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One-way London–Sydney flights hit $43,000

written by Adam Thorn | July 5, 2021
AIRBUS A340 600 ETIHAD SYD 0410 RF IMG_3785
An Etihad Airbus A340 600 takes off from Sydney Airport (Rob Finlayson)

One-way flights between London and Sydney are now selling for more than $43,000 after the national cabinet’s decision to cut Australia’s arrival caps.

Analysis by Australian Aviation of Google Flights shows the decision to reduce the intake from 6,070 to 3,035 per week from 14 July has caused the already limited commercial flights to often sell for likely the highest prices in history.

On Tuesday, 15 July, a one-way flight from the UK to the NSW capital costs $43,367 for a 44-hour journey. The package, sold by GotoGate, includes flights on Air Moldova and Etihad.

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While this is the highest ticket price seen so far, flights are regularly appearing at north of $30,000.

On Tuesday, 20 July, one Etihad flight costs $10,173 but involves a 50-hour journey.

Prices from other major capitals to Sydney are similarly high: New York regularly costs $20,000, Paris $30,000 and Tokyo $15,000.

More than 34,000 Australians abroad are currently registered with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to return home, although more than 300,000 citizens and residents made it back since the start of the COVID crisis.

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On Saturday, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt warned airlines not to inflate prices with caps lowering.

“I hope there is nobody who seeks a commercial advantage from difficult circumstances and that’s a strong, clear message,” he said.

Meanwhile, the industry body representing international airlines in Australia said the high prices reflected airlines trying to cover their costs rather than make a large profit.

Analysis of Google data shows one flight between London and Sydney has hit $43k

“If you’re doing a flight every day, you might be allocated 25 passengers for five of those flights and then you might get allocated zero passengers for two flights,” said a Barry Abrams, the executive director of the Board of Airline Representatives of Australia.

Abrams hinted many members may switch to only operating freight flights as it becomes harder to justify the cost of crew and catering.

“We’re clearly going to be reducing the connectivity available for people to get back to Australia,” he said.

The developments come after the national cabinet agreed on a pathway out of the COVID pandemic that meant international arrivals would reduce by 50 per cent.

Flights also regularly top $30,000 on some days.

However, the federal government promised to fund more Qantas 787 repatriation flights to compensate.

They also promised a trial of swapping hotel quarantine for one-week home isolation for the vaccinated.

The new “pathway” out of the COVID pandemic, agreed by state and federal leaders, will see four “phases” of response until life returns to normal.

During the current phase one focused on vaccinating, preparing and planning, arrival caps will reduce by 50 per cent from 6,070 passengers a week to just 3,035.

The change will come into effect by 14 July but will be introduced at the same time as increased Qantas repatriation flights to the Howard Springs quarantine centre in Darwin. That increase will seemingly be in addition to the 100 new Qantas repatriation flights announced in May.

The flag carrier has been using its 787 Dreamliners for the missions, which have a capacity to carry around 170 passengers each. The expansion, set to roll out over “the coming months”, coincides with the Howard Springs quarantine facility planning to double its capacity, from 850 to 2,000 per fortnight

The arrival caps will then return to their current levels in phase two, with larger caps for vaccinated travellers.

Phase two will begin when a specific target of vaccinations has been reached, which will be decided by “scientific evidence”.

In this phase, lockdowns will only be used in extreme circumstances and vaccinated citizens will face eased restrictions. More students and skilled migrants will likely be welcomed, too.

In the third phase, the virus will be managed like another infectious disease and phase four would see the country return to normality.

Arrival caps were introduced in July 2020 and initially sat at 4,000, before increasing to 6,500 at the end of 2020 and then decreasing to just over 4,000 in January 2021, before finally returning to more than 6,000 early this year.

The new caps are likely to be:

  • Sydney to reduce from 3,010 passengers per week to 1,505;
  • Perth 530 to 265;
  • Adelaide 530 to 265;
  • Melbourne 1,000 to 500;
  • Brisbane 1,000 (plus 300 surge capacity) to 500 (plus 150 surge capacity);
  • The current total of 6,070 will reduce to 3,035.

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6 Comments

  • Kenneth

    says:

    “decision to reduce the intake from 3,010 to 1,505 per week from 14 July ” these are the numbers for Sydney, but you keep referring to it, as being for the whole of Australia.
    ” before finally returning to more than 6,000 early this year.” As you state later, the cap is currently approx 6000, and will be reduced to approx 3000.

    • Adam Thorn

      says:

      Heya! Yes I spotted that and updated it. Thanks!

  • AgentGerko

    says:

    You need a better travel agent. Nobody in their right mind would risk a 44hr journey using multiple airlines, including Air Moldova. The risk of getting offloaded halfway through the journey would be high, and no reputable travel agent would ever recommend such a booking. Only idiots who think they can do it themselves online would book this, and then they’d go weeping for help when things go wrong. I heard a woman on TV saying she spend five hours on hold trying to ring United for a booking when she could have called\any ‘bricks and mortar” travel agent and they would have booked through their GDS within minutes. Oh, and if the person looking at the $43000 44hr journey on 15 July had phoned me I would have directed them to the $9538 23hr one stop Business Class fare available on Malaysian the next day.

  • Ben

    says:

    Well done on a clickbait headline. Of course it’s $43,000 if you go via Moldova, Frankfurt, Doha and in BUSINESS CLASS.

    What are the results for the more regular search of direct as possible and cheap seats?

    • Adam Thorn

      says:

      There are many days when every fare is over $30k! And you also have to consider that there’s a decent chance your flight will be cancelled, with getting your money back a huge issue. These are real fares, that people can purchase.

      Thanks for your comment,

      Adam

  • Wow, $43,000 is incredibly overcharged, that is just totally out of the question.
    The same situation rises again, how do you define ”stranded” and how many of these Aussies have been living permanently in say the UK, the US or Canada for many years, and now, want to return during this unprecedented world health crisis. AUS citizens who travelled out of Australia while this pandemic was escalating,took a risk in not being able to return. Our major cities are simply not able to accommodate them all back here in hotel quarantine, a mammoth task as it is.
    I wasnt able to travel to the UK last year for my fathers funeral, as many 1000s of others would have been in the same situation.
    So keeping the international arrivals to an absolute minimum, is the definite way to go, to keep us safe.

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