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Travel boss’s claim on expensive flights

AVIATION INQUIRY
The government’s decision to bar more international flights from one airline into Australia has meant that everyone is paying more for travel according to the chief of the nation’s largest travel agency.. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw

Australia’s biggest travel agent has blamed a government decision to block more flights into Australia for the cost of air travel.

Flight Centre has launched an advertising campaign against the Commonwealth’s move to block Qatar Airways from adding more flights into Australia.

The federal government said its decision to block the airline from adding 21 weekly flights into Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane was in the “national interest” as the new flights may threaten Qantas’ viability.

According to the government, reduced airfares could impact Australia’s national carrier in the medium to long term.

Flight Centre has begun an advertising campaign to pressure the Australian government.
Flight Centre has begun an advertising campaign to pressure the Australian government into letting the Qatar Airways planes fly
GRAHAM TURNER
Flight Centre’s Graham Turner is the latest high profile businessman to come out against the government’s decision. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Dan Peled

This financial year, Qantas posted its first profitable result since FY2019, reporting a record-breaking $2.47bn in underlying profit.

Flight Centre boss Graham Turner said it was “pretty obvious” Australian airlines don’t have the capacity to meet demand, leading to expensive airfares for everyday Aussies and tourists coming into the country.

“We think the capacity is at about 75 per cent internationally and obviously the demand is enormous and airfares are too expensive,” he told Weekend Today.

“A lot of people can‘t afford those sorts of airfare prices. There are some good specials around but on average they are about 40 or 50 per cent more expensive than pre-Covid and this is important to Australia.”

The travel agent has begun rolling out advertisements urging the government to let the Qatar flights in.

“This decision just doesn‘t stack up, there’s no logic to it,” Graham said.

The consumer watchdog has also weight in on the debate, with the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) head Gina Cass-Gottlieb saying she would have “welcomed” Qatar’s expansion and that it would have reduced prices.

Ms Cass-Gottlieb told ABC radio it was difficult to pin down exactly how much airfares would have gone down, but referred to Virgin Australia’s estimate of a 40 per cent cut.

The ACCC announced last week that it would pursue Qantas in court over “ghost flights” it allegedly sold to customers when it had already cancelled them in its system.

AVIATION INQUIRY
Qantas has landed in hot water over its business practices after posting a record profit amid sky-high ticket prices. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw

The consumer watchdog alleges that Qantas kept selling tickets for more than 8000 flights set to depart between May and July 2022, with the airline advertising seats for an average of more than two weeks despite knowing it had cancelled them.

“The ACCC has conducted a detailed investigation into Qantas’ flight cancellation practices. As a result, we have commenced these proceedings alleging that Qantas continued selling tickets for thousands of cancelled flights, likely affecting the travel plans of tens of thousands of people,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.

“We allege that Qantas’ conduct in continuing to sell tickets to cancelled flights, and not updating ticketholders about cancelled flights, left customers with less time to make alternative arrangements and may have led to them paying higher prices to fly at a particular time not knowing that flight had already been cancelled.”