Business class fares trending downwards

Premium price wars between airlines underway

Business class flights to the United Kingdom and the United States are finally starting to fall, with premium class price wars currently underway to two of the most popular international destinations for Australian travellers.

James Kavanagh, Flight Centre Travel Group (FLT) Leisure CEO said the recent round of discounting, which had seen some international economy class fares fall to pre-COVID levels, had now reached the front of the plane, with business class fares being offered to Los Angeles and London at a fraction of their recent levels.

Kavanagh said return direct business class flights from Sydney to Los Angeles were currently on offer from just below $7,300 on both Qantas and United Airlines for departures at various times between February 6 and November 21.

He said the Qantas offer was more than $4,000 cheaper than the airline’s typical business class fare and more than $3,000 cheaper than the average price travellers paid for return business class flights to LA during 2023.

American Airlines Business class

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Cheaper deals were available on indirect services from Sydney, with Air Canada offering a return fare via Vancouver from $6,764 and Philippine Airlines offering a return fare from $5,276.

London is also calling for travellers who are looking for cheaper business class fares.

Kavanagh said Flight Centre currently had return business class fares to London from Melbourne via China from $5,281 for departures in March this year.

He said other carriers were also competing aggressively for premium customers travelling to the UK, with Etihad last week offering return flights from Sydney and Melbourne for sub $6,000.

Premium carriers Qantas, Emirates and Qatar are currently offering return business class flights from Sydney for around $9,000, about $1,000 – or 10 per cent – cheaper than typical, recent fare levels and the average price paid by travellers last year.

“The airfare price wars that we are starting to see are great news for travellers and provide further evidence that airfare pricing is finally starting to normalise,” Kavanagh added.

“In some instances, fares are now comparable to where they were pre-COVID, after an extended period of higher-than-normal pricing after travel restrictions were lifted.

“We are also seeing some very promising signs with economy fares, which is fantastic for travellers whose budgets don’t reach to the front of the plane.

Qatar Airways 787-9 Business class cabin

“Generally, fares are now cheaper to most international destinations and we are starting to see some eye-catching deals through to London, which has been one of the hottest destinations for Australian travellers over the past few years.

“Our headline return economy fare to London from Sydney is currently $1,202 for a March departure on Air China. This is less than half the average price travellers paid throughout 2023 and cheaper than the headline $1,590 return fare that we advertised at this time 10 years ago.

“As we have seen historically, airlines compete very aggressively on price, so we expect to see further eye-catching deals for travellers in the months ahead as capacity increases and competition intensifies.

“As is always the case, the cheapest fares can be hard to secure so the best advice is to get in early and lock in a deal as soon as you can. There’s also huge value in using an agent – our experts are monitoring pricing in real time to make sure travellers get the best deal to suit their needs.”

Sydney-LAX Business Class

Current sales price: $7,300 (direct flights)
2023 Average Price (all airlines): $10,623

Melbourne-London Business Class

Current sales price: $5,281
2023 Average Price (all airlines): $9,951

Sydney-London Economy

Current sales price: $1,202
2023 Average Price (all airlines): $2,639

Headline fare February 2014: $1,590 (example sourced from flightcentre.com.au)

Headline fare February 2019: $1,159 (example sourced from flightcentre.com.au)

Headline fare February 2023: $1,415 (example sourced from Flight Centre booking system)

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