Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield gets to grips with some vexing issues in this latest edition of our travel news & views
ARE AIRFARES FAIR?
Domestic airfares are too high. And don’t just take my word for it. The ACCC released its Airline Competition in Australia report, and it agrees. The report shows that after reaching a 15-year high in December 2022, the price of discount fares decreased by a third in real terms in January 2023. But average revenue per passenger still remained 13 per cent higher in real terms (29 per cent in nominal terms) than it was in 2019.
ACCC commissioner Anna Brakey tells me: “While it’s positive to see airfares fall from record highs in 2022, passengers are still generally paying more to fly today than they were before the pandemic. Airfares typically come down after the Christmas travel peak due to a seasonal decrease in demand, however some of this reduction is also explained by the airlines increasing their seat capacity.”
There were 5.9 million aircraft seats available in January 2023, the highest in more than six months. The report (rather oddly) shows that Qantas flew at 102 per cent of its pre-pandemic capacity (someone sitting on the wing?), Virgin at 96 per cent and Jetstar at 84 per cent.
The price of jet fuel has recently fallen. It was 35 per cent lower in real terms at the end of February 2023 than it was in June 2022. “The price of jet fuel has been trending down which should enable airlines to reduce airfares further in coming months,” Ms Brakey says.
WINNING A REFUND
It’s the sort of thing lots of us think about doing, wish we could do and never do. So my congrats to Jennie Barber. Jennie, a British Airways passenger, represented herself in court to argue her case for a full cash refund instead of vouchers. Her BA flights to Japan had been scheduled for May 2020 but were cancelled because of the pandemic. BA offered travel vouchers but Jennie took the airline to court, chasing a full refund. I should add that Jennie studied A-level law at school, and argued her case successfully using the Law Reform (Frustrated Contracts) Act 1943.
AFRICA HERE WE COME
Air Mauritius has airfares from Perth to South Africa from $1756 return, but they have to be bought by March 15, 2023. They are for flights until June 30, and blackouts apply. Just beware if thinking about booking. Its Johannesburg flights require one overnight (with free accommodation) on the way to Johannesburg, though there is a directly connecting flight on the way back. For Cape Town, there are no direct connections, so stopovers are required in Mauritius. An Air Mauritius spokesperson suggests travellers talk to a travel agent or contact the airline’s reservation department on email@example.com or call 7082 0550, Option 3.
A SINCERE THANKS
One doesn’t want to blow one’s own trumpet too loudly, but on behalf of the hardworking Travel team, this is a sincere and personal thank you from us to you for reading us. Our new readership results from Roy Morgan reveal that Travel (Saturday and Sunday) are the most read sections of the papers across the week — yes, even ahead of Sport. So, thanks for spending time with us.
PS As proud West Australians, you might like to know how much we are punching above our weight. The actual number of readers of our Travel sections is comparable with those in States with significantly larger populations.
GETTING A GRIP
OK. Get a grip. I most certainly will. I’ve been contacted by a reader heading to Norway for a cruise from Bergen who is concerned about walking on icy paths. I use Yaktrax. As you see from the picture, Yaktrax Walk Traction Cleats for Walking on Snow and Ice have a highly elastic outer band that slips on to shoes of all types for a secure fit. The abrasion-resistant 1.2mm steel coils give traction in all directions. They are lightweight and $32 with free shipping. There is also a boot version for $37. They both come in various sizes. I bought mine from good old Woolies.
+ Anyone who doesn’t have time to shop online and get them back before going, and plans to get something in Bergen, might head to a good shop called Outdoor Bergen, in Markeveien 3, which sells similar.
SOLO, NO SUPPLEMENT
With Norwegian origins, Hurtigruten expedition cruise company is celebrating its 130th anniversary. And a big happy birthday from me to a trusted friend. And how’s this. Hurtigruten is making Norway more affordable for solo travellers by removing the single supplement on its classic voyages, which are six days and priced from $1318 with meals included. There are regular departures all year. It goes to Senja, the Vesteralen archipelago, Lofoten Islands and the Helgeland Coast. On voyages between May and October, the ship may also visit Trollfjord. It is in a narrow fjord and the ship has to do a 180-degree turn to get back out. hurtigruten.com.au
GROWTH IN ICELAND
I’ve been following the growth of vertical farming — food produce plants grown inside in a big, windowless building, with LED light, no pests and no pesticides, and control of fertiliser and water. And now there’s a remarkable vertical farming project at a hotel in Iceland. Urban Farm Akureyri is a vertical greenhouse inside Hotel Akureyri’s old laundry room. A spokesperson tells me: “The greens are grown hydroponically with efficient LED lights, a carbon dioxide-rich environment and geothermal heat after heating the hotel.” They add: “No tractors, no weeds, and no soil on this farm!” Urban Farm is open year-round and supplies the hotel’s North Restaurant.
CHERRY BLOSSOM TIME
+ The sakura countdown is on in Japan’s ancient capital and Kyoto is blooming in many ways. According to the Japan Weather Association, the majority of Kyoto’s cherry blossoms are expected to start blooming around March 25.