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The state of airfares as trans-Tasman business tickets plummet: FCTG report

Flying at the pointy of the plane is becoming more affordable on some routes, but business class airfares are still pricier overall than they were in 2019, a new report by Flight Centre Travel Group’s FCM Consulting has revealed.

Flying at the pointy of the plane is becoming more affordable on some routes, but business class airfares are still pricier overall than they were in 2019, a new report by Flight Centre Travel Group’s FCM Consulting has revealed.

According to FCM Consulting’s latest Global Quarterly Trend Report for Q1 2024, the average paid ticket price for business class travel rose by $224, which was 12 per cent higher than in the same period in 2019. 

The good news is there was “gradual consistent growth” in business class air travel, which is forecast to continue into Q2 2024. 

More importantly, there were drops in business airfares on some key routes ex-Australia, with business fares between Sydney and Auckland falling by a massive 61 per cent and Sydney-Singapore tickets falling three per cent over 2019 prices. 

ACCC airfare
Airfares are moving in the right direction… slowly.

Elsewhere in business class, Sydney-Los Angeles airfares rose by 26 per cent, while Sydney-Melbourne fares rose by 25 per cent over 2019.

In economy class, Q1 2024 saw a $45 rise in the average paid global ticket, an increase of 11 per cent over pre-pandemic costs.

Of the major routes highlighted in the report, economy airfares between Sydney and Auckland have risen the most (interestingly, considering the fall in business class fares on the same route) growing 20 per cent, while economy airfares between Sydney and Singapore (five per cent), Los Angeles (one per cent) and Melbourne (three per cent) have experienced moderate price increases. 

Encouragingly, flight costs in economy class dropped 16 per cent compared to January 2021.

Steady demand & strong capacity 

Felicity Burke 
airfares
Felicity Burke

APAC Director of FCM Consulting Felicity Burke said pricing for travel “will remain strong in most locations as demand grows throughout the year, but it needs to be kept in mind that several geopolitical conflicts will continue to bring a level of uncertainty to the global economy”.

“Global inflation is estimated to be at 5.9 per cent in 2024, unemployment rates are trending lower and consumer confidence is returning once again,” she stated.

“Generally, the global economy has been resilient against increases in interest rates, and with the economic outlook being somewhat positive for the remaining year, corporate budgets are increasing with confidence and enabling steady business travel trends.”

Burke added that three would be less “guesswork” for corporate travel thanks to steady demand and stable booking volumes.

American Airlines airplane passengers
Airfares fall as capacity returns.

“Travellers continue to tightly manage budgets for the remainder of the year with early bookings and more days away,” she added. 

“The average advanced booking days have increased to 23.3 and the average days away have also lifted to 4.4 – unsurprising, given the continued business ‘bleisure’ trend.”

The outlook for air capacity was also promising.

“Monthly seats offered from May to December 2024 have been forecasted to an average of +3.6 per cent (+17.8M) above 2019 monthly averages, with 2024 scheduling continuing to signal supply confidence across five of the seven global regions,” Burke stated.

“The forecast for seats offered across top corporate global airlines in 2024 is set to be six per cent above 2019, with the number of flights offered down one per cent – top corporate airlines globally show that low-cost carriers (LCC) are also performing well.

“Interestingly, LCCs will represent 31 per cent of global seats offered in 2024. That is a one per cent increase versus 2019 – with 28 per cent of all flights offered also being on an LCC carrier, again a rise of one per cent.”

The full FCM report is available here.

According to figures released by Flight Centre Corporate’s FCM Travel and Corporate Traveller, overall international and domestic air capacity reached pre-pandemic levels for the first time in Q1 – and cheaper air travel was the winner. Read more about that here