Interstate AFL and NRL fans have criticised airlines that have increased flights into Sydney and Melbourne for this weekend’s grand finals.
Three interstate teams are involved in football’s two showpieces and fans of the North Queensland Cowboys and Adelaide Crows may have to fork out more than $1000 on flights per person.
Melbourne Storm fans also have to get to Sydney although more flights are available on that corridor.
Crows supporters appear to have been hit hard, with some flights between Friday and Sunday an average of $200 to $300 more expensive than corresponding trips the following weekend.
Some Townsville-based Cowboys supporters will be making their fourth trip to Sydney in a month for Sunday’s clash with Melbourne at ANZ Stadium after the club played away to Sydney Roosters in the preliminary finals, to Parramatta in the semi-finals, and to Cronulla in the qualifying finals.
The cheapest return flight listed on Flight Centre – $449.50 to leave Townsville on Friday and return on Monday – includes a 13-hour stopover in Brisbane en route to Sydney.
AFL Fans Association president Gerry Eeman said it was a running battle with airlines around footy finals time.
“It’s always an issue when an interstate team gets into the grand final,” Eeman said.
“Airlines seem to use it as an excuse, basically, to jack up their prices. It’s a little bit outrageous.
“It’s a time they could endear themselves to customers rather than going the other way price gouging, essentially.
“Thankfully, in this case, Adelaide is a long drive but still drivable to Melbourne.
“A couple of years ago when West Coast made the final, they were really stuck. That’s a long way to drive. I’m glad Adelaide fans have another option.”
South Australians might have that luxury, but the Cowboys’ faithful don’t. It is a 23-hour drive non-stop.
The NRL club is not arranging buses to Sydney because the distance is too far.
Qantas has pointed to its scheduling of additional flights as giving customers greater opportunity to find a reasonable fare, including direct Townsville-to-Sydney trips which aren’t otherwise provided.
“We’ve scheduled four direct return flights between Townsville and Sydney this weekend, providing more than 1300 extra seats on the route,” a Qantas spokeswoman said.
“We’ve added six return flights to Melbourne next weekend to help more Adelaide Crows fans get to the grand final.”
Nonetheless, the hike has prompted Queensland Liberal MP Jason Costigan to label airlines “leeches”, while Eeman wasn’t sold on Qantas’ response.
“I don’t think they’re putting more flights on as an act of kindness or generosity. I think that’s a commercial decision because there’s more demand.”