It’s a paradox that, as a long-haul destination, Europe has always been immensely popular for Australians, even though it has rarely been cheap.
The pricing of Europe for Australians has never behaved like our other major long-haul destination, America, where fares have fallen and risen according to the level of competition and are currently rising again after record lows of under $1000 return. But that’s with three to five airlines angling for a slice of the pie.
Between Australia and Europe, there are dozens of airlines pitching for your business, yet return fares of less than $1500 have been rare in recent years.
Now, anything less than $2000 looks cheap, even though it’s occasionally possible to jag something around $1000 return if you’re prepared to go no-frills all the way with AirAsia X.
But the Old World of Europe has always been fond of taxes and has developed an even greater appetite since its economy went south during the GFC. And travellers to Europe are sitting ducks.
Looking into the future, I reckon the airlines will be even less willing to discount Europe for the 1.2 million Australians who will head there this year if they’re getting it in the neck from revenue-hungry European governments.
As Traveller reported on Saturday, the British Government’s air passenger duty is the worst of the taxes – a slug of £85 (around $130) for every Australian visiting the country after a further hike last year. It’s double for first and business class and even for premium economy.
AirAsia X says it has already noticed that a significant number of people using its Kuala Lumpur-Paris service are Poms making their own way to the French capital to avoid the UK tax. Ditto Australians and Asian visitors landing in Paris because that ticket is significantly cheaper than London.
But the need for new revenues is catching. Cash-strapped Germany has just introduced an “eco” tax for travellers of up to €45 ($59) and Austria has tagged along with a levy of up to €35 ($46). The airline industry has complained that both the British and German taxes will do nothing for the environment as they simply encourage people to do more travelling to avoid them and the German tax is put straight into general revenue and is an “eco” tax in name only. But that’s before the EU’s emissions trading scheme is extended to airlines from next January. Qantas says it is still working out what impact it will have on fares.
On top of that, Britain says it is planning its own “green tax” regime on carbon dioxide omissions.
Meanwhile, China and the US are threatening a full-blown trade war over the issue. China has already banned one of its airlines from going ahead with the purchase of Airbus A380s in protest. And both major US political parties last week introduced legislation banning US airlines from participating in the EU ETS.
Nevertheless, Tourism Australia still assumes there will be healthy growth in travel by Australians to Europe in the next decade to around 1.5 million a year. TA reckons that, by 2020, Australian travel to the US will have only just topped a million, even though it’s closer and generally cheaper than Europe to get to.
Meanwhile, Australians’ travel to Asia, now 2.9 million a year, will have hit around 4.6 million by 2020. And the perennial New Zealand, now accounting for a million Australian visitors a year, will have hit 1.3 million by 2020 – although up to 40 per cent of that could be family visits given our traditional links.
Is Europe’s appeal neverending? Are you a Europhile who travels there regularly? Is the New World, north and south America, just too “vanilla” for your tastes? Or do you find you are looking more and more to the neighbourhood for you travel experiences?