- 1 When are the cheap fares available?
- 2 Where can I go?
- 3 Which airlines’ flights will be half price?
- 4 How do we know the airlines won’t increase their flight costs now?
- 5 Can I book through a travel agent?
- 6 How do I know states won’t suddenly close their borders again if there’s a Covid outbreak?
- 7 What’s the point of all these cheap flights?
- 8 What about the increased emissions?
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Australians will be able to access half-priced flights to a handful of regional tourist destinations after the government announced it would subsidise certain routes as part of a $1.2bn support package for the tourism sector ravaged by state and international border closures.
While the prime minister, Scott Morrison, labelled the airfare initiative – which includes subsidising 800,000 domestic airfares – a “ticket to recovery”, tourism and hospitality leaders have criticised the package for only targeting aviation businesses. They have warned it won’t do enough to save jobs after the jobseeker wage subsidy is cut off at the end of March.
Qantas and Virgin Australia have praised the cheap flights but there are concerns the benefits of incentivising Australians to spend on domestic travel will hinge on states keeping their borders open even if Covid cases emerge. Climate activists are also worried about the impact on Australia’s emissions.
When are the cheap fares available?
The half-price fares will be available to book from 1 April until the end of July.
It’s not clear when the first flight with half-price tickets will take off, but Qantas has indicated its fares will begin from 1 May.
The government discount includes flights until the end of December.
Where can I go?
The government has nominated an initial list of 13 destinations, but said more destinations could be added. They are all for interstate travel with the exception of the route from Adelaide to Kangaroo Island.
Half-price return fares will be offered to the following destinations from the below capital cities:
Sydney: flights to the Gold Coast, Cairns, Proserpine, Hamilton Island, Maroochydore, Uluru, Alice Springs, Launceston, Broome and Avalon.
Melbourne: flights to the Gold Coast, Cairns, Maroochydore, Alice Springs, Uluru, Launceston, Devonport, Burnie, Broome and Merimbula.
Adelaide: flights to the Gold Coast, Maroochydore, Alice Springs and Kangaroo Island.
Brisbane: flights to Alice Springs, Uluru and Launceston.
Darwin: flights to Cairns and Broome.
Perth: flights to Alice Springs.
Avalon: flights to the Gold Coast.
Which airlines’ flights will be half price?
Qantas and Jetstar expect to provide the bulk of the cheaper flights, with plans to offer 32,000 of the half-price fares per week. Virgin Australia has also welcomed the initiative and will provide a smaller amount.
Regional airlines, including Rex, will be eligible for the routes, so long as they have been operating the route for the past two years.
How do we know the airlines won’t increase their flight costs now?
The amount of subsidy the government pays for airlines to halve their airfares will be based on the average fares charged in February.
The deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, said he had held “long discussions” with Qantas and Virgin and had received assurances they would not artificially raise their prices before the discount offers came into effect.
However the government has not announced a mechanism to monitor and enforce this.
Can I book through a travel agent?
While the details of the package are yet to be finalised, Graham Turner, Flight Centre founder and chief executive, told the Guardian that airlines had indicated to him that they intended to distribute the flights among travel agents, and would not require bookings to be made directly on their websites.
How do I know states won’t suddenly close their borders again if there’s a Covid outbreak?
There’s no guarantee states will remain open to interstate travellers if there is an outbreak of Covid-19, as much as the federal government would like states to reassure travellers.
The federal tourism minister, Dan Tehan, told 6PR radio the threat of snap border closures was the biggest obstacle for potential travellers.
“One of the things we’re really looking for … is a firm message from state and territory leaders that border closures will now be used as a last resort.”
But when the Queensland treasurer, Cameron Dick, was asked about it on ABC radio on Thursday morning, he reiterated that his state would “act on the health advice”.
On the plus side, airlines now have a well-established process for issuing vouchers or refunds for flights cancelled due to coronavirus-related disruptions.
What’s the point of all these cheap flights?
Responding to tourism sector calls for ongoing support after jobkeeper payments end, the government hopes the package will encourage Australians to travel to tourist destinations that have previously relied on international tourism.
However many in the sector are sceptical this package can fill the void the ongoing international border closure has created, and that jobs that had relied on jobkeeper will be lost once the subsidy ends.
There are also concerns the package, which also includes loan initiatives separate to the flight discounts, mostly help the aviation sector while hotels and tourism businesses in capital cities benefit less.
Labor has also questioned why the majority of the initial 13 destinations that benefit from the package are located in marginal seats while neighbouring areas miss out.
The Queensland state government has criticised the package’s lack of incentive for travel within states.
What about the increased emissions?
Richie Merzian, the climate and energy program director at the Australia Institute, warns that while the policy will benefit airlines it will also have “a noticeable impact” on Australia’s climate emissions.
Merzian said domestic aviation accounted for a significant portion of the country’s transport emissions in a normal year. While there was a significant fall during the pandemic, overall transport emissions had already rebounded, thanks in large part to increased road travel.
Offering the subsidy to airlines could “potentially tip it further in the opposite direction”, Merzian said.
“The impact of this will be substantial and we will be able to see the impact of these flights in terms of the national emissions. This is basically an aviation fuel recovery package.”
He was critical of the government for not attaching emissions reduction conditions to the package as some European countries had done when airlines were given bailouts.
“As part of the deal they could have made Qantas and Virgin agree to offset the flights which would have created demand for offset projects and stimulated regional economies,” Merzian said.
Previously, environmental campaigners in Australia condemned the rise of scenic “joy flights” aimed at passengers “missing the excitement of travel”.
– additional reporting by Michael McGowan
Source: The Guardian
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