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ABC News
ABC News
Laura Lavelle

Demand for overseas flights sees 'severe shortage of seats' as travel gears up post-COVID

The air travel sector is finally starting to recover, but is struggling to keep up with demand. (ABC News: Lucas Hill)

Just months after Queensland's border reopened to the world, demand for seats on overseas flights is contributing to higher-than-usual ticket prices. 

It has been two-and-a-half years since the pandemic turned the aviation industry on its head, grounding flights and halting travel across the world.

Now the sector is finally starting to recover, but it is struggling to keep up with demand.

CEO of Brisbane-based Flight Centre, Graham Turner, said on overseas flights there was a "severe shortage of seats" and the industry "desperately needs more capacity".

"It's being reflected in prices, particularly premium ones," Mr Turner said.

Between peak season price hikes, expensive aviation fuel, staff shortages and lack of capacity issues, coupled with high demand for travel, it is a perfect storm for costly flights.

Mr Turner said prices would not likely drop for another six to eight months.

Mr Turner said prices would not likely drop for another six to eight months. (ABC: Thomas Pawson)

Yesterday, major US airline United Airlines announced it would fly three times per week from San Francisco to Brisbane from October.

Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said the deal was Queensland's "pathway to success and a pathway back to the $6 billion tourism industry".

'Take some time to rebuild'

Brisbane Airport aviation general manager Ryan Both said it would help fill demand, but there would not be an immediate effect on prices.

"As capacity returns and the normal competitive dynamic returns, then we'll see a normalisation of the airfares," Mr Both said.

But overseas departures are nowhere near where they were pre-pandemic.

Data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in March 2019 showed that 309,710 people flew overseas from Queensland.

In 2020, that number was sitting at just 4,740.

But since international borders reopened to vaccinated travellers in February this year, that number had risen to 54,270 for the month of March.

'Some congestion at airports'

Confidence in the aviation industry is bouncing back and Mr Turner said there was no need to be concerned about travelling overseas.

"The main problem is queues — particularly at peak periods — there will be some congestion at airports."

That would only be resolved once the industry recovered from mass employee losses during the pandemic.

"Reactivating aircraft fleets and airline operations and retraining crew — it's not easy and that will take a long time," Mr Both said.

The tip for travellers: start saving and begin planning your next holiday now.

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