Over the coming month, Qantas will operate six “special commercial flights” from Darwin to London. In each instance, the Boeing 787s need to position to London anyway to operate repatriation flights back to Darwin on behalf of DFAT. So, Qantas has decided to sell tickets on the outbound sectors as well.
“As the national carrier, we’re proud to operate selected flights to bring more people home during this unprecedented time,” the Qantas website says about these one-way flights from Darwin to London.
But, unless you’re already in Darwin and happen to need to fly non-stop to London, it would make very little sense to book a seat on one of these flights.
Significantly reduced service
The Qantas website warns that services on these special flights, which are intended for repatriation purposes, will be “significantly reduced”. There will only be limited food provided onboard, along with bottles of water. This includes Premium Economy and Business Class.
The catering situation is so dire, in fact, that Qantas is recommending passengers also bring their own food and non-alcoholic drinks on board, noting that any drinks will need to comply with LAGs rules (i.e. be under 100mL or purchased after clearing security at the airport).
Furthermore, seat selection will not be available and no frequent flyer benefits will apply. Passengers on these flights will not earn any Qantas Frequent Flyer points or status credits, and there is no possibility to upgrade with points. Essentially, these “special commercial flights” are being treated the same as charter flights.
Despite the limited service on board, Qantas is charging significantly more than other airlines for a seat on one of these services to London.
For Economy Class, Qantas is charging from $1,243 one-way. Premium Economy costs from $3,060.
In Business Class, prices start from $7,792 one-way but are as high as $10,060 for some tickets.
Yet, other full-service airlines are offering cheaper airfares from cities all across Australia to London – and their fares include all the usual perks like frequent flyer points and meals on board!
In Economy Class, at least 9 airlines have cheaper fares available. This includes Singapore Airlines, which offers another option to fly to the UK without having to quarantine on arrival.
Singapore Airlines also has cheaper Premium Economy fares…
And numerous airlines have Business Class fares available from Australia to London next month for thousands of dollars less than Qantas.
Admittedly, if you were to fly to the UK with some of these airlines, you would need to enter quarantine on arrival due to the respective transit points being on the UK’s amber or red list. But Singapore Airlines offers plenty of full-service flights via Singapore, which is on the green list, at a lower price than Qantas. Why pay more to get less?
Qantas can quite easily get away with providing less service on the inbound legs of these repatriation flights from the UK to Australia, because demand for seats is extremely high. Returning Australians on these flights are gladly (relatively speaking, anyway) paying thousands of dollars to at least get a guaranteed seat back to Australia.
But there are currently plenty of seats available on outbound flights departing from Australia, which aren’t subject to Australia’s restrictive passenger caps. That means there is plenty of competition, and Qantas’ special commercial flights are simply not competitive.
What’s more, the Qantas flights are only available to book from Darwin. So if you’re in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth or anywhere else in Australia, you would also have to first buy a ticket to get to Darwin.
The Boeing 787s operating these flights need to get to London anyway, so you can’t blame Qantas for trying to sell a few seats that would otherwise remain empty. In fact, there may be a few Brits currently trying to return from Darwin who appreciate the non-stop service. But in this instance, the price is not right.
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