Half-price flights: most of the government’s cheap plane tickets are already gone

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Australians really love a good deal – just look at the government’s half-price airfares, most of which sold out within a week of going on sale.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack is now considering increasing the number of discounted tickets after airlines exhaust most of the 800,000 initially allocated fares.

At the current rate, the entire allocation will be exhausted in a few weeks, five months before the end of the sale period.

This despite the government’s promise in March that the program would be “demand driven”.

Airlines are already looking to cash in on the growing scarcity, warning customers that fares – which are just one-way tickets – are selling out quickly.

Qantas, which also owns Jetstar, said this in an email to consumers on Thursday after selling 150,000 discounted tickets in just 24 hours last week.

The national carrier did not disclose how many discounted tickets it was allocated by the federal government, but it is expected to have received the most because it is the biggest player in the world. market.

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Virgin, which was awarded 260,000 discounted tickets, had sold around 140,000 on Monday – or 53% of its allocation in one week.

“Virgin Australia has received an overwhelming response for half-price fares,” a spokesperson said in an email to TBEN.

“We encourage anyone considering purchasing these great flights to get in early before they sell out.

Rex did not say how many tickets he had been awarded or how many had been sold, but said the reduced fares were “very popular.”

“We have seen strong adoption on three national routes – Melbourne to Gold Coast, Sydney to Gold Coast and Melbourne to Adelaide,” said a spokesperson for Rex. TBEN.

The Gold Coast has become the most popular destination to date, with Queensland accounting for the lion’s share of inbound tourism from Sydney and Melbourne.

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Virgin said more than half of the fares sold were for travel in June or later, a sign that vacationers are planning well in advance.

The government did not pledge to increase ticket allocations, but assured airlines in March that 800,000 was a “minimum.”

The discounted tickets were first announced in a $ 1.2 billion package to support the aviation industry and tourism dependent regions after JobKeeper was cut.

The government has promised to reimburse the airlines for weekly tickets, which means taxpayers will likely pay hundreds of millions of dollars to major airlines in the coming days.

A spokesperson for Mr McCormack said tickets would be available “for the duration of the trip” of the program.

“The government will continue to review the program periodically, as it has done with all pandemic response measures, to ensure that the program continues to best serve the economy,” the spokesperson said. .

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In subsidy guidelines issued to airlines in late March, the government promised to consider providing more money to airlines if they chew up their ticket allocations early.

“The ministry will consider amending the grant agreement to increase the maximum grant amount provided there is funding available under the maximum program allocation,” he said.

Many customers have used more than one subsidized plane ticket per stay, as each discounted ticket is only a one-way ticket.

This means that although the government has allocated 800,000 reduced fares, far fewer trips will actually be made to tourist hotspots.

Airlines also decide how tickets are sold – not the government – including the dates offered for each destination during the travel period.

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