Travel

As Australia reopens to travelers, there are budget-friendly options to get you Down Under

It’s true. I get a nice little rush when a great travel deal is revealed.

Sometimes it’s a unique adventure right here in Alaska. Other times, a bank pushes a credit card with a bunch of points that I can turn into travel credit.

But often, all it takes is a bargain airfare to light my fire. And for two years, my deferred and delayed travel plans have been burning a hole in my backpack!

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia has been cut off from travelers for two years. Recently, the borders have reopened to fully-vaccinated travelers. What’s more, Jetstar Airlines has resumed its nonstop flights to Hawaii.

Jetstar flies from two Australian cities to Honolulu: Sydney and Melbourne. The fares are cheap.

Before you take advantage of the cheap rates to Australia, you have to get to Hawaii to catch the flight. Right now, the lowest rates from Anchorage to Honolulu are on Alaska Air’s nonstops: $177-$187 one-way between now and June 22.

From Honolulu, fly on Jetstar for $128-$148 one-way, starting April 4. The return trip is a little more: $206-$222 one-way. All flights from Honolulu are nonstop on a Boeing 787.

Jetstar is a budget airline, so you pay extra for seat assignments, luggage and meals. To “upgrade” to a bundle that includes a checked bag and an assigned seat, along with some other features, the cost is about $99 one-way.

Between Honolulu and Melbourne, Australia, Jetstar is offering one-way fares between $120 and $137 one-way, starting on April 10. Return flights are a little more, from $194-$209 one-way.

Just scanning some of the least-expensive flights, I came up with this itinerary:

• Anchorage-Honolulu on Alaska Air on March 30 for $177 one-way;

• Honolulu-Sydney on Jetstar on April 2, returning on April 21 for $327 round-trip;

• Honolulu-Anchorage on Alaska Air on April 22 for $209 one-way.

If you buy the bag/seat bundle on Jetstar, that’s an extra $198 round-trip. To purchase the “main” cabin option on Alaska Airlines for seat assignments, it costs an extra $80 round-trip.

The subtotal is $991 round-trip Anchorage-Honolulu-Sydney. Of course, that doesn’t include the accommodations in Hawaii: three nights on the outbound and one night on the return.

By comparison, Delta, United and other airlines charge $1,890-$1,999 round-trip Anchorage-Sydney, routing through Los Angeles. Just traveling from Honolulu, both Hawaiian and Qantas charge between $1,340-$1,410 round-trip, nonstop.

It’s always interesting to see the price comparison between Jetstar and Qantas, since Jetstar is owned by Qantas.

Once you get to Australia, flights around the country on Jetstar are very cheap. Between Sydney and either Perth of Darwin, the rate is $74 one-way, not including bags or seat assignments. To Fiji, the fare is $127 one-way. To Hobart, Tasmania, it’s $34 one-way. The seats are closer together on the domestic flights — 29-inch pitch — than on the trans-Pacific flights — 31-inch pitch.

The cheapest flights from Anchorage to Africa right now are on Delta, between Anchorage and Nairobi, Kenya. Tickets cost between $843 and $872 round-trip. From Anchorage to Seattle, you’ll fly on Delta. But from Seattle to Europe and on to Africa, you’ll fly on one of Delta’s partners: AirFrance or KLM.

The bargain tickets are available between March 26 and May 24. The tickets to Nairobi are “main” cabin, including pre-reserved seats and two checked bags.

Although wildlife viewing in Kenya is good year-round, April and May are the wettest months. But the same rate also is available in the much drier months of September and October.

Not all of the best deals are in the back of the bus. In January, I wrote about flying first class to Africa in February and March.

This particular fare has reappeared, for travel starting in August.

If you’ve ever wanted to fly in style and visit Africa, this may be the deal for you. Fly first class from Anchorage to Seattle on Alaska Airlines. Since you’re flying in first, you have access to the British Airways lounge at Sea-Tac. Then climb aboard British Air’s 787 for the ride to London. Your seat is a lie-flat bed. The cost for the round-trip ticket is $5,940 per person.

On arrival in London, you’ve got a long layover. But your first-class boarding pass gives you access to the swankiest lounge at Heathrow: the “Concorde Lounge.” Take a shower. Take a nap. Enjoy a meal. Or two.

Your final leg of the trip, from London to Johannesburg, is on board one of British’s Airbus 380 double-decker plane. Again, you’ll have a big seat that folds into a bed for the 11-hour flight.

I know of a couple of Alaskans who took advantage of this first-class deal — they’re still in South Africa, exploring the wildlife parks, the wineries and even the big water at Victoria Falls. They’re spending a month there.

Even though the ticket price is high, travelers also receive a bunch of bonus miles because British Air is a mileage partner with Alaska. The exact totals vary a little bit, depending on your exact routing. But travelers receive about 60,000 “elite qualifying miles” toward their 2023 Alaska Air mileage plan status. With just that one trip, you qualify as an “MVP Gold.”

Some airfare prices are starting to creep up because of pent-up travel demand. Jet fuel costs also makes fares go up. But the biggest factor in airline prices is competition. If there is more than one airline flying the route, prices are lower. If there’s just one airline, prices are higher.

Scott McMurren

Scott McMurren is an Anchorage-based marketing consultant, serving clients in the transportation, hospitality, media and specialty destination sectors, among others. Contact him by email at zoom907@me.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@alaskatravelGRM) and alaskatravelgram.com. For more information, visit alaskatravelgram.com/about.

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