Airfare wars take off as Qantas, Virgin, Rex offer rock-bottom fares

Qantas is eying a brighter 2021, after being hit hard by the COVID pandemic.

Qantas is eying a brighter 2021, after being hit hard by the COVID pandemic.

Australia’s airlines are doing whatever it takes to get bums on seats, with the three leading carriers all announcing domestic sales this week.

Qantas started proceedings with fares from $99, announced on Tuesday. This was quickly superseded by Virgin and the levelled-up Rex, both touting one-way fares between Sydney and Melbourne for $49 on Wednesday.

This route can, normally, cost anywhere from $69 to $250 one-way.

All three carriers are also spruiking their extended booking flexibility options.

Qantas is doling out ‘unlimited flight date changes’ until January next year, and Virgin is waiving change of date and cancellation fees in the same period.

Rex is running a policy of full flight refunds – not travel vouchers – for any flights affected by the pandemic.

(As always, double-check each airline’s latest policies before booking anything.)

Monash University Centre for Global Business professor Greg Bamber said the flexibility and low fares definitely pointed to increasing competition between airlines.

“But I hope that the competition will not become suicidal and lead to another airline collapsing,” Professor Bamber told The New Daily.

“Don’t forget that, around the world there have been many airline collapses, including in Australia only a generation ago: Ansett, Compass and Compass II.”

While the airlines compete to get ahead of each other, the winner in the battle appears to be passengers, who are being wooed with flights, extras and generous change policies like never before.

“These low fares may be enough to tempt passengers back on board, but much will depend on how the war against the pandemic goes,” Professor Bamber said.

“How quickly can Australia administer vaccines and how effective will the vaccines be in the face of what seem like ever changing mutations in COVID-19. To what extent can Australian governments keep State borders open?”

All three airlines are constantly trying to instil confidence in the travelling public.

“We’ve been inspired to look at new ways to push the envelope when it comes to stimulating the market and getting Australians back in the skies again,” Virgin said on Wednesday.

Rex is quick to tout it was the first airline to mandate the wearing on masks on flights, while Qantas is countering border uncertainty with assurances.

“Customers have told us that sudden changes to border restrictions by state governments are giving them second thoughts about going on holidays or taking a business trip,” Qantas group chief customer officer Stephanie Tully said.

Rex – Regional Express – has been vocal about its intention to disrupt the flying status quo in Australia.

Previously, Rex just serviced the smaller, regional routes. But last year it saw an opportunity in a wounded Virgin and pounced, snapping up six of the carrier’s Boeing 737s with the aim of muscling in on the lucrative eastern capital city routes.

Those six planes took to the skies in November, and Rex deputy chairman John Sharp has said he intends to launch another four by the end of 2021.

Topics: Airlines
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