Tuesday, January 27, 2009

airfares drop to lowest level in decades

The financial slump, greater competition, lower fuel surcharges and fewer visitors have led to widespread discounting.

Malaysian Airlines is offering cheap fares from Australia to places including Buenos Aires ($138), Paris ($576) and Bangkok ($160).

Jetstar was offering one-way fares from Melbourne to Bangkok from $299.

Basil Hyman, of STA Travel, said "fantastic prices" had flooded the market since late December.

"We actually offered a $999 return fare to LA for a limited time," he said. "Usually you would be looking at . . . $1700 or $1800 for that."

Mr Hyman said V Australia's entry to the market had ignited a price war in flights to the US.

The budget international airline, which will be launched on February 27, offered Melbourne-Los Angeles flights from $1199 in December.

"In all my years in travel I haven't seen fares at these levels," Mr Hyman said.

Harvey World Travel general manager Glenn Cusack said Australians who could afford to travel had access to "some of the greatest bargains of all time".

"In my 20-plus years' experience in the travel industry, I have never seen such low airfares and packages," he said.

Simon Westaway, of Jetstar, said Australians were still willing to spend if the price was right.

"People's desire for travel hasn't waned as much as perhaps their desire for other goods and services," he said.

"If you are prepared to fly outside the peak times, there are some very, very good deals available."

The online travel organisation lastminute.com.au said consumer confidence had returned with international travel rebounding by 20 per cent this month.

Flights to London, Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Shanghai were in demand.

"After pinching pennies during December, it appears Aussies may have more money than they thought they might," Last-minute spokeswoman Angie Bohlmann said.