How to get one of the 800,000 half-price flights in Australia’s tourism support package

Aerial shot of the coastline of the Whitsundays, on of the governments travel destinations for half-price flights post-COVID.

The Federal Government has announced it will subsidise 800,000 half-priced flights to regional areas in a bid to rekindle domestic travel and support struggling tourism-reliant economies.

Around $1.2 billion will be directed to the package, which offers a 50% discount applied to average airfares for the selected routes as of February this year. 

This cheap flight bonanza might look pretty attractive for anyone already in a financial position to take a holiday. But as JobSeeker and JobKeeper deadlines loom this month, there are plenty of questions around the scheme’s overall usefulness to tourism regions and individuals struggling to get back on their feet.  

If you are looking to take advantage of the government's half-price flight offer, here are answers to the main questions around the scheme.

Where are the half-price flights going?

Destinations across 13 regions in all the states and territories have been listed based on their tourism economies being linked to air travel. Except for the flight between Adelaide and Kangaroo Island, all of the current flight routes are interstate. 

According to the government announcement posted on Thursday, these regions are: the Gold Coast, Cairns, the Whitsundays and Mackay region (Proserpine and Hamilton Island), the Sunshine Coast, Lasseter and Alice Springs, Launceston, Devonport and Burnie, Broome, Avalon, Merimbula, and Kangaroo Island. 

Exact routes to these regions may change based on airline negotiations and demand. Prime minister Scott Morrison has also said the government would be open to adding more destinations to the package.

When can I book a half-price flight and with which airlines?

Half-price flight bookings will open from 1 April and be available to book until the end of July. 

Qantas has announced discounted flights will start taking off from 1 May, but it’s unclear when the other airlines included in the package (Jetstar, Virgin and REX) will begin their discounted journeys. 

Other regional airlines may also be included in the scheme, so long as they’ve been flying the relevant routes for more than two years. 

The government discounted flights will fly until the end of September.

What happens to the cheap flights if state borders close again?

This program’s success hinges on state and territory borders remaining open. The government has implored premiers to consider more flexible COVID-19 containment responses in light of this, but these decisions ultimately rest with the state and territory leaders.

Essentially, this means there can be no guarantees around interstate air travel. Thus far, there hasn’t been mention of how refunds or travel credits might work for the discounted flights and if this will differ from the various airlines’ standard procedures. 

Are there any other Australian government tourism incentives?

Yes, there are currently offers for on-the-ground spending vouchers in Victoria and Queensland, although some applications for these have now closed.

  • Victoria

Another round of vouchers was added to the Victorian travel scheme this week, after complaints that Victorian destinations largely missed out on the discounted air travel offer.

The scheme has the same conditions as previous releases, providing $200 vouchers for adult Victorian residents to spend in regional areas of the state. Local holidaymakers can access this so long as they spend $400 on accommodation, experiences, tours or attractions for a minimum two nights.

Applications for the 10,000 additional vouchers for regional Victoria travel open on 30 March, and can be used between 10 May and 14 June, 2021.

Other discounts on regional Victoria travel and experiences in Metropolitan Melbourne have now been exhausted.  

  • Queensland

Applications for the 15,000 vouchers in the ‘Cairns Holiday Dollars’ scheme are now closed.

Recipients of the $200 vouchers will be contacted via text and email on 15 March, so be sure to keep an eye on your inboxes if you applied. 

Vouchers can only be spent by Queenslanders on tours and attractions in the Tropical North Queensland region. Recipients can get up to 50% or $200 cash-back (whichever is less) on their holiday experiences.

This includes activities like trips to the Great Barrier Reef, guided tours, bungee jumping, spa trips, scenic flights and entry to wildlife parks, zoos and aquariums. Bookings can be made between 15 March and 25 June, 2021.

If you’re travelling by road instead of air, make sure you know what rental car costs to expect or check that you have the appropriate car insurance for your own ride.