Increased competition and a falling Aussie dollar have slashed the cost of flights to the USA as prices fall to their lowest in a year.
Travel industry representatives say the two factors have triggered a price war, with airlines offering discounts to stay competitive.
Airlines are offering return flights to the US for less than $1000, with flights to Los Angeles, Honolulu and San Francisco among the best deals.
John Guscic, managing director of travel comparison site Webjet, said prices were expected to stay low for at least six months.
“We’re seeing international airfares across the board have been really really cheap for the last year,” Mr Guscic told The New Daily.
“In real terms, it’s more than 5 per cent cheaper to fly to just about any destination in the world this year than it was last year and we’re seeing even bigger drops to the United States.”
He cited the introduction of American Airlines in Australia as a main reason for the drop, resulting in a price war between rival airlines hoping to stay competitive.
A falling Aussie dollar has also resulted in discount prices, Mr Guscic said, as airlines endeavour to fill the flights caused by more Americans travelling to Australia.
He said flights to Asia, Europe and North America were the main regions to look out for.
Why the price war started
Mr Guscic said that as American Airlines is increasing its reach to Australia, everyone else is trying to protect their market share by slashing prices. He said American Airlines is expected to offer flights to the US from Australia by mid-December.
“It’s a much more competitive environment than it was three or four years ago when there was basically a duopoly operating on the route,” he said.
Griffith University aviation associate professor Gui Lohmann told The New Daily that it is only in recent times that US carriers have entered the Aussie market.
“There was a point in time where there was no US carrier flying to Australia which is quite a bizarre situation considering that you’re talking about two Western developed countries that there’s a lot of traffic between the two countries,” he said.
He said US companies such as United and American Airlines were rattling the market, but he wasn’t sure of their intent.
“Whether they [US airlines] are here seriously on a decision to make this a long-term investment, that’s the reality, or are they just trying to take advantage of one particular favourable situation to see what happens?”
“American [Airlines] and Qantas, they’ve been inherent in their partnership as well so that’s part of a bigger picture of Qantas to broaden up its port entries in the US, in Texas, in California.”
Dr Lohmann said he expects the low prices to last for six months, but it will depend on a ‘route-by-route’ case.
Beware the hidden costs
Although the airline fares have plummeted, Dr Lohmann warned consumers to be wary of various restrictions imposed by the airlines.
“Most airlines will have at least three bands of restrictions,” he said.
“You’re very restricted to fly, middle range and one with all the benefits.”
Dr Lohmann said consumers should be aware of fees, including cancellation change of date and luggage. Luggage restrictions and frequent flyer programs were other things to watch out for, he said.
“Most airlines based in the US will offer 32kg which is probably the heaviest you can carry for luggage. Some of the airlines offer less than that – 24kg for example,” he said.
Where to find the bargains
Discount flights can be found by searching various websites, including Webjet, cheapflights.com.au and STA Travel.
Prices may vary depending on the time of the day or month, amount of stopovers and airline service.
RETURN FLIGHTS TO USA:
Adelaide to Los Angeles:
Air NZ – from $996
Delta – from $1,050
Brisbane to Los Angeles:
Air NZ – from $858
Virgin – from $886
Melbourne to Los Angeles:
Air NZ – from $860
United – from $946
Perth to Los Angeles:
Air NZ – from $1,034
Qantas – from $1,072
Sydney to Los Angeles:
Air NZ – from $856
Virgin – from $898