Around 800,000 half-price airline tickets are being made available as part of a $1.2 billion tourism support package unveiled by the Federal Government.

The scheme will encourage Australians to take a holiday interstate at a time when the international border remains closed.

So how is it going to work?

Where can I go?

With the exception of a flight between Adelaide and Kangaroo Island, all of the discounted routes are for interstate travel.

Destinations across 13 regions in all of the states and territories have been chosen based on their usual reliance on international tourism.

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce says the airline also advised the Government on current demand levels, with some areas still struggling compared to others.

“This package will allow us to put 21 extra flights every week into Cairns… we’ll be putting 35 extra return flights into the Gold Coast every week,” he said.

“To Ballina, we’ve already doubled the amount of capacity to pre-COVID levels, it’s full there.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has described the routes below as an “initial list” and flagged more locations might be added depending on how the scheme goes.

When can I get a ticket and what’s stopping airlines from pushing prices up?

Discounted tickets can be purchased between the beginning of April and the end of July, for travel through until the end of September.

Qantas says its discounted flights will be available online from April 1 for travel from May 1.

The government says the airlines are expected to start advertising the flights in the next couple of weeks, once the finer details of the package are agreed.

The subsidy is open to any airline that has been flying the nominated routes in the past two years, meaning some regional operators will be eligible along with Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar.

Broome is one of 13 locations targeted for subsidised flights.(

ABC Kimberley: Andrew Seabourne


The discounts will be calculated according to the “average fare” as of February this year and Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack says the airlines have assured the government they won’t be able to hike up prices.

“I’ve had long discussions with both Alan Joyce and Jane Hrdlicka from Qantas and Virgin respectively, they’re not going to do that,” he told Sky News.

“Of course the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) has been monitoring air prices right throughout the pandemic and making sure that it is as what it should be.”

What’s the point of booking a trip if state borders could close again?

The government and the airlines say the success of this program depends on the states and territories not snapping their borders shut in response to future COVID-19 outbreaks.

“We really need those premiers of course to keep the borders open… we need the premiers to play ball,” Mr McCormack said.

The Commonwealth is hoping the rollout of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination program means border closures are imposed only as a last resort.

However, as we have seen throughout the pandemic, the power to impose restrictions ultimately rests with the states and territories, so there is no guarantee.

What about international travel? When can I holiday overseas again?

The Prime Minister says he is hopeful Australia’s international border might re-open by the end of October, although he warns that is not yet confirmed.

“We haven’t many any firm decision on these things but… that’s our hope and that’s our expectation,” he said.

“But I’ve learnt all through the pandemic, you don’t get too far ahead of yourselves.”

The government is sticking to its aim of offering all Australians their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of October and Qantas is relying on that timeline to meet its plan of re-starting international flights by then.

“We should get to a stage… that 20 million people are vaccinated by the end of October,” Alan Joyce said.

“And we know there’s lots of things that the governments need to see before we can get there to the borders opening.”

Why is the Government doing this?

The announcement of this package comes ahead of the JobKeeper wage subsidy coming to an end later this month.

The government argues that program could not be kept running forever, but with more than 600,00 Australian jobs tied to the tourism industry, it was under pressure to provide more support.

Labor leader Anthony Albanese has criticised the package as too narrow, arguing the aviation sector is the only one to directly benefit from the discounted airfares.

“There’s nothing in this package for hotel operators, there’s nothing in this package for those people, for example, who are tourism operators, who will take people out on day trips,” he said.

“If you’re a tourism operator anywhere in Australia… who’s been relying upon JobKeeper to keep your doors open and to keep your businesses going and to keep people employed, you’re about to lose that support.

“So today’s announcement, what it does is magnify that in just a couple of weeks, the rug is about to be pulled.”

Along with the cheaper airfares, the government is expanding a loan scheme for small and medium sized businesses and is also extending financial support for travel agents and zoos.

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Mr Morrison says NSW is not the focus of $1.2b package because tourism there has recovered.

Will this package be enough to help tourism operators?

The major airlines, unsurprisingly, have welcomed the package but some tourism groups are unhappy, arguing it does not do enough to help ailing parts of the industry.

Accommodation Association CEO Dean Long said the nation’s capital cities had been overlooked.

“For Sydney and Melbourne, where 80 per cent of the market is from international and corporate markets, which are still not operating due to government restrictions, the lack of support in this package will result in a loss of jobs and slow our recovery once borders are open,” he said.

Kangaroo Island has been selected as a discounted destination, but only for flights from Adelaide.

The Australian Tourism Industry Council agreed, saying more jobs would be lost.

“There’s been a very strong over-reach to the regions,” ATIC executive director Simon Westaway said.

“Our capital cities actually do drive Australia’s visitor economy.”

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Albanese says tourism package targets marginal seats