Australians hoping to fly abroad in the coming months face disproportionate costs due to high demand and a limited supply of seats on services flying into the country, as experts warn that high prices will last another year.
The complicated logistical planning required for airlines to get out of skeletal operations has meant that those seeking to exploit the reopened border will face financial obstacles while planes are being recalled from desert parking lots, and engaged employees and ground action contracts are brought back online.
A backlog of more than 45,000 Australians is also still stranded abroad, adding another layer of complexity, demand and frustration to the picture.
After a flight search booking at KAYAK for a flight ticket to Guardian Australia the average cost of a single ticket economy flight from Sydney to New Delhi – the most sought after route on the site in the last month – is $ 1,051 while the return on average adds $ 2,668 for the fare for travel between November and December.
The average outbound leg from Sydney to London – the next most sought-after route in the same travel period – is priced at $ 1,012 for economy, with the return portion of the trip costing $ 2,109.
Although these prices are average, some searches for individual services are significantly higher. A search for a three-week return flight from Sydney to New York from early to late December offers options that consistently cost $ 5,000 for an economy ticket on Qantas.
In addition to India and the UK, countries with large diaspora communities in Australia as well as places with high concentrations of stranded Australian flight searches dominate. Services to the United States, Nepal, Fiji, Lebanon, Bangladesh, the Philippines and Pakistan round out the top 10 most coveted routes.
KAYAK said there was an increase in searches on international flights following comments from New South Wales Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet, backed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, that travel could be quickly tracked to early November.
Tom Youl, a senior industry analyst at IBISWorld, said “it could take a whole year” before airlines return to capacity and fares before covid, predicting significantly higher fares until December, a slight easing from February, before a gradual reduction in fares over the next year.
Youl said the price problems caused by the lack of seats on flights to Australia were driven by pandemically injured and cash-conscious airlines, which he predicted would be wary of rapidly rising services due to a potential imbalance in demand between outbound and inbound seats.
He believes airlines will be aware that although travel-hungry and vaccinated Australians will be able to return and quarantine for seven days in their homes, the requirement for international tourists to isolate themselves on arrival will create a “significant barrier”.
After nearly two years of flying almost empty planes to Australia while complying with the strict ceiling on quarantine sites, Youl said airlines will be most concerned about filling all available seats on their services and will not be able to sharply reduce services.
“Because of the losses they have suffered during the pandemic, they have to be very careful about profitability.
“If there is not a steady demand in both ways, there is less incentive for airlines to fully expand fully, so we have to take them at the word that there will be a cautious, staggered return to capacity before covid. They want planes as full as possible. ”
Youl said the carriers probably “still haven’t figured out the rules and logistics” for lifting the curfew and the initial reopening plan, which the federal government has indicated, could happen as early as November in states like NSW.
Noting the excitement of the political announcements, Youl warned that the first travelers would likely be those visiting friends and family and those returning from abroad.
Barry Abrams, chief executive of Australia’s Board of Airline Representatives, has previously told Guardian Australia that airlines had been in the dark about what the new rules on international travel would be, and has since warned members of his body, Among other things, Singapore Airlines and Emirates expect major tourism to be delayed for several months.
Australia’s current international passenger intake is 2,285 people per week and has been significantly reduced during the Delta eruption. Airlines fly flights with around 6,000 empty seats a day to Sydney Airport and can only carry 110 passengers.