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US$3,000 one-way: Students face sky-high ticket prices to return to Australia

A Singapore AirLines (L) aircraft lands next to a Jet star aircraft taking flight at Sydney International Airport on June 4, 2021, as the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported the country's economy in the year's first quarter has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels. (Photo by Saeed KHAN / AFP)

International students planning for their potential return to Australia can forget the idea of getting cheap flights to Sydney for the rest of 2021.

A one-way ticket from New Delhi to Sydney in the weeks after Christmas until the end of January — when Australia could potentially reopen its international borders to non-citizens — now costs up to US$3,541, according to an analysis of Google Flights. From Jan. 2, 2022, the price hovers around US$522 to US$545.

The highest-priced one-way ticket from Beijing to Sydney is nearly four times more, i.e. US$12,372, while a one-way ticket from Hanoi to Sydney is US$4,032.

cheap flights to sydney

Cheap flights to Sydney and the rest of Australia are not on the cards. Source: Saeed Khan/AFP

Experts told The Guardian they expect high flight prices to last another year as the industry faces high demand and a low supply of seats. Since Australia shut its borders in March 2020, airlines have been working on skeleton operations, furloughing staff and cancelling contracts.

Booking site KAYAK analysis found that the most sought-after route on its site over the past month was Sydney to New Delhi, which costs on average US$1,051, for travel between November and December.

Cheap flights to Sydney and the rest of Australia are not on the cards as ticket prices are not expected to drop any time soon. According to IBISWorld senior industry analyst Tom Youl, “it could take a full year” before prices fall to pre-pandemic levels. He predicts prices will spike in December before slowly dropping from February and then gradually reduce over the rest of 2022.

Airlines, plummeted by the pandemic, are cash-conscious and cautious of ramping up services as there could be a mismatch in demand between outbound and inbound seats, Youl added.

International students would also be competing with Australians rushing to fly home. Within hours of becoming available, London to Australia seats were snapped up by citizens trapped abroad, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Australia closed its international borders 18 months ago to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Travel between the country’s major cities has been disrupted repeatedly during that time, hammering the bottom lines of carriers.

Qantas reported in September revenues had fallen US$9 billion in the last financial year as travel dried up. The company received more than a billion dollars in taxpayer aid and has furloughed thousands of workers.

Additional reporting by AFP