The Australian Airports Association (AAA) has called on the government to extend its half-price ticket scheme to include more than its original 15 destinations.
It comes as the organisation released new research showing 70 per cent of passengers would change their plans to travel from an unsubsidised to subsidised location.
Domestic aviation has been pinning its recovery hopes on the federal government’s plan to supplement airfares for passengers to 15 places including the Gold Coast, Alice Springs and Kangaroo Island. The scheme, which launched in early April, offered an initial 800,000 cheap fares but most are now thought to have sold out.
AAA’s survey of 500 people who travelled by air in the past five years also found the main reason Australians are travelling via aircraft now is to visit family and friends (48 per cent) or go on a holiday (43 per cent), with business travel accounting for just 33 per cent.
“Given the success of the program, the government should consult with the tourism and aviation sectors and consider extending the half-price tickets to other destinations, many of which missed out on the first round of the program,” said AAA chief executive James Goodwin.
“Our consumer research found that around three in four people whose savings have increased during the pandemic are planning on spending these extra funds on domestic travel which means the demand is there.”
Goodwin added that it’s also time for Australians to get back to business.
“Online meetings served a purpose at [the] height of the pandemic, but nothing beats seeing your colleagues, stakeholders or business partners in person,” said Goodwin.
“Heading back to the major cities for work via our airports will help to fill CBD hotels and provide a major boost to cafes and restaurants, which are reeling from thousands of people still working from home.”
Finally, the survey also found two in three would fly to New Zealand under the current bubble arrangement and 80 per cent would like to see more quarantine free agreements set up with other countries.
In April, Trade Minister Dan Tehan said more than three-quarters of the 800,000 cheap fares had now been sold.
The federal government then issued a statement to the media hinted the program could be extended, including routes and ticket numbers.
The updated list of destinations included: 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 last month. “The direct response to the program has been fantastic, with over 250,000 fares sold in the first two weeks.”