London Calling As Airfare Affordability Soars

London Calling As Airfare Affordability Soars

A RETURN airfare to London now costs less than one-and-a-half weeks’ wage – compared to more than one-and-a-half years when commercial flights first took off.

Flight Centre has compared historic airfare prices on the famous Kangaroo Route with average wages at the same point in history to determine general affordability levels on the iconic Australia-UK flight path.

The comparison shows that the typical return fare:

  • Is now more than 60 times more affordable for the average worker than it was in 1947, when the first Qantas flight took off to London
  • Has become significantly more affordable with each passing decade; and
  • Has hardly changed in price over the past 30 years, despite the effects of inflation and a quadrupling in average weekly wages during the same period

“This highlights the great value that is available to travellers taking off to London today,” Flight Centre Limited managing director Graham Turner said.

“Historically, a flight to the UK was a major investment that represented months or even years of savings for the average traveller.

“Now a ticket is within reach of most workers.

“Today, a typical fare now costs in the order of $1800 and even cheaper fares are available, with Flight Centre currently offering return fares from Sydney from just $1271.

“Based on the typical price, a traveller today could fly to the UK and back 60 times for less than a traveller paid for a single return flight in 1947.”

The 29 passengers aboard the first Qantas Lockheed Constellation that took off to London in December 1947 paid the equivalent of $1170 – about 85 weeks’ pay for the average worker at the time – for the four-day each-way flight.

Based on current average wages in Australia, the 1947 fare cost the equivalent of more than $110,000 in today’s dollars.

By the early 1960s, a typical fare cost the equivalent of 6 months’ wages, about $34000 in today’s terms.

When long haul travel took off ten years later, an average Australian worker would have spent three months’ total wages on a return flight to London, about $18000 in today’s terms.

In the early 1990s, Qantas sparked a price war when it reduced Kangaroo Route flights to $1800.

In 1991, an $1800 fare represented three weeks’ pay or almost $4000 in today’s terms.

During the ensuing 20 years, typical fares have hardly changed, with an $1800 fare currently representing just 1.4 weeks’ pay for the average worker.

Mr Turner said the findings did not take into account another significant benefit for Australian travellers today – the dollar’s strength.

“In addition, to airfares becoming more affordable, the dollar’s recent strength means travellers now have greater spending power when they arrive in London.

“Today, a traveller taking $5000 spending money to the UK theoretically receives in the order of GBP3250. Twenty years ago, a traveller with the same budget received about GBP2200 – about GBP1000 less.”

A summary of the findings is included in the table below.


TYPICAL FARE WEEKS’ PAY  (based on average wages at the time) ADJUSTED PRICE  (based on current average wages)
1947 $1170 85 $112540
1961 $1200 26 $34424
1971 $1300 14 $18536
1981 $1850 6 $7944
1991 $1800 3 $3972
2001 $1900 2.2 $2913
2010 $1800 1.4