Yesterday I received to media releases, one from QANTAS and Jetstar and one from Virgin Australia with the language used by both and by Virgin in particular with the phrase “Virgin Reignites Domestic Travel Push” giving some idea of the pressure under which each airline is operating to reap as much income as they can out of what many consider is a very badly thought out 50% price airline seat price cut programme.

I will let you draw your own conclusions with firstly this is what Virgin Australia said: –

VIRGIN AUSTRALIA REIGNITES DOMESTIC TRAVEL PUSH WITH 260,000 HALF-PRICED FARES

 Federal Government stimulus to deliver 260,000 half-priced airfares for consumers from midnight tonight

Economy fares starting from as low as $55 between Melbourne-Launceston, $60 between Sydney-Gold Coast and $120 between Adelaide-Alice Springs*

Discounted airfares available for interstate travel across twenty-five Virgin Australia destinations

Flexibility extended^ for all bookings made under the half-priced fare program

Platinum and Gold Velocity member loyalty recognised with a status extension of up to 18 months

BRISBANE, 31 March 2021: Virgin Australia has today revealed the detail behind a push to reignite domestic travel and get Australians back in the skies as the country’s tourism industry seeks to recover from the impacts of COVID-19.

As part of a $1.2 billion support package from the Federal Government to the aviation and tourism sectors, the airline will put 260,000 half-priced economy seats on sale across nine regions and twenty-five destinations from 12:01am on Thursday 1 April 2021.

The seats will be discounted by 50 per cent off Virgin Australia’s February lead-in price of tickets* across an initial twenty-four-week period between 1 April – 31 July 2021, for travel from mid-April to 30 September 2021.

As a Queensland-based carrier and despite the evolving situation in Brisbane, the airline will push ahead with the half-priced fares to support tourism businesses on the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, in Cairns and the Whitsundays.

For added peace of mind, Virgin Australia will extend its flexible flying policy to enable customers who book travel under the program the ability to change their booking or cancel to travel credit without fees^.

The airline will also reward loyal Platinum and Gold Velocity members who have booked or travelled between 7 December 2020 and 28 March 2021, with a status extension of up to 18 months. The status extension will see eligible members receive complimentary Lounge access, priority boarding, preferential seating, a higher checked baggage allowance, and lucrative bonus points.

Speaking from Brisbane, Virgin Australia Group CEO Jayne Hrdlicka said that despite the current border challenges, the news of half-priced airfares will give regions a sense of hope and deliver a much-needed boost for thousands of tourism businesses who are still doing it tough.

“While there are short-term constraints around travelling to some destinations at the moment, the good news is that our half price tickets can be used for travel up to the end of September. To ensure maximum flexibility under the program, we’re also extending our flexible flying policy for all half-priced fare bookings. This is designed to ensure everyone can book with confidence knowing they’ll definitely be able to make use of these great value tickets,” said Ms Hrdlicka.

“With the vaccine rollout underway, these half-priced fares will support jobs and the nation’s economic recovery over the next six months. There’s never been a better time to plan and get on with travelling around Australia.

“We also recognise that loyalty works both ways, and for many of our Gold and Platinum Velocity members, it’s been difficult for them to keep their status. That’s why we’re offering a status extension of up to 18 months alongside a number of generous rewards when they next choose to fly with us.”

The route by route detail and a summary of the nine regions Virgin Australia is supporting as part of the Tourism Aviation Network Support Program is available below.

The specially marked fares will be available for booking at virginaustralia.com from 12:01am on Thursday 1 April 2021. Further information on the program can be found here.

Routes and half-priced fares included as part of the Tourism and Aviation Support Program:

Region Route February lead-in airfare (Economy) Discounted airfare (Economy)
Gold Coast Adelaide-Gold Coast $179 $90
  Canberra-Gold Coast $189 $95
Melbourne-Gold Coast $155 $78
Sydney-Gold Coast $119 $60
Adelaide Brisbane-Adelaide $219 $110
  Canberra-Adelaide $245 $123
Melbourne-Adelaide $139 $70
Perth-Adelaide $289 $145
Sydney-Adelaide $179 $90
Cairns Melbourne-Cairns $265 $133
  Sydney-Cairns $215 $108
Sunshine Coast Melbourne-Sunshine Coast $175 $88
  Sydney-Sunshine Coast $139 $70
Alice Springs Adelaide-Alice Springs $239 $120
  Brisbane-Alice Springs $379 $190
Whitsundays Melbourne-Hamilton Island $205 $103
  Sydney-Hamilton Island $205 $103
Launceston Melbourne-Launceston $109 $55
  Sydney-Launceston $135 $68
Hobart Brisbane-Hobart $215 $108
  Melbourne-Hobart $145 $73
Sydney-Hobart $159 $80
Darwin Brisbane-Darwin $279 $140
  Melbourne-Darwin $289 $145
Perth-Darwin $355 $178

*Discount applied to Virgin Australia’s lead-in fares for February 2021. Sale fares are offered under the Australian Federal Government’s Tourism Aviation Network Support (TANS) program. Sale ends midnight 31 July 2021 AEST unless sold out prior. Travel periods apply. Seats are limited and may not be available on all flights. Fare prices are in AUD and are based on one-way Economy fares between the stated destinations and booked on the internet. All payments made by debit/credit card are subject to a payment surcharge. Full terms and conditions at www.virginaustralia.com. ^Flexible booking policy applies to bookings for travel up to 31 January 2022. Changes must be made prior to the date of travel and fare difference may apply.

Notes to Editor:

Virgin Australia is making the following regional seats available under the Tourism and Aviation Network Support Program:

Gold Coast – more than 85,000 seats

Adelaide – more than 85,000 seats

Cairns – more than 10,000 seats

Sunshine Coast – more than 15,000 seats

Alice Springs – more than 1,250 seats

Whitsundays – more than 4,500 seats

Launceston – more than 19,000 seats

Hobart – more than 20,000 seats

Darwin – more than 11,000 seats

Now on to what QANTAS and Jetstar had to say: –

HALF-PRICE FLIGHTS TAKE OFF AS QANTAS AND JETSTAR LAUNCH NETWORK-WIDE SALE

Aussies looking to book a holiday can grab discounted fares to any Qantas and Jetstar domestic or regional destination for travel for the rest of 2021.

From midnight tonight, Qantas and Jetstar will be releasing half price fares to 15 destinations as part of the Federal Government’s ‘Half Off Flights – Full on Holiday’ program announced earlier this month.

The program is focused on getting tourists to regions hardest hit by international borders being closed including Cairns, Townsville, Whitsunday Coast/ Hamilton Island, Sunshine Coast, Darwin, Alice Springs, Hobart, Launceston, Devonport, Broome, Avalon, Merimbula, Adelaide, Kangaroo Island and the Gold Coast.

Fares are on sale through each airline’s website and travel agents until the end of July (unless sold out earlier) for travel until the end of September, with the discounted fares to be clearly marked through the booking process.

Qantas and Jetstar are also launching network-wide sales tonight (dubbed the ‘Everywhere Else’ sale) with discounted fares to more than 50 destinations across more than 200 routes.

The network-wide sale starts at midnight tonight and runs until 8 April for travel until the end of the year.

Qantas Domestic and International CEO Andrew David said the sales would help people plan for future holidays.

“While the Brisbane lockdown has unfortunately impacted some Easter holiday plans, we know this is a temporary setback and the vaccine rollout will help make border restrictions a thing of the past. With this sale, now is a great time to book your holidays and weekends away for the rest of the year,” he said.

“Almost every destination that Qantas and Jetstar flies to is on sale, including plenty of chances to grab half price fares as part of the Government’s tourism stimulus package.”

“Most fares are outside peak times, which is when these regions need more tourists to visit.”  “They mean more people will stay in hotels, go to restaurants, and book tours and they also mean we can get more of our people back to work.”

The Government program drove interest in travel as soon as it was announced, with Qantas seeing a 75 per cent spike in visits to its website and a 40 per cent spike in bookings immediately after.

The national carrier recently launched a limited series of mystery flights to regional destinations – which sold out within 15 minutes – as part of encouraging more people to take an adventure in parts of Australia they may not have been to before.

Qantas is offering unlimited flight changes through to at least February 2022, for flights booked until at least the end of April 2021. The flight date can be changed to any available for sale at the time (up to 355 days in advance). Qantas will waive the change fee however a fare difference may apply. Jetstar offers the option of purchasing FareCredit on bookings which allow passengers to cancel flights for any reason. If Qantas or Jetstar cancels a flight, all affected customers will be contacted directly with alternative options (which could include a refund depending on the circumstances).

Mr David added: “People know exactly what to expect when they book with Qantas, whether its complimentary food and drinks, baggage, fast Wi-Fi or access to dozens of lounges around Australia, and with Jetstar it’s everyday low fares to a vast network of holiday destinations.”

Qantas has reopened 35 Qantas Club and Business Lounges across Australia.

Jetstar sale fares include:

Adelaide-Avalon from $32* (Half Off Flights sale)
Sydney-Gold Coast from $35* (Half Off Flights sale)
Melbourne-Launceston from $35* (Half Off Flights sale)
Sydney-Ballina from $39* (Jetstar sale)
Melbourne-Gold Coast from $49* (Jetstar sale)
Sydney-Cairns from $69* (Jetstar sale)

Qantas sale fares include

Adelaide-Melbourne from $88* (Half Off Flights sale)
Sydney-Sunshine Coast from $92* (Half Off Flights sale)
Canberra-Gold Coast from $95* (Half Off Flights sale)
Sydney-Melbourne from $99* (Qantas sale)
Melbourne-Newcastle from $109* (Qantas sale)
Sydney-Coffs Harbour from $109* (Qantas sale)

*Terms and Conditions apply. Visit the Qantas and Jetstar websites for details.

What is interesting is that the carriers appear to have been selective with the routes they are offering with the Jetstar offering appearing to be considerably smaller than the Virgin Australia offering, with for example

Who knows, but let me give my opinion in that along with many others in the industry, I believe that this money the money would have been much better placed in the pockets of the thousands of SMEs in travel and tourism that post JobKeeper are no really struggling to stay afloat rather than in the over full and cash rich pockets of the airlines, who have already been heavily subsidised.

An edited report and opinion by John Alwyn-Jones