The first three days of the government’s half priced ticket sale has seen 250,000 seats sold – which means there are plenty left for bargain hunters.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Queensland has been the big winner. Despite a COVID outbreak and the threat of a lockdown, nine of Virgin’s top ten routes went to the Sunshine State.
Qantas claimed they had sold 50,000 seats on day one, and Jetstar, 45,000 with their Cairns, Adelaide, Darwin, Hobart, Maroochydore and Gold Coast among the most popular.
Virgin Australia said almost 20 per cent of the top 10 routes booked since 12am are for flights to/from the Gold Coast.
By Saturday, over a quarter of the controversial discounted flights to 15 tourist spots had been snapped up. The $1.2 billion scheme has come under attack because some of the sites for cheap flights have little accomodation left, while other vacation locations struggling to find tourists are excluded.
You can find out what you need to watch out for when booking here
Strategic Aviation Solutions chairman Neil Hansford told the Australian Financial Review while the aviation scheme had its merits, agencies like Flight Center and the airlines reported that people had stayed up past midnight to grab their seats.
“It looks like basically everyone has bailed in,” Mr Hansford said. “People have been bottled up in their homes and a lot of them have been doing intrastate travel. They’ve done that now and are keen to start going interstate again.”
He warned that there was a potential the program would fail, especially for tourism and hotel operators to be clear about the capacity.
“The people who can screw this up are the hoteliers, because if families book tickets to go to say the Whitsundays and then find when they look for accommodation that the hotels may not be offering competitive prices it could have some broader flow on-effects,” Mr Hansford said.
“That will be the real test.”
Upmarket brand Travel Associates has found a way to mitigate this problem by offering to book your flights and accommodation to solve the problem.
Some of the destinations Travel Associates is offering packages for include a luxurious stay at the JW Marriott Gold Coast Resort and Spa with added extras. The three-night stay is priced from $715 per person and Travel Associates will pair it with half priced flights to the Gold Coast.
Or, there is a nine-day tour to Hobart which includes eight nines in the Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge, complimentary breakfast, lunches and three-course dinners, tours of Bruny Island and wine tastings.
Virgin Australia says it experienced one of the largest booking days in its history on day one of the scheme.
With 260,000 Virgin Australia half-price fares starting from as low as $55 including baggage, seat selection and Velocity Frequent Flyer points earn with every booking, the company claimed results are a positive sign that the tourism industry is beginning to rebound.
Virgin said the results showed:
Site visits to virginaustralia.com have nearly tripled today
Flight searches have increased more than 350%
Flight bookings have increased 325%
Nine of the top 10 routes booked since 12.01am involved a Queensland port
There’s more consumer confidence to book ahead with more than 82% of bookings today beyond 30 days from the departure date. Last week more than 40% of bookings were within 14 days of departure.
Top 10 routes ranked by bookings (both directions)
Melbourne – Gold Coast
Sydney – Gold Coast
Melbourne – Sunshine Coast
Melbourne – Cairns
Melbourne – Sydney (not covered under TANS)
Sydney – Cairns
Darwin – Brisbane
Brisbane – Hobart
Sydney – Sunshine Coast
Adelaide – Gold Coast
Top booking increases week-on-week
Melbourne – Hamilton Island 3600+%
Sydney – Cairns 3200+%
Melbourne – Cairns 1800+%
There are still lots of places you can go with bargain prices, here if the discounted tickets run out. Read about there here