After a few years of travel restrictions, people got itchy feet, only to be stung with eye-watering airfares. Thankfully, word from those in the know if that there could be a return to the sorts of flight prices we were used to a few years back – eventually, at least.
If you’ve been keeping abreast of aviation chat over the past few weeks, you’d know there's been a lot of it. But in case you’ve lost track of who’s saying what and what it all means for your travel, we'll break it down.
Recently, federal transport minister Catherine King rejected Qatar Airways’ request to increase their flight offering out of Australia by doubling their current 28 services. The decision came as a shock to those who have been crying out for additional airline capacity to help drive down the cost of flights.
In an interview with Sky News Australia, managing director of aviation projects, Keith Tonkin, said many in the industry have been left scratching their heads over the rejection. “The reasons for rejecting the application are a little bit murky and we’re still trying to work out really what’s at the heart of the reason," he said.
“I think we’d all like to know that there’s more competition and more seats available for people to travel internationally because the fares are too high at the moment and competition will bring those prices down."
Which brings us to whether or not an increase in capacity would lower the cost of airfares. Some in the sector think it would take a while to stabilise. Rico Merkert, a professor in transport at the University of Sydney Business School told ABC News it will take a lot more to make overseas trips more accessible. "Unfortunately, I don't see any capacity pressure at this point in time that would help with airfares coming down in the near future," he said.
The vice-president of Emirates Australasia, Barry Brown, mirrored these sentiments by adding that flight prices will remain high until economic pressures – like the cost of gas – stabilise. “Once you start layering on all these additional costs, while it may seem airfares are high, it’s not solely because of capacity – it’s all these compounding costs hitting us from all areas,” he said.
Meanwhile, Minister King is doubling down on her decision and is confident flight prices will drop over the next 12 months. She said she is currently in the middle of working through additional bids from Vietnam, Turkish and Singapore Airlines, which would considerably lift capacity.
"To think that aviation competition both domestically and internationally is completely and utterly dependent on this one decision with Qatar is complete nonsense," she said on ABC's 7.30. "We're up to 91 per cent of pre-COVID capacity, we've got more capacity coming in, it is coming back, and we will start to see prices come down.”
While this isn’t the golden-ticket news many travellers were crossing their fingers for, there is hope on the horizon that, in a year or two, fares should be down closer to pre-COVID-19 levels. Here’s hoping 2024 is the year we can eat, pray, love (affordably) again.