Airfares fall as capacity recovers to pre-COVID levels

Airlines have finally shaken off the lingering effects of COVID-19, with capacity back to pre-pandemic levels for the first time.

Global seat availability climbed back over 100 per cent of 2019 levels in April, data from Flight Centre has revealed, with travellers enjoying lower airfares as a result.

"An analysis of key international routes for Australian travellers found fares on some international routes out of Australia dropped by up to 25 per cent," said Flight Centre Corporate managing director Melissa Elf.

"With more and more capacity and competition being introduced to the market, it’s a trend we’ll continue to see throughout the rest of the year."

Australia's international capacity is expected to tick up from 95 per cent to 98 per cent next month, while domestic capacity has been hovering between 98 and 100 per cent for the last few months.

A Singapore Airlines plane at Sydney Airport.
Singapore Airlines is among carriers which recently announced new routes to Australia.

Ms Elf said there are promising signs that airfares will continue to fall beyond the short term, with major carriers including Delta Airlines, Singapore Airlines and China Southern recently announcing new routes to Australia.

In the first quarter of 2024, flights to Australia's most popular travel destination - Indonesia - were down 21 per cent from the previous year at $798 return on average. Available seats to the holiday spot were at 115 per cent of pre-pandemic capacity.

Capacity to Japan, Qatar and Papua New Guinea are also above pre-COVID levels, while the UK is back even. Routes to Hong Kong and the US have the biggest room for recovery, at just 63 and 70 per cent of pre-pandemic capacity, respectively.

International and domestic seat capacity across Qantas and Jetstar recovered to 90 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in the second half of 2023, an increase of 25 per cent on the previous year, the group revealed in its February trading update.

"Group unit revenue fell 11 per cent with fares moderating as capacity returned," the company conceded in an announcement to the share market.

Tourists in the Cairns Esplanade Lagoon.
Rising cost-of-living pressures have forced more Australians to holiday within their own state.

Despite falling airfares, rising cost-of-living pressures elsewhere are forcing more Australians to holiday within their own state or cancel travel plans altogether.

In a survey of 1500 Australians conducted by Pure Profile for the travel industry's peak body, 70 per cent planned to go away for a holiday during the Autumn school break, including 41 per cent within their own state, up from 36 per cent during summer.

A further 21 per cent will holiday interstate and eight per cent were planning to go overseas.

Tourism and Transport Forum chief executive Margy Osmond said it was pleasing to see Australians supporting the local economy and tourism operators.

"But we’re concerned the sector is still feeling the impact of cost-of-living pressures with many families taking shorter holidays than originally planned, staying with friends or relatives to save money or recently cancelling their travel plans altogether," she said.

Just over half of respondents said cost-of-living pressures had impacted their decision to travel, with a quarter saying they would go away for shorter than originally planned as a result.

License this article

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.

Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store