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Exclusive: Airfares up in 2023, despite ACCC warning to airlines

written by Adam Thorn | January 19, 2024

Victor Pody shot these Qantas and Virgin 737-800s.

Domestic airfares in Australia actually rose in 2023 – despite the ACCC warning airlines to lower prices over a year ago.

Analysis of BITRE data released by the Department of Transport shows the average monthly index price of standard economy tickets increased from an average of 75.1 to 81.4.

In December 2022, the competition watchdog said in one of its last quarterly reports into the aviation industry that it was “expecting” prices to go down in the following 12 months. It also warned airlines to increase the number of services to facilitate cheaper flying.

However, the sector was subsequently affected by rising inflation and the price of jet fuel unexpectedly rising in the latter half of last year, which had previously been coming down.

Airlines also responded to the ACCC’s findings by significantly increasing the number of services and putting more large jet aircraft in the skies.


BITRE’s domestic airfare index monitors changes over time in the price of Australian air travel. The current system began in October 1992 and is presented as a price index in various fare classes, based on the top 70 routes.

BITRE defines the best discount as the cheapest fare available, excluding baggage surcharges, and covers Qantas, Virgin, Jetstar and Rex.

The ACCC, though, in its quarterly reports, was able to monitor both BITRE data and its own figures obtained directly from airlines, giving an unparalleled insight into the situation.

Those reports were discontinued by the Morrison government but will restart after a decision by the current Labor Transport Minister, Catherine King.

The ACCC’s last report, published in June 2023, noted that prices had “generally fallen” in recent months but was able to come to that analysis using its own data that uniquely referenced inflation-adjusted real prices.

Its last report noted a key reason for the then fall was the decline in the price of jet fuel, which has subsequently gone up.

The resumption of ACCC aviation monitoring was one of the key recommendations from the recent Senate Select Committee on Commonwealth Bilateral Air Service Agreements, chaired by Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie.

King and Treasurer Jim Chalmers took a swipe at the previous Morrison government for what they said was an inadequate response to the ACCC’s previous monitoring regime, which ended in June, saying they have found “a better way” to restart it.

“The 12 reports under the previous government found declining service standards and higher prices but were not acted on.

“In contrast, the Albanese Government will use ACCC monitoring to help inform the Aviation White Paper which is setting the policy direction for the sector out to 2050.

“We will ensure healthy competition plays a key role in shaping the future of the sector.”

The government last month released a Green Paper to gather feedback ahead of next year’s White Paper, which will set the official policy direction for the aviation sector to 2050.

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Comments (3)

  • I am concerned about the activities of the ACCC; whilst I accept and agree that we must have competition to avoid monopolies I believe that the ACCC has and is acting beyond it’s charter, that of seeking and maintaining competition. Look back over recent times and see what companies have had their expansion/amalgamation actions destroyed by the ACCC, eg., ANZ/SUN not forgetting Qantas and Alliance and there are others too. Now we have the ACCC “advertising” for people to come forward and complain about QF and flight cancellations in obvious order to enhance their case against QF plus, in this article the ACCC “warning” airlines to lower their prices. I simply ask, who do they think they are? I believe they are out of order. I do accept that over the festive season we have all seen some hysterically outrageously over the top fare prices and I agree that the airlines should be held to account for them, where has fair trading been hiding? As for the ACCC, I believe that they are out of order and should be counselled accordingly, they are there to monitor the business, NOT to govern it.



      The ACCC can act on unconscionable conduct by any company they essentially are to there protect the public and or other businesses

      • Hi Mark, I understand your point. “Unconscionable conduct” is a statement or action that’s considered so harsh that it goes against good conscience. That is how the ACCC define it so in real terms, it is someone’s opinion and maybe not fact.

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