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Hawaii-Australia fares value full service at $100 return!

If the low fare long haul travel revolution is all that it is hyped to be, why does Jetstar sell flights to Hawaii for nearly as much as Qantas? It is a burning question for Qantas employees, as well as its customers

Laid back Honolulu Airport with Diamond Head in distance: Govt of Hawaii image

Just how much more would you expect a full service economy fare on a Qantas 767 (refurbished or not) to be to Honolulu and back from Sydney compared to flying on a Jetstar A330 on temporary loan from Qantas?

The answer this morning was $97, and we are talking a return fare for total flight times of more than 18 hours.

For travel in February the best price on Qantas.com was $1108 return, all operated by Jetstar.

But when the days of departure and return were chosen to coincide with the availability of a Qantas full service 767 the quote minutes later on the Qantas site was $1205 return.  And that’s in an admittedly older jet than the A330 but with a long haul economy class seat that has more spatial amenity in international services out of Australia than anything other than an economy class seat  in an A380.

Which makes the dual brand strategy of Qantas on its Honoulu services an interesting exercise in marketing if nothing else. It could be that it is a strong endorsement of the dual brand strategy at work, since Qantas has continued to fly both full service and low cost products on the routes because both are well supported, or it could be that it is a nonsense, because no-one who is spending thousands of dollars on an excursion for two or more to Hawaii is going to chose such long flights on a lesser standard of service and amenity to save $97 per person.

Maybe the answer is to be found in Hawaiian Airlines’ offers. Hawaiian flies 767s and A330s on the routes, with the latter gradually replacing the former, and in due course, themselves being replaced by A350s. The best price for similar days on Hawaiian out of Sydney and back in February was $1233 return, or $125 more than Jetstar.  But Hawaiian was only $28 more than Qantas, so could Qantas be getting wedged here into having to ensure that it appears to fare surfers to be the least expensive full service offer  while hoping that consumers won’t notice it is not much more expensive than Jetstar, making them wonder, if they have ever flown Jetstar before, why they would do it a second time on what are longish flight stages?

To put it bluntly, if Qantas management wants us to seriously believe that Jetstar long haul is all about finding a new bargain orientated market segment, why is it selling Jetstar flights to Hawaii for nearly as much as Qantas, and, second question, do they think consumers are fools?

The whole idea of the comparison was inspired by a note from Jetstar yesterday saying it had re-instated its Melbourne-Honolulu non-stops and increased its Bali and Phuket frequencies out of Sydney and Melbourne. Which was just PR double dipping, since this had been announced earlier.

Jetstar, or any low fare brand, has to have a convincingly cheaper fare on offer to make an experienced flyer trade down from a full service brand. It needs to be $300-400 cheaper, not $100 cheaper, over a long return flight. If it can’t do that then it just causes people to repeat the often asked question as to what is the real purpose of Jetstar on long haul flights?

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  • 1
    moa999
    Posted December 16, 2012 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    To put it bluntly Ben, why does Jetstar need to be $300-400 cheaper. If the market will bare it, the airline will charge it.

    The Qantas 767 on this route is a dinosaur with crappy out of focus projected IFE and some average Y meals (obviously these flights will soon be Ipad equipped which will make the difference larger).
    The Jetstar A330 is still a widebody and much newer.

    In my mind – free baggage $25, a meal $20 (although might actually eat at either end), IFE $0 (byo), couple of drinks ($20), and maybe the FF points ($30) – about the same as a domestic flight.

    On a longer flight the “extras” from a full-service airline are not much more than on a short flight, the $ price difference will be the same, the percentage a lot less due to the fuel charge in the ticket price.

  • 2
    Ben Sandilands
    Posted December 16, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    While we agree on many of those point, and I’ve made them myself quite a few times over the years, the sticking point for me is always the rhetoric used, and the reality delivered.

    If this is to be the much touted long haul low cost revolution, picking up at ranges where the single aisle generally shorter haul revolution can’t or won’t go, then I like to keep the airlines, not just Qantas or Jetstar, to their word.

    The alternative view often expressed here and elsewhere, is that I should get over it and accept that marketing is all or mostly lies. Something I don’t accept.

    And let’s keep in view that if on any route a keenly priced full service product is available, it does make things difficult for the low cost model.

    To put it bluntly moa999, they said they were going to be be much cheaper. And that is why they should be.

  • 3
    patrick kilby
    Posted December 16, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    Having flown both the answer maybe in QF Business which is a good product over that distance (and HNL connects better to some places than LA), and is much better than JQ business (v.good food is my memory). This is where they make the money and so can aim to fill up the economy at much the same a price as JQ as that is who they are aiming for.

  • 4
    ltfisher
    Posted December 16, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    I suggest you all give Hawaiian a go. They are undergoing similar equipment changes to Jet and QF but on my last experience are already way ahead in ‘culture’. The cabin crew I experienced were very ordinary, relaxed and thoughtful people happy in their work. I’m not sure QF Business is such a good idea or value for money Patrick, at least until they upgrade their Business offering to a full international standard. You are right however about HNL connections for the US West Coast and further inland which is good for anyone wantng to avoid LAX. Alaska Airlines also has some very useful onward connections out of HNL although like many ‘terminating’ services the arrival/departure time can be offputting.

  • 5
    Aidan Stanger
    Posted December 16, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    Ben, have you checked the price on the Jetstar webside? I wouldn’t be surprised if there were the opportunity to save another $30 each way.

    What are the seats like on the Jetstar A330s? As long as they’re not too cramped, is Qantas really worth $100 more? Surely you’re not seriously trying to claim their food is that good?

  • 6
    Ben Sandilands
    Posted December 16, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    Aiden,

    Good point. I have asked Qantas umpteen times to explain why the Jetstar fares quoted on Qantas.com are rarely if ever identical to the fares on Jetstar.com, I have never been given an answer, I would like them to explain in detail on the public record why they can’t accurately inform the consumer on the booking screen, and so forth. I was hoping the post might inspire an answer.

    Back to what matters in an airline product however. I’m sure the correct answer is the individual answer based on what each of us values more highly or less highly.

    My own preferences give undue weight according to quite a few readers to seat size and surrounds. I don’t really care for movies on an IFE screen. I see them on a big screen in a big chair in my own home or in a cinema. To fit a movie into a seat back screen of any size is in my view, but clearly not that of others, a total abomination. Similarly I’m not a foodie-in-the-sky. Fine dining or interesting cuisine is something to be pursued or indulged in on the ground, or maybe on a ship, but not in a jet. As long as its healthy and tasty in that order, and doesn’t explode over your shirt when a seal is peeled back from a container, airline food is OK. The overpowering plus for me in a 767 is the seven across seating, but others might equally correctly from their point of view see it differently.

  • 7
    sar75
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Ben,

    Was just having a look on Adioso and the cheapest fare on Jetstar in February appears to be $633. Quite a bit cheaper than the Qantas fare.

    http://adioso.com/au/syd-to-hnl-in-february-return-between-7-and-14-days-later

  • 8
    Ben Sandilands
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    I did the search for outward on 15 February and back departing HNL on February 22.

    These were not just the cheapest fares each carrier had on offer but there were no ‘last seats’ or other indications of limited inventory.

    Some may choose a different methodology however when you go to third party websites you only arrive at the final fare on the last screen where you have given up your credit card details (in most cases) and before the site’s commission is added.

    The issue I think with the headline cheapest fare of the month is that any airline can post an ultra low fare for which availability could be an ultra low number of seats.

    That’s why I think choosing a particular set of dates is more likely to produce a realistic offer.

    When I looked for the Hawaiian fares I also noticed all the carriers were displaying a range of cheaper fares on different but nearby dates. This made me shift my original search by one day, as they were all showing their best fare of the week as being outbound on the Friday, and that was also a day on which Qantas was in the market.

    At no stage did I see a combination of fares that would have totalled $633 for the return trip on any carrier, nor did any carrier display anything like $316.50 for a one way sector.

    It is quite instructive to note that when there is a notably cheaper deal on a particular day of the week, all of the carriers in the market will be cheaper on that day, which makes we think that the screen jockeys in yield management see airline A do something lower than normal on a particular day and they quickly post competitive or ‘stay-in-touch’ responses for airlines B and C.

    In this respect the airlines are all playing poker trying to predict each other’s hand.

  • 9
    sar75
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Ben,

    Note that Adioso is not a booking website but a search engine so no commissions are added to the prices they display. They redirect you to the airline websites for purchase. For the record, I have no association, professional or otherwise, with Adioso, I just like the stuff they do.

    Anyway, checking on the Jetstar website directly, 15 – 22 Feb is not available but both 14 – 21 Feb and 16 – 23 Feb are $623.89 return (with no checked baggage) as we speak.

    Add $39 each way if you want to for 20kg checked baggage and $25 if you pay by credit card (no fee for direct deposit) but you are still come in a lot cheaper than Hawaiian or Qantas if you are prepared to alter your travel plans by one day either way.

    It looks like these are sale fares that became available 13 Dec so that may explain why you didn’t see them during your searches??

    Scott

  • 10
    Ben Sandilands
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    Scott,

    That could be the case. The booking screens can change abruptly. Sales fares are also of course perfectly legit for airlines that notice they have unsold inventory a certain time out from departure when their experience tells them that most of those who intend flying the route for holiday purposes have already locked in their deals.

    One day I’ll do screen grabs for the same search but at different times of the same day to illustrate that. I also did my Jetstar search on Qantas.com and as I have often found in the past, what Jetstar sells for a particular flight and what Qantas sell as the same flight on its site can differ, although not in my experience to anything like this extent.

    I’m of the opinion that if the proposed airline ombudsman had the resources to patrol the booking sites on a consistent basis there would be some kickback from the carriers. But I guess we don’t want the sort of disaster we had with Fuel Watch?

  • 11
    LongTimeObserver
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 1:37 am | Permalink

    For a $5/seat-hour savings, some people would take the bait. Others, who value their kneecaps, not so much.

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