Half-price airfares start today. Here’s what you need to know

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If you’re in desperate need of a holiday after a year under the shadow of coronavirus, you’re not alone. And today’s the day to book it.

The federal government is spending $1.2 billion on a stimulus program to get Australians to spend up big on domestic travel to support the struggling sector.

International travel is not an option until October at the earliest so it makes sense to travel at home.

Thirteen regions are included in the program, which features half-price airfares on the nation’s three major carriers: Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin.

So make your plans and get ready to book.

Where can I go?
Here’s the list of destinations chosen on the basis of their reliance on tourism:

  • Gold Coast
  • Cairns
  • The Whitsundays
  • The Sunshine Coast
  • Alice Springs
  • Launceston
  • Devonport
  • Burnie
  • Broome
  • Avalon
  • Merimbula
  • Kangaroo Island
  • Lasseter (which includes Uluru)

How much will it cost and when can I travel?
The tickets are on sale from today until the end of July, for travel through until the end of September.

Tickets are meant to be discounted by 50 per cent, according to prices in February. But the prices will be demand-driven and peak periods will cost more.

Fish swimming around coral in the Great Barrier Reef
Travellers can visit the Great Barrier Reef by taking advantage of flights to Prosperpine.(ABC: Catalyst )

About 46,000 half-price fares will be offered each week, mostly with Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar.

The ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) will be monitoring the prices to make sure there’s no gouging.

The airlines are directly benefiting from the program, so James Gilchrist Stewart from RMIT thinks it’s unlikely they’ll inflate their prices.

“However, with the end of JobKeeper coming at the same time as these cheap airfares, there’s a possibility accommodation providers and tourism operators may increase their pricing,” he says.

“The bigger question here is whether day trips, equipment hire and food and beverage suddenly get more expensive as tourism operators are desperate, especially as autumn and winter can be quiet at the best of times.

“Worst-case scenario is a $4 beer could cost $12.”

Where are the best bargains?
Chrystal Zhang, from RMIT, says demand, the time of day of the flight and the airline will all have an impact on prices.

She says it will likely only a limited number of half-price fares will be available in the first few weeks.

“Bargain hunters should look at routes like Darwin to Cairns, Adelaide to Gold Coast and Avalon to Gold Coast, with one-way fares likely to drop $50 to $80,” Ms Zhang says.

Qantas planes at Brisbane Domestic Terminal.
Nearly 800,000 half-price fares are on offer as part of the stimulus program.(ABC News: Chris Gillette )

To get the best deals plan further ahead.

“Travellers will have the best chance of getting a cheaper fare if they travel later in the eligible time frame (July, August and September) but avoid school holidays and weekends,” she says.

Should we book a trip to Queensland?
Queensland has four destinations on the list, but Brisbane isn’t one of them, which is good news, since most states are advising people not to travel there.

The best option is to plan as far ahead as you can and hope with more people being vaccinated that the impact of localised clusters will be limited.

The backs of passengers' heads and their in-seat screens can be seen from an aisle seat on a plane
The cost of flights will be demand driven, so avoid school holidays for the best deals.(Source: Suhyeon Choi, Unsplash )

What happens if state borders are closed by outbreaks?
The current situation in Queensland is enough to make anyone think twice about planning ahead.

Dr Stewart says the constant threat of border closures makes planning a holiday one big headache.

“Every airline, accommodation and tourism operator have their own terms and conditions – meaning if there’s a lockdown or similar, consumers must unravel multiple contracts for one holiday,” he says.

So buyer beware and have options up your sleeve in case you need to change your plans.

Will more destinations be added for cheap flights?
Deputy Prime Minister and Transport Minister Michael McCormack says not every destination has been revealed, calling it an “initial list”.

After complaints, Darwin and Hobart have been added to the list.

Other states are angry that their cities have not been included.

Melbourne Airport isn’t included in the list. Western Australia’s only destination is Broome.

Travel within states has also been left out: so Queenslanders, for example, miss out on the airfares to the Whitsundays.

The only exception to that rule is Kangaroo Island: there are flights from Adelaide Airport.

Hopefully, as Australia’s vaccination program rolls out there will be fewer outbreaks and everyone can enjoy their holiday.

© 2020 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.
ABC Content Disclaimer

Written by ABC News



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