ACCC: Airfares dropping, capacity rising, QF complaints

DOMESTIC airfares have fallen by a third in January 2023 after hitting a 15-year high in December 2022, the ACCC’s latest Airline Competition in Australia report has revealed.

There’s still a long way to go, however, until prices come down to below pre-pandemic levels, with the average price of domestic flights across all fare types still 13% higher than it was in 2019.

ACCC Commissioner Anna Brakey believes last month’s price drop was due to typical seasonal decrease in demand following the Christmas travel peak, as well as airlines upping their seat capacity.

“The price of jet fuel has been trending down which should enable airlines to reduce airfares further in coming months,” Brakey said, with the fuel costs 35% lower at the end of Feb 2023 versus Jun 2022.

The ACCC report also noted an increase in capacity combined with a reduction in passenger numbers throughout January, resulting in overall load factor dropping to just 75% – the lowest since May 2022. Only two routes reported a load factor of 90% or higher in January, compared to 17 in October 2022 and seven in January 2019.

Five routes recovered to 100% of pre-COVID passenger levels, those being Canberra-Gold Coast, Brisbane-Perth, Adelaide-Gold Coast, Melbourne-Gold Coast, and Adelaide-Perth, while the Melbourne-Sydney route was the worst-performing, with passenger levels reaching just 77% of 2019 levels.

The consumer watchdog revealed Qantas as the most complained about airline in 2021/22, with 1,740 contacts made to the ACCC regarding Qantas – a whopping 68% increase on the previous year.

The number of complaints made about the airline were over a third higher than the second-most reported carrier, while in comparison, complaints about Jetstar and Virgin Australia 33% and 27% lower, respectively.

“Qantas needs to do more to adequately invest in its systems, processes and people to dramatically improve its customer contact services and customer dispute resolution,” the ACCC commented in the report, adding it was still looking into the issues raised about the airline.

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