Do you have questions about the Australian government’s half-price flight scheme? Let us explain…
There are 800,000 half-price airline tickets up for grabs to a limited number of destinations around Australia thanks to a $1.2 billion support package from the Federal Government – here is how to get yours.
Why are we getting half-price flights?
The discounted fares go on sale Thursday April 1 and are the next step in the government’s National Economic Recovery Plan.
“This is our ticket to recovery – 800,000 half-price airfares to get Australians travelling and supporting tourism operators, businesses, travel agents and airlines who continue to do it tough through COVID-19, while our international borders remain closed,” the Prime Minister said at the unveiling of the scheme.
“This package will take more tourists to our hotels and cafes, taking tours and exploring our backyard. That means more jobs and investment for the tourism and aviation sectors as Australia heads towards winning our fight against COVID-19 and the restrictions that have hurt so many businesses.”
“Our tourism businesses don’t want to rely on government support forever. They want their tourists back. This package, combined with our vaccine roll-out which is gathering pace, is part of our National Economic Recovery Plan and the bridge that will help get them back to normal trading.”
Where can I fly?
An initial list of 13 destinations for the half-price flights has been released, but the government says more locations could be added throughout the year.
Return flights will be offered from the following capital cities:
Melbourne: flights to the Gold Coast, Cairns, Maroochydore, Alice Springs, Uluru, Launceston, Devonport, Burnie, Broome and Merimbula.
Adelaide: flights to the Gold Coast, Maroochydore, Alice Springs and Kangaroo Island.
Darwin: flights to Cairns and Broome.
Perth: flights to Alice Springs.
Avalon: flights to the Gold Coast.
Are there any limitations I need to know?
There will be a varying number of half-price seats available based on demand levels in that destination.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says the airline advised the government on current demand levels.
“This package will allow us to put 21 extra flights every week into Cairns… we’ll be putting 35 extra return flights into the Gold Coast every week,” he said.
“To Ballina, we’ve already doubled the amount of capacity to pre-COVID levels, it’s full there.”
Also, the discounts will be calculated according to the “average fare” as of February this year. Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has assured customers that airlines will not be able to hike up the rates, reiterating he has “had long discussions with both Alan Joyce and Jane Hrdlicka from Qantas and Virgin respectively, they’re not going to do that,” he told Sky News.
Which airlines are part of the half-price flight scheme?
When are the half-price flights available?
According to government statements, the half-price fares will be available to book from April 1 until the end of July.
As of right now, it isn’t clear when the first round of flights will depart, but Qantas has indicated that its fares will begin from May 1.
What we can tell you is that the government discount includes flights that depart until the end of December.
How do I get half-price flights?
The majority of the flights will be distributed through each airline website directly and available to book from April 1.
While the details are yet to be finalised, Graham Turner, Flight Centre founder and chief executive, told the Guardian that airlines had indicated to him that they intended to distribute the flights among travel agents, and would not require bookings to be made directly on their websites.
What happens if the states close their borders again?
With the exception of Adelaide to Kangaroo Island, all of the discounted flights are for interstate travel, which means the success of this program depends on state and territory borders remaining open.
The Federal Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Dan Tehan, told 6PR radio the threat of snap border closures was the biggest obstacle for potential travellers.
“One of the things we’re really looking for… is a firm message from state and territory leaders that border closures will now be used as a last resort.”
That said, there is no guarantee that states will remain open to interstate travellers if there is a COVID outbreak. The government and airlines say they are hoping that the vaccine rollout will aid in making snap border closures a last resort.
The good news is that airlines now have a well-established process for issuing vouchers or refunds for coronavirus-related flight disruptions, so don’t let the uncertainty of border closures stop you from taking advantage of the half-price fares.