When can I book my half-price tickets?
The government's discounted fares are available to book from April 1 until the end of July. Allowable travel dates will vary by airline, so check at the time of booking. A total of 800,000 half-price tickets are up for grabs, all released immediately, though the government has said it will consider supplementing extra fares should the 800,000 sell out.
Which destinations are covered?
At the time of writing (more could be added) there were 18 eligible destinations: Cairns, Townsville, Proserpine, Hamilton Island, Maroochydore, the Gold Coast, Merimbula, Avalon, Burnie, Devonport, Launceston, Hobart, Kangaroo Island, Adelaide, Lasseter, Alice Springs, Darwin and Broome.
Can I go to any of those destinations that are part of the campaign?
No. Half-price fares only apply to those travelling interstate and those flying directly to the nominated destinations (Sydney and Melbourne residents, for example, won't get half-price fares to Kangaroo Island, as there are no direct flights from the cities).
Which airlines are participating?
The bulk of the routes are serviced by Qantas and Jetstar, though Virgin Australia will also be involved and Rex covers a few of the regional destinations.
Is there anything to stop accommodation providers raising their prices, in these half-price destinations, effectively cancelling out the savings?
To be perfectly blunt: no. That's not to say they will. But it is a possibility.
How do I know the airlines won't just double their prices?
It's true, half-price ain't exactly half-price. The government has committed to paying half of the airfares based on average fares charged in February. Though there's no mechanism to ensure airlines don't raise their fares for these subsidised flights, there's an expectation from the government that they won't.
Is there accommodation available in all these places?
Curiously, given this is a rescue package designed to help struggling destinations, no. The likes of Broome, Merimbula and Kangaroo Island have been experiencing a surge in demand during COVID-19, with few beds up for grabs.
What if I book a flight but then can't find anywhere to stay?
Then you're out of luck – you won't get a refund. Ensure accommodation is available before booking.
What if states close their borders again?
Again, you're out of luck – the federal government won't help you, and state governments are making no promises about staying open, particularly the hardline Western Australia. Check the fine print from your chosen airline before booking. Rex is offering full refunds for COVID-related cancellations, while Qantas and Virgin are offering flight credits, though specific details for the half-price fares haven't been released.
Why is there so much controversy surrounding this campaign?
Because it's not clear who it's supposed to help, and how it will help them. The choice of destinations seems arbitrary – why Broome but not Perth? Why Merimbula but not Sydney? – and the government is relying on a trickle-down effect to help businesses and tourism operators on the ground, though there's no guarantee travellers will even be visiting these places for tourism purposes, or how much, and where, they'll spend if they are.
What about people in regional areas?
Again, sadly, you're out of luck. Though there are exceptions, most regional centres in Australia are only connected by air to major hubs within their own states, which means none of their flights will be eligible for half-price fares. To access a half-price fare, those in regional areas will need to make their way to a capital city first.