Airports urge Australian government to extend half-price fare subsidy

May 19, 2021
Darwin has been a beneficiary of the half-price fare subsidy. Photo: Darwin Airport

The Australian Airports Association is urging the federal government to extend its popular half-price fare subsidy program after a survey showed the initiative encouraged people to fly.

An AAA-commissioned survey showed that more than half of Australian travelers were more likely to book a flight because of the government’s half-price fare program launched in April.

The survey of 500 people who had traveled by air in the past five years found 70 percent would change their existing travel plans from an unsubsidized to a subsidized destination.

READ: Rex expands Canberra foothold with $A69 Melbourne fares.

The government offer of  800,000 half-price tickets to select destinations provoked a strong response, with regions such as the Gold and Sunshine coasts, Adelaide, Hobart and Darwin proving popular choices.

AAA Chief Executive James Goodwin said the association’s research showed the funding initiative had worked and urged the government to consider extending the program after the initial 800,000 seats had been sold.

“The Tourism Aviation Network Support (TANS) program has helped fill aircraft seats and significantly increased foot traffic through many of the nation’s airports which continue to do it tough due to snap border closures and next to no international air travel,” Goodwin said.

“Given the success of the program, the government should consult with the tourism and aviation sectors and consider extending the half-price tickets to other destinations, many of which missed out on the first round of the program.

“Our consumer research found that around three in four people whose savings have increased during the pandemic are planning on spending these extra funds on domestic travel which means the demand is there.”

The survey also found travelers were also still nervous about the risk of sudden state and territory border closures, with 61 percent of respondents saying the issue was hindered their willingness to cross borders.

Interestingly, this is up from 52 percent when the same question was asked in December 2020.

About two-thirds were prepared to fly to New Zealand under the two-way quarantine-free travel bubble and almost 80 percent of regular travelers said they would like to see more international travel bubbles put in place with countries with low COVID rates.

One area that was still lagging was business travel.

The survey found 48 percent of survey respondents were traveling by air to visit family and friends and 43 percent to go on holiday but just a third were flying for business travel.

Goodwin said it was time to get back to business.

“Online meetings served a purpose at height of the pandemic, but nothing beats seeing your colleagues, stakeholders or business partners in person,’’ he said.

“Heading back to the major cities for work via our airports will help to fill CBD hotels and provide a major boost to cafes and restaurants which are reeling from thousands of people still working from home.”