Fare go: Australians gouged over US flights

Australians flying Qantas to the US face prices up to 60 per cent more than Americans pay to fly here with the same airline.

Figures show that, despite the strong Australian dollar being worth more than the Greenback, return flights on Qantas's new Dallas route cost hundreds of dollars more for Australians.

Qantas is charging Australians a lead-in economy return fares of $A2004 to fly Sydney-Dallas-Sydney.

Yet the airline charges from only $US1578 ($US1438 fare, plus $US140 to $US210 in US government fees) for Americans to go Dallas-Sydney-Dallas on the same planes.

When the exchange rate is taken into account, the difference in pricing is even more stark.

At today's exchange rate, the $US1578 return ticket bought in the US translates to just $A1473, making the price difference a whopping $A531.

The $531 premium Australians pay is 36 per cent more than Qantas charges Americans on the same route.

But the disparity gets worse.

The lead-in US fare is for flights between October 26 and November 16. Australians flying in late October on the same plane could be paying as much as $2404 return, or an additional $931 — 63 per cent more than Qantas charges Americans.

And the disparity isn't confined to Qantas' Dallas route.

Americans flying Qantas economy return Los Angeles-Sydney pay from just $US1318 ($US1178 fare plus additional US government fees of $US140 to $US210) — the equivalent of $A1231.

Fly to Sydney-LA return and the cheapest Qantas flight costs Australians $1854, a difference of $623, or 50 per cent more than the US fare.

Fairfax Media asked Qantas for an explanation.

"We price to match market conditions and demand in a particular country. In the United States, Australia and Qantas are competing for potential visitors with many other destinations and airlines, so we need to offer sufficiently attractive fares to generate demand," Qantas spokesman Thomas Woodward said.

"In Australia, the United States is currently a popular destination, with high demand for travel there being driven by the strong Australian dollar, so the lead-in fares are higher to reflect that demand," he said.

So there it is: Qantas charges Australians 50 per cent more to travel than Americans flying in the opposite direction, because it can.

"Regardless of the differences between the markets, we believe our lead-in fares for travel to the US from Australia and from the US to Australia are good value," Mr Woodward said.

But Qantas is not alone in the practice.

Virgin Australia has a lead-in economy Sydney-LA-Sydney special for $1689.

Book from the US end and fly in the opposite direction and it costs Americans from $US1258 ($US1158, plus US government fees of $100 to $250), the equivalent of $A1175.

That's a difference of $514, or a 44 per cent hike for Australians over the US fare.