Expensive tickets, limited seats and cancellations- a new normal for airline travel

 Monday, November 28, 2022 

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After two years of border closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, many Australians eager to book overseas trips have been faced with high airfares and limited availability.

Experts and airlines have told a news agency the situation is due to a number of coalescing factors, with consumers unlikely to experience relief anytime soon.

So what is behind the soaring ticket prices, can anything be done about it, and is this the new normal for airline travel?

High demand and limited capacity driving price rises

In September, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released its quarterly report into airline competition in Australia, which found domestic airfares increased significantly between April and August this year.

According to the ACCC, the cheapest economy airfares were 56 per cent higher in August 2022 than they were in April 2022 when they hit an 11-year low, while business airfares rose by 17 per cent between June and August.

David Beirman, adjunct fellow in tourism at the University of Technology Sydney and author of Tourism Crises and Destination Recovery, says the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to both domestic and international flight prices rising.

For 50 years basically between about 1970 and the beginning of COVID-19 in 2020, airfares had actually gone down, year upon year, both in real dollar terms and in actual dollar terms, he said.

COVID-19 spoiled all of that because of the incredible restrictions on airline operations, airlines were basically losing money hand over fist so they built up this massive amount of debt, and most of them have to pay it back.

Mr Beirman says many airlines are now increasing prices as part of an effort to relieve their debt, while simultaneously facing a lack of staff due to pandemic layoffs, which is contributing to issues such as frequent cancellations and limited flight options.

The airlines have had a lot of difficulties to cope with, he said.

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