Aussies cashing in on cheap fares

AUSTRALIANS taking off to London this year may be in line for the UK holiday deals of a lifetime.

Flight Centre Limited managing director Graham Turner said the combination of cheap airfares and a strong dollar meant UK holidays were currently more affordable than ever.

Mr Turner said return airfare prices from Sydney to London had hardly changed during the past 30 years - despite average wages more than quadrupling - while recent exchange rate movements had taken the Aussie dollar to a 27-year high against the British pound.

"In terms of affordability, there has probably never been a better time to travel to the UK or Europe," he said.

"Airfares are now significantly more affordable for the average worker and the strong dollar is putting more pounds into Australian travellers' pockets than it has since the early 80s.

"At last week's exchange rates, a traveller converting $AUD5000 into British pounds would have received about GBP3350.

"Just five years ago, that traveller would have only received about GBP2000.

"The extra GBP1350 today's traveller receives is effectively the cost of a return airfare."

Mr Turner said travellers were capitalising on the strong dollar by exchanging currency now, rather than on the eve of their departure.

"Our foreign exchange business, Flight Centre Travel Money, is experiencing stronger than usual demand for pounds and Euros, with many travellers looking to cash in now rather than taking the chance and waiting until closer to their holidays.

"If you believe the dollar is going to decrease in value against the pound or Euro, this is a sensible approach."

Flight Centre's research into airfare prices between Australia and the UK shows that flights to the UK are becoming significantly more affordable with each passing decade.

A typical return airfare to London now represents less than one-and-a-half weeks' earnings for the average fulltime worker - compared to more than one-and-a-half years when commercial flights first took off.

Passengers aboard the first Qantas Lockheed Constellation that took off to London in December 1947 paid the equivalent of $1170 - about 85 weeks' pay for the average worker at the time - for the four-day each-way flight.

Based on average adult full-time earnings in Australia during the August 2011 quarter ($1376.30), the 1947 fare cost the equivalent of $117,000 in today's dollars.

Twenty years ago, Qantas sparked a price war when it reduced Kangaroo Route flights to $1800. In 1991, an $1800 fare represented three weeks' pay or $4129 in today's terms.

The cheapest return fare Flight Centre is currently advertising costs $1562 from Sydney.

"While cheap fares like this $1562 offer are available from time to time, travellers taking off to London can expect to pay about the same price as travellers paid 20 or 30 years ago.

"Flights have effectively been immune to the impacts of inflation, which has delivered greater value to travellers.

"While we don't see major changes in airfare prices on the horizon, oil is the obvious wildcard. Significant increases in oil prices will inevitably be passed on to travellers."

A summary of the findings is included in the table below.




(based on average adult

total earnings at the time)


(based on average adult total

earnings for August 2011 quarter)





























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