The federal government has hinted it could extend the half-price ticket scheme after it revealed more than three-quarters of the 800,000 cheap fares have now been sold.
Trade Minister Dan Tehan said the remaining 200,000 flights would “go like hot cakes” and argued every dollar spent on them is generating 10 times more for the wider tourism industry.
Domestic aviation has been pinning its recovery hopes on the federal government’s plan to supplement airfares for passengers to 15 destinations including the Gold Coast, Alice Springs and Kangaroo Island. It follows the end of JobKeeper last month.
On Sunday, the federal government issued a statement to the media stating it would “continue to review this program”, including routes and ticket numbers.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said, “Australians are taking trips in large numbers with airlines reporting sales dwarfing previous records – our aviation industry is in a remarkable position compared to where it was just one year ago.
“The proof is there in the sky today, as we see Qantas, Virgin, Rex and so many other smaller airlines flying proudly, carrying Australians to their dream holidays.
“The benefit isn’t just for those Australians embarking on their holiday at home, it’s also a win for jobs in our aviation industry, local small businesses who are now doing a roaring trade and for our tourism operators who have come back to life as a result of these half-price flights.”
Minister Tehan added when Australians are on holiday they should also spend money on a tourist activity and a night out to support jobs and business.
It comes after Virgin said it sold more domestic tickets on the launch day of the half-price ticket scheme than in any 24-hour period in its history.
The half-price ticket scheme saw Virgin announcing fares from just $55 between Melbourne-Launceston and Jetstar offering tickets from just $32 between Adelaide and Avalon.
The updated list of destinations now includes Cairns, Townsville, Whitsunday Coast/Hamilton Island, Sunshine Coast, Darwin, Alice Springs, Hobart, Launceston, Devonport, Broome, Avalon, Merimbula, Adelaide, Kangaroo Island and the Gold Coast.
The fares are on sale until the end of July for travel until the end of September, with discounts applied automatically.
Both airline groups have also topped up the 15 locations with sales to other destinations and also extended fare flexibility in light of recent uncertainty.
The package of measures to support aviation in Australia also includes a new wage subsidy for those working in international aviation; cheap loans to small businesses coming off JobKeeper; and a six-month extension of the ‘RANS’ and ‘DANS’ supplemented routes initiative.
The success of the initiative allowed Qantas and Jetstar to announce they would soon be flying more aircraft on their domestic routes than before than pandemic and rivals Virgin to commit to hiring 150 new cabin crew and leasing 10 new 737s,
“The Australian government’s half-price fares program is having a direct and indirect impact on the sector,” said Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce on Thursday. “The direct response to the program has been fantastic, with over 250,000 fares sold in the first two weeks.”
The flag carrier is able to fly more aircraft within Australia because Jetstar will deploy six Airbus A320s on loan from Jetstar Japan.
The business also plans to shift five of its 787-8s, usually flown on international routes, to the domestic market from mid-year.