Increased competition and a falling Aussie dollar have slashed the cost of flights to the United States as prices fall to their lowest in a year.
Travel industry representatives say the two factors have triggered a price war, with airlines offering discounts to stay competitive.
Airlines are selling return flights to the US for less than $1000, with flights to Los Angeles, Honolulu and San Francisco among the best deals.
John Guscic, managing director of travel comparison site Webjet, says prices are expected to stay low for at least six months.
“We’re seeing international airfares across the board have been really really cheap for the last year,” Guscic says.
“In real terms, it’s more than 5 per cent cheaper to fly to just about any destination in the world this year than it was last year and we’re seeing even bigger drops to the United States.”
He cited the introduction of American Airlines in Australia as a main reason for the drop, resulting in a price war between rival airlines hoping to stay competitive.
A falling Aussie dollar has also resulted in discount prices, Guscic says, as airlines endeavour to fill the flights caused by more Americans travelling to Australia.
He says Asia, Europe and North America are the main regions to look out for.
Why the price war started
Guscic says that as American Airlines is increasing its reach to Australia, everyone else is trying to protect their market share by slashing prices.
American Airlines is expected to offer flights to the US from Australia by mid-December.
“It’s a much more competitive environment than it was three or four years ago, when there was basically a duopoly operating on the route,” he says.
Griffith University aviation associate professor Gui Lohmann told The New Daily that it is only in recent times that US carriers have entered the Aussie market.
“There was a point in time where there was no US carrier flying to Australia, which is quite a bizarre situation considering that you’re talking about two Western developed countries that there’s a lot of traffic between the two countries,” he says.
He says US companies such as United and American Airlines are rattling the market, but he isn’t sure of their intent.
“Whether they [US airlines] are here seriously on a decision to make this a long-term investment, that’s the reality, or are they just trying to take advantage of one particular favourable situation to see what happens?
“American [Airlines] and Qantas, they’ve been inherent in their partnership as well, so that’s part of a bigger picture of Qantas to broaden up its port entries in the US, in Texas, in California.”
Lohmann expects the low prices to last for six months, but says it will depend on a “route-by-route” case.
Beware the hidden costs
Although the airline fares have plummeted, Lohmann warns consumers to be wary of various restrictions imposed by the airlines.
He says consumers should also be aware of fees, including for cancellation, change of date and luggage. Luggage restrictions and frequent flyer programs are other things to watch out for.
“Most airlines based in the US will offer 32kg, which is probably the heaviest you can carry for luggage. Some of the airlines offer less than that – 24kg, for example.”
Where to find the bargains
Discount flights can be found by searching various websites, including Webjet, cheapflights.com.au and STA Travel.
Prices may vary depending on the time of the day or month, amount of stopovers and airline service.
Return flights to the US
Adelaide to Los Angeles:
Air NZ – from $996
Delta – from $1,050
Brisbane to Los Angeles:
Air NZ – from $858
Virgin – from $886
Melbourne to Los Angeles:
Air NZ – from $860
United – from $946
Perth to Los Angeles:
Air NZ – from $1,034
Qantas – from $1,072
Sydney to Los Angeles:
Air NZ – from $856
Virgin – from $898
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