It’s a healthy competitive market at work, according to the text books. A cynic might say it’s the last racket left in air travel. But, as soon as the school holidays come around, you can forget your cheap discounts to anywhere in Australia.
With the temperature dropping in southern Australia and school holidays beginning either last Friday or next in most states, people with kids are involved with the seasonal tug-of-war with the airlines to trying to get seats for three or five or more travellers to a favoured destination at a rate that’s not going to break the bank.
Let’s not be too precious about it: we’ve never had it so good. Locally and internationally, air fares generally have rarely been cheaper.
Comparatively, only Europe is what you might call pricey, with fares well over $2000 return with most carriers for most of the year – unless you want to travel no-frills with lengthy stopovers with someone like Air Asia X, where you’ll be able to get to London and back for $1500 or less.
In the other direction, return fares to the US are still around $1200-$1500 return, even with Qantas, which generally is the most expensive carrier in the market. With the US still struggling to emerge from recession, there are still far more seats available than the airlines can sell.
Locally, $59-$79 one-way specials to the Gold Coast with Tiger, Virgin and Jetstar are just numbers in the book of airline pricing theory when it comes to school holidays. They are likely to be up to four times that.
In time for the September school holidays, Tiger Airways will be flying from Melbourne to Cairns, which will act as a brake on prices.
In the past year, there’s been a massive shrinkage in the numbers of southerners holidaying in far north Queensland as the airlines have cut back capacity.
Once again, however, $99 one-way specials to Cairns are just theoretical in school holidays. If you’re lucky, you will be able to score a seat for double that, but generally expect to pay $600-$1000 return.
Sydneysiders aren’t yet seeing the really cheap fares because Tiger so far is refusing to base aircraft and crews in Sydney, which would enable it to launch services to places up north like Cairns and Darwin.
Are you flying with the kids this school holidays? Have you managed to score good value and to where? Is it worth taking advantage of low overseas fares even for a week or two? Are you flying with the kids out of the school holiday periods to get better rates?
As soon as the school holidays come around, you can forget your cheap discounts to anywhere in Australia.