Tuesday, January 27, 2009

International flights for $138 + taxes

Increased competition, lower fuel costs and a decline in overseas travel because of the global downturn have resulted in airlines drastically reducing their fares.

One carrier, Malaysia Airlines, is offering fares as low as $138 return to Buenos Aires ($1343 including tax), $576 to Paris ($1441 with tax) and $160 to Bangkok ($1862), from Adelaide.

There is limited availability on these deals but other airlines, including V Australia, Tiger Airways, Qantas and Pacific Blue, are flooding the market with a broader range of cheap deals.

These include one-way flights from Adelaide to Fiji from $329, and to Bali from $429 (both including taxes). The cheap fares are driving a return to international travel amid the global downturn.

Travel Counsellors manager Nigel Rodighiero said the heavily discounted fares were "an obvious push to stimulate the travel sector and the winner is the public".

He said the deals could go on for at least another few months.

"More and more airlines are coming on board in a fierce fight to win the consumer dollar and guarantee full planes in an already competitive environment – the heat just got turned up," he said.

Bunnik Tours general manager Dennis Bunnik said now was "a great time to travel".

"Because of the downturn globally, Americans and Europeans aren't travelling much, which means 2009 is the year to see Europe and the year to travel because places will not be as crowded," he said.

Industry leaders said the savings extended to package holidays.

Consumer confidence has returned with international travel rebounding by 20 per cent this month, according to online travel company lastminute.com.au.

Its figures show the increase has been particularly evident in destinations that have been suffering during the past few months of financial uncertainty, with growth shown in destinations including London, Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Lastminute spokeswoman Angie Bohlmann said "after pinching pennies during December, it appears Aussies may have more money than they thought they might".

Phil Hoffmann Travel general manager Peter Williams said airfares were significantly lower but urged consumers to be wary of "substantial taxes and availability restrictions".

Mr Williams said business had been "really, really busy in the last 3 1/2 weeks, driven by cruise sales and inclusive products".

He said it had been much busier than the pre-Christmas period.

Mr Williams expected cruise holidays would be in high demand when more than 150 travel companies, including Phil Hoffmann Travel, released special deals and packages at the AFTA Sunday Mail Holiday Expo, from February 6 to 8.

Harvey World Travel's national general manager Glenn Cusack said "in my 20-plus years' experience in the travel industry, I have never seen such low airfares and packages".

"While Australians may have reason to be cautious during these economic times, those who can afford holidays have access to great bargains," he said. "In one respect, there has never been a better time to travel."

Mr Cusack said although the economy was not at its best, the financial slump combined with increased competition among airlines, reductions in fuel surcharges and a fall in overseas visitor numbers meant there was widespread discounting.

A spokeswoman for Malaysia Airlines said the company hoped its specials, available until the end of the month, would "spark some good travelling for people and give people the opportunity to experience these amazing destinations".

"We have (return) flights (from Adelaide) to the Indian sub-continent for $226 plus taxes of $852 - (which is) $1078 to Mumbai," she said.

AFTA Sunday Mail Holiday Expo director Phillip Styles said companies "know they have tough times ahead but what they are seeing is price-motivated benefits producing sales".

"Lots of people have had holiday plans for this year and what's happening is there has been some doubt in their mind, but the deals are convincing them to make the sale."