Two new budget airlines competing with Jetstar and Vietnam Airlines are driving fierce competition on Vietnam fares as the number of Australians heading to the South-East Asian country surpasses 2019 levels.
Almost 82,000 Australians have taken trips to Vietnam in the first quarter of 2023, up by 14.4 per cent compared to 2019, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics data.
Kelly Szymanowicz is taking her family to Vietnam after a three-year delay due to the pandemic.
“We extended the trip to three weeks to try and see as much of this enchanting country as we could, as it’s a very budget-friendly country,” said Szymanowicz of Mount Druitt, Sydney.
With its beaches, culture and cheap living expenses, Vietnam was the destination that “made the most sense”, according to the mother, who had also researched trips to Europe and North America but found the expense “excruciating”.
“A trip to Disney World Florida is at least $50,000 … Sydney to Vietnam return flights for six people in school holidays, including two internal flights, was $6147, flying Jetstar, Bamboo Airlines and Scoot,” she said.
Nicole Reddan of Hawthorn, Melbourne, also found bargain flights to Vietnam through low-cost carrier Vietjet, booking return tickets in November for $432.
The airline, which made headlines earlier this year for its one-way flights from $200, is the third Vietnamese carrier to launch new Australian routes since borders reopened.
“It was too good an opportunity not to go. And once you’re there, it’s cheap food, accommodation, reasonably priced activities and tours,” said Reddan.
Szymanowicz and Reddan are not alone in their thinking, as inflation, the cost of living, reduced flight capacity to Europe and surging jet fuel prices force many Australians to put European summer trips on the backburner.
Nicola Carmichael, brand director for booking platform Kayak, noted Vietnam was trending high among Australians right now.
“Searches to Ho Chi Minh City in the second half of this year is up by around 140 per cent compared to 2019,” said Carmichael, who credits cheap flights for the bump.
While airfares for the European summer have soared by as much as 63 per cent above pre-pandemic levels, Vietnam is seeing a significantly smaller increase of 21 per cent.
“It’s a great option for Aussies wanting to keep their airfare costs under $1000 with the average return economy flight from Australia to Ho Chi Minh City sitting about $886,” she said.
Professor Rico Merkert, an aviation expert at the University of Sydney, said with the addition of low-cost carriers Bamboo Airways and Vietjet, flight capacity to Ho Chi Minh City has already exceeded pre-COVID levels, and is set to increase to 21,606 seats a week from June 19, before climbing again on September 18 to 22,444.
“Both Vietnam Airlines and Jetstar will be back to what they offered pre-COVID but in a more competitive environment, as Bamboo Airways will now have a capacity market share of roughly 11 per cent and Vietjet Air will offer roughly 28 per cent of the capacity in June, increasing that number to 33.6 per cent from September,” said Merkert.
Australian holiday favourite Bali may even have some stiff competition ahead.
“Everything is a lot cheaper when you get to Vietnam, not just in comparison with Europe or the US but also Asian destinations such as Bali,” said Merkert.
Lauren McRae, owner of independent travel agent Hello It’s Loz, has also noted a ripple effect the increased capacity is having on airfares.
Vietnam currently makes up 30 per cent of her bookings, and clients aren’t just seeking cheap holidays, but value for money.
“The flight prices have been amazing due to more competition such as Vietjet and Bamboo Airlines entering the market and increasing their schedules,” said McRae.
It’s a compelling reason to halt those Europe plans, according to Melbourne hospitality worker Nate White, who couldn’t justify the steep costs in the face of comparatively cheap Vietnam round-trip fares of $400. That’s how much White paid for a trip in May with Jetstar.
“It would have been a harder sell getting a group of friends to come to Europe or the US considering international prices,” said White.
Despite current high costs to places like the United Kingdom and France, increased capacity from Vietnamese carriers is also bringing much-needed competition to European routes.
McRae said: “I’ve been able to find great prices with Vietnam Airlines into Paris or Frankfurt going via Ho Chi Minh City, so clients have opted to take a three or four night stopovers in Vietnam after holidaying in Europe.”
Merkert agreed and said that Bamboo Airways, which flies into London’s Gatwick Airport, may be an attractive option for backpackers heading to Europe.
Source : WAToday