Super cheap international airfares are gaining a lot of coverage in Australian media, with a Virgin Australia return ticket from Australia to New York priced at AUD 999 hitting the limelight.
Flight Centre described the latest Virgin Australia fare as easily the cheapest price it had ever seen to New York.
The price had “stunned even travel agents, who have declared the fare the cheapest they’ve ever seen for that route”, an article in News Ltd stated.
A search of travel websites catering for youth travellers revealed fares that undercut even the AUD 999 fare, provided you are aged under 26.
Travellers were paying three times that amount to fly to New York and back only a year or so ago.
For those with long memories, about 25 years ago the cost of an economy class ticket routed SYD-LAX-JFK-PHL-STL-LAX-SYD with United and TWA was AUD 2300. That was the price in 1990, according to one travel agent.
Average Australian weekly full-time earnings have doubled since 1990, so that fare of AUD 2300, in today’s dollar terms, would be more like AUD 4600.
Extra capacity on the Australia-USA route and softness in demand is one reason for the current cheap deals – and it’s also why Qantas has cut three Sydney-Los Angeles flights from its weekly schedule, redeploying the aircraft to more profitable Singapore and Hong Kong routes.
Fares to other parts of the world are also great bargains, with return airfares from Sydney to London still not a lot different than they were 30 years ago, despite average wages greatly increasing over that period.
Fierce competition and extra capacity on some routes may push prices lower yet. The world oil price, currently hitting historic lows, helps airline fuel costs.
Commenting on worldwide trends, IATA director general and chief executive, Tony Tyler, said February 2016 was the first month since the middle of 2015 in which capacity growth exceeded demand, which caused the global load factor to decline.
“It is unclear whether this signals the start of a generalised downward trend in load factor, but it bears watching,” he said.
Written by Peter Needham