Australians are reconsidering how they travel as flight prices continue to soar.

The ACCC reported this week that consumers are paying almost 30 per cent more for domestic flights compared to before the pandemic, resulting in a 15-year-high as they forecast the first profitable financial year since Covid hit three years ago.

“Airfares have risen due to strong demand for travel and constrained supply as airlines have scaled back their schedules in response to high jet fuel costs and operational challenges,” ACCC commissioner Anna Brakey said.

And with rising airfares, long security lines, flight delays and cancellations and baggage drama, Aussies are looking to alternatives.

Many are opting for road trips, while some corporate companies and executives are ditching commercial flights altogether and turning to charter planes instead.

Paul O’Brien, who is the founder of Avmin, a high-profile Brisbane-based air charter company, said he was running “upwards of 80” charter flights per week for clients.

He said this time in 2019, he was putting on about 30 or 40 flights per week, with some corporates actually saving money when making group bookings by opting for a charter over a commercial carrier.

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“If we look at Qantas fares for tomorrow, for example, it’s $1600 on business class per person one-way to fly out of Sydney on a 6am flight to Melbourne,” Mr O’Brien told news.com.au.

“That’s $3200 per person return based on the current figures and if we have four people travelling on a charter flight return it is comparable, if not cheaper.

He said it can cost anywhere between $10,000 to $12,000 for a four-seater jet.

“And four people travelling on the current advertised pricing of a commercial carrier is $12,800.”

Mr O’Brien said more executives and groups are opting for charter flights because they can also bypass long security lines and the possibility of flight delays and cancellations.

“Charter aircraft don’t need to go in and out of terminals – they have their own private terminal and only need to turn up 15 minutes prior to departure,” he said.

“And you are avoiding things like long security lines. People just don’t want to be around other people while Covid is coming back into the equation.”

As a result, he said people are looking to the commercial viability of charter aircraft.

Mr O’Brien, who has a clientele mostly made up of businesspeople, Hollywood stars such as the Hemsworths, and musicians like Keith Urban, said bookings for the company’s charter flights have increased 100 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels.

“A couple of businesspeople flew to Ayers Rock from Sydney on a charter last month for two days because it was more comparable,” Mr O’Brian said.

In terms of the most popular Aussie destinations, he said it’s “trunk routes” such as Sydney to Melbourne, Brisbane and Melbourne to the Gold Coast, as well as fights to or from Ballina-Byron Bay, home to A-listers such as actor Chris Hemsworth.

Royce Crown, the CEO at Monarc Global, designed a platform to connect private jet owners and operators with travel agents so they can compare private prices directly with commercial carriers.

He was recently able to put a dozen backpackers on a private jet from the Gold Coast to Sydney for less than $200 a seat each, according to theAustralian Financial Review.

He told the publication high domestic flight prices meant that in many cases the commercial pricing was “pretty darn close” to the cost of flying private with a group. “You can sometimes even fly cheaper,” he said.

Even Sydney Airport recorded a 23 per cent jump in private jet arrivals with 478 movements in October compared to 387 in 2019 – and 220 in July 2019 compared to 338 in July 2022.

Tourism expert Dr David Beirman of the University of Technology Sydney said he is “not surprised” that for big spenders and travellers who want luxury and convenience, there is a growth in demand for private jets.

“The general global trend in airfares in recent months has been up,” Dr Beirman told news.com.au.

“This is partially due to increases in fuel prices but overall, airlines are seeking to recoup

two years of lost revenue and in doing so have had to bear extra costs in staff recruitment and training when so many aviation staff lost jobs during Covid-19.”

He said airlines are taking advantage of the surge in demand from people who could not travel for almost two years, with domestic travel in particular increasing back to 89 per cent of pre-Covid levels, according to the consumer watchdog.

“I do think fare increases are likely for at least the first half of 2023 and market resistance may lead to moderation [of] fares later in 2023.

“We always need to take into account the seasonality of airfares. In periods of high demand [like December/January] fares are much higher than in periods of low demand.”

Aussies adjust travel plans – ditch flying

According to a survey conducted by money.com.au, nearly half of Aussies (48 per cent) encountered at least one disruption when travelling this year.

Delays with flights or other transport topped the list (chosen by 29 per cent of respondents), followed by cancelled flights (16 per cent), while 9 per cent backed out of a trip due to high prices and 7 per cent contended with lost or delayed luggage.

The findings was based on 1010 Australians, of which 621 had travelled domestically or overseas since November 2021, commissioned by finance platform Money.com.au.

As a result, 58 per cent of Australians will adjust their travel plans next year to adapt.

Specifically, 22 per cent said they will travel outside of peak periods to minimise disruptions, while 12 per cent will choose a driving holiday, rather than flying.

Car rental company Kinto has reported a 117 per cent increase in pre-booked trips across the nation in December when compared to the previous month.

What’s more, car rental demand has been growing for some time, with Kinto also seeing a 23 per cent increase in bookings nationally in October and November when compared to August and September.

The most popular cars being rented nationally are Corolla Hybrid, Rav4 Hybrid and C-HR hybrid.

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