who did not want to be named, told Guardian Australia ‘as a result, we are overdrawn on our credit card and unable to make purchases for the three to seven days it takes to fix’.

It is understood the issue has affected a small number of customers, with Qantas aiming to clear the detention charge within a week.

A Qantas spokesperson has defended recent criticism from customers with flight credit vouchers who claimed their credits were not sufficient to cover the cost of a new fare on an identical route.

She said the issue affected customers who, from October 1, had booked a flight but chose not to go despite the service being on.

She explained that although the airline relaxed its traditional fare rules at the start of the pandemic, it has since “remitted some of those rules”, meaning that customers who requested flight credit could not rebook. only on services of equal cost.

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