On your way down under

Air fares to Australia and New Zealand have never been so low. David Orkin surveys the latest deals and the ever-growing range of stopover options

I really can't see it getting any better than this. That's what I told BBC Radio a year ago, when fares down under were cut to all-time low levels. I'm pleased to be able to repeat the message this January, even with the Olympics set to make 2000 the biggest year ever for tourism to Australia.

I really can't see it getting any better than this. That's what I told BBC Radio a year ago, when fares down under were cut to all-time low levels. I'm pleased to be able to repeat the message this January, even with the Olympics set to make 2000 the biggest year ever for tourism to Australia.

Expatriate antipodeans will be celebrating Australia Day this Wednesday - but the people who should really be celebrating are Britain's travellers. The supply of seats to Australia and New Zealand is still outstripping demand. Even in this most intensely competitive of markets new airlines are joining the scrap, meaning that this year there are even more bargains around than last. But you'll have to move fast to snap up some of the best deals.

On Australia Day 1990, a fare of £529 to Sydney would have meant an "all stations to Australia" charter, with a journey time that could stretch well beyond a day. Scheduled fares were at least 50 per cent higher. But late last year Sri Lankan Airlines waded into the market with a new service from Heathrow to Sydney - offering excellent service aboard new A340 aircraft, and a one-stop connection in Colombo with under an hour's wait. The fare of £529 applies for departures from now until 13 April, but you must book and pay by the end of the month. The other big bonus is that it adds Colombo to the list of mainline stopover options - you can stop in the Sri Lankan capital on the return journey. If the airline's name looks unfamiliar, that's because it's a rebranded Air Lanka - under new management provided by the highly regarded Emirates.

Fares on the two biggest players - British Airways and Qantas - are slightly higher, but the range of stopovers is wide (several Far Eastern capitals if you travel via Asia; New York and Los Angeles if you go over the Pacific). So too is the choice of destinations within Australia (Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Melbourne and Perth, as well as the ubiquitous Sydney) and Auckland in New Zealand.

For your choice of destination and stopovers (one in each direction, with a few restrictions) you pay £680 or thereabouts - the exact figure depends on a calculation of all the annoying taxes and charges, from £20 to leave Britain to a £2 "noise tax" in Sydney. This price applies until 15 April, in July and August, and from 1 October to 9 December.

Fares are slightly higher (but still very agreeable) for September, while in May and June they sink by another £53 - and to Perth, the fare is lower still. BA/Qantas throws in a free connection from Manchester to Heathrow if you need it.

Air New Zealand will give you the same kind of deals from Heathrow via the Pacific, with a tempting range of island stopovers, while Singapore Airlines offers a good, fast service with a famously cheap (£18 per night) stopover package, including hotel, transfers and a whole range of giveaway goodies.

Rival Malaysia Airlines cuts about £25-£30 from the majors' rates, and has a very tempting offer which gives you a free domestic return flight - including to the island of Borneo - as long as you book accommodation at not-unreasonable rates through the airline.

Cathay Pacific is also undercutting BA and Qantas for its flights via Hong Kong, but does not allow inbound travel between 1 July and 5 October. If you're Queensland-bound, Cathay has the only one-stop service to Cairns.

Cathay, Malaysia and Singapore all offer Manchester at the same fares as Heathrow, but for other regional airlines - from Aberdeen to Southampton - the obvious solution is KLM. The Dutch airline has flights via Amsterdam and Singapore to Sydney for around £570 if you book before 15 February.

The downward pressure on economy fares is having an effect on the front of the plane. Air New Zealand's award-winning business class is available for around £2,000 to Auckland between February and 8 December (except in September). The airline will even throw in free connections to Wellington or Christchurch. You must book by 31 January, and pay by 11 February.

Malaysia Airlines has great deals in business class from Manchester - all its Australian points are on sale at around £1,625, with Auckland available for about £100 more. This offer applies until 30 June, but you must book and pay by the end of February.

And the Olympic Effect? Accommodation and services will be at a premium in Sydney and surrounding areas during the Games in September, but there's an awful lot of Australia that won't be affected. The only problem could be that flights will be busier than usual into Australia. Funnily enough, travellers between Britain and South-East Asia or California could benefit from this. Airlines are reporting heavy bookings to Sydney from Asian hubs and Los Angeles, with much lighter loads from the UK. So you can look forward to some good late deals to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and LA.

In the coming weeks there will be a few more short-notice sales to Australasia at deep discounts, but those searching for the absolute lowest fares will be keeping an eye on the Indonesian airline Garuda - currently selling Sydney at well below £500. With the Foreign Office cautioning about travel to Lombok, adjacent to Bali - where the airline's Denpasar hub is located - Garuda may cut fares even more to fill its seats.

All these fares are inclusive of any applicable taxes, though there may be some small differences depending on the airports used. All the fares are available through travel agents, not direct from the airlines, and there will be some variation in prices between retailers.

The author is co-founder of the discount flights specialist Quest Worldwide (tel: 020-8547 3322).

Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Life and Style
Men with beards rejoice: Your beard probably doesn't harbour faeces-like bacteria
health
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Recruitment Genius: Centre Manager

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Guru Careers: Accountant

    £28 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Accountant is needed to take control of the ...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before