$35 flights coming soon as airlines try to get us flying
Holiday-makers are expected to nab a bargain in coming weeks amid speculation cross-border travel will be allowed by mid July, prompting a surge in cheap domestic flights.
Virgin Australia has more than doubled the number of flights on offer to Queensland, Melbourne and Perth from July 12, foreshadowing the opening of interstate borders.
The announcement comes after Qantas and Jetstar also flagged plans to boost their domestic capacity, prompting a travel expert to forecast a huge drop in flight prices.
While a date for borders to reopen has not yet been confirmed, Virgin on Thursday seized on hints from the PM and increased flights from Sydney to Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth to seven days a week and Sydney to the Gold Coast to five days a week from July 12.
"As state travel restrictions begin to ease, Virgin Australia is proud to enable more travellers to return to the skies," the airline said.
Qantas and Jetstar days earlier had also announced they will scale up domestic flights in the next few weeks provided interstate travel restrictions are lifted.
Bargain hunters can rejoice
The announcements come with a welcome promise for travellers desperate to embark on their next adventure - dirt cheap flights.
Domestic flights are currently going at a hefty price tag, with a Qantas flight to Melbourne costing as much as $300 return.
Travel expert Quentin Long, co-founder of Australian Traveller Media, said this will soon change and prices will fall as domestic flights are ramped up by airlines.
"As soon as demand rises, you get pricing increases. At the moment we've got highly constrained supply and therefore demand exceeding supply. To stimulate the market, airlines have to start offer cheap airfares.
"They'll lead with hero deals. The $39 Melbourne to Sydney return stuff because they're trying to stimulate demand."
Consumers will have to get in quick, Mr Long says, with bookings made as soon as the borders are opened again the most likely to snag a good deal.
"It will be early bird catches the best worm because they can't sustain the cheap prices. As soon as they can airlines will look at increasing prices so you have to get in quick."
Cross-border travel imminent
The news comes as state borders remain closed between NSW and Queensland and Victoria.
But this is expected to change in a matter of weeks as leaders come under mounting pressure to name a date for cross-border travel.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called on leaders to fast track interstate travel after last month announcing the final stage of the lockdown would be lifted in July.
"We look forward to the three-step process being completed in July and I would be hoping that at the earliest opportunity states will be able to indicate the date in July that travel will be open again," he said.
But state premiers have yet to confirm a date for cross-border travel, with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Queensland Premier Anastasia Palaszcuk sparring over their border shutdown as Queensland takes a hard line stance on reopening and Ms Berejiklian accuses them of hindering the nation's economic recovery.
Ms Palaszcuk did, however, on Thursday say she would review the Queensland border closure at the end of the month.
With Virgin and Qantas both jumping the gun and naming more flights for July, it's possible interstate travel could be weeks away.
Although airlines are gearing up to welcome travellers back, plane travel is set to look very different to anything we have ever seen - with stringent social distancing rules enforced.
Mr Long says the flight experience will see social distancing encouraged between seats, most people forced to wear masks, minimal interaction with crew and pre-packaged meals.
"It will be this way for the foreseeable future but in the long-term you'll see some behaviours have changed forever and hygiene on aircraft is a much more conscious thing," he said.
The downside of these changed behaviours is potentially "excruciatingly" drawn out check-in processes
"The whole experience is going to need patience, check-in will be extended, security will be much more difficult, boarding is going to be tedious and this is going to slow down timetables, planes won't fly as much," he said.
Originally published as $35 flights coming soon as airlines try to get you back in the skies