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Flight prices jumping wildly, and the quality of First & Business Class Travel (Travel Updates with Travel Mike and Elias)

Travel Elias and Travel Mike this week share everything they know about the changing prices of flights (even overnight) and the impact that COVID has had on Business and First-class travel. Top travel tips of the week, availability for the next 3 and 6 months, and advice for those of you who still want to travel for this holiday season!

Information is changing regularly so be sure to check back each week for updates.

Top Travel Tip for the Week

What to expect when you’re expecting…better in-flight service.  Airlines have had to make dramatic changes to their in-flight service and amenities compared with pre-COVID travel.  The food may not be as good as it was before (I’m not sure that’s saying much), but in the premium cabins don’t expect multi-course, freshly prepared meals.  Nearly everything will be pre-packaged to minimize person-to-person contact.

Along the same lines, airport lounges may have reduced capacity and only be offering pre-wrapped food instead of the large spread they used to offer.  In many airports, the lounges may be closed altogether.

A lot of folks have asked about seeing pictures of nearly empty economy cabins, with perhaps 20 people in a cabin that could hold 200.  This leads to the question of why might they have had to book premium economy or business class with so many economy seats available.  It’s a fair question, here is why – the airlines have taken their cap number and divided the number of seats they can sell between their cabins.  So while they may have, say, 50 total seats they can offer, they have opted to sell 15 business class, 15 premium economy, and 20 economy (as an example).  This decision is most likely driven by revenue, ensuring they have enough income for each flight so as not to lose money.

For those in need of assistance, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is administering a “Hardship Program” with more info available on Australia’s Smartraveller webpage, accessible via the Australian Embassy website.

Questions & Bookings

Mike & Elias can be emailed at – [email protected]

Availability over the next period (1st April – 14th April)

Availability on the 3 US-based airlines is mostly premium economy and business class, though United is reintroducing their Houston-Sydney flight and has some economy availability (good connections from many other US airports are available).  Air New Zealand has a good amount of availability as well connecting through LAX or San Francisco.  For those departing the east coast, there are also options connecting through the Middle East with pretty good availability right now.

Holiday Travel

For those looking to get home before New Years, it’ll be premium economy or business class only at this point.

3 Month Outlook

Australia has capped its inbound passenger numbers, this is going to impact getting into Australia and make a difficult process even more stressful and uncertain. The importance of booking with a travel agent showcased in these turbulent times.

6 Month Outlook

Let’s hope in the new year we have some positive results from the vaccines that are starting to be distributed,.  Let’s keep up all the health measures we’ve been doing so far, because widespread vaccine distribution will likely take at least until the summer to happen.


Airline news/updates

Air New Zealand (NZ)

Twice a week leaving from Los Angeles with connections onward to Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne. Air New Zealand partners with United Airlines, so if you don’t mind a couple of connections you can go via LA from many major cities across the US all on the same ticket. Service from San Francisco to Auckland opening up in April, with connections onward to SYD/BNE/MEL.

United (UA)

7 days a week from SFO, 3 days a week from LAX (TUE/THU/SUN)
Starting in April, LAX will also be 7 days a week

American Airlines (AA):

4 days a week LAX – SYD (TUE/WED/FRI/SUN)
Starting in April this goes to 7 days a week.

Air Canada (AC)

Not recommended to book ATM.

Delta (DL)

Flying 7 days a week (LAX-SYD)

Air New Zealand (NZ)

Starting in April SFO-AKL-SYD/BNE/MEL

Virgin Australia (VA)


We have started to see some preliminary Qantas itineraries added to the schedule for late March out of LAX and SFO.  No tickets on sale yet as they’ll require government approval and we’ve heard through reports that QF will need proof of vaccination for all passengers.  We’re staying optimistic that these flights will be feasible.

Singapore Airlines (SQ) & Cathay Pacific (CX)

NYC-SIN-PER (TUE/WED/FRI/SUN) – departures from JFK or Newark

Emirates (EK), Etihad (EY) and Qatar (QR)

Some availability to PER if you’re departing the US east coast (JFK/BOS), business class tickets strongly recommended for this routing. Also options into SYD and MEL.

Fiji Airways (FJ)

Not recommended to book ATM.

Cap Updates

Care flights from the UK and India into Darwin have started now, this will take some of the pressure off the caps coming from the US into Australia – great news.

NSW is sitting at 3,000 passengers per week into Sydney.

Brisbane is at 1,000 passengers per week with an additional allowance for 300 vulnerable Australians per week.

South Australia – 600 passengers into Adelaide. Flights had been suspended for a brief time in mid-to-late November but appear to have resumed.

Perth – currently at 1,025 passengers per week. Hopefully, this will slowly tick upwards.

Video Transcript

America Josh: Hi, everyone,  I'm AmericaJosh and welcome to travel updates with travel Elias, with Elias Mukhter  from Liberty Travel. G'day Elias, how are you?

Travel Elias: How's it going, mate? We're going to get that better every single

America Josh: week. Don't you worry? Are you well?

Travel Elias: I'm doing great. Upstate New York here. Very cold. I know Josh can attest to that.

America Josh: I was just saying that I took my dog for a walk this morning at 6:00 AM and had our first flurry of snow. And it was brief and small, but, yeah, it was 20 degrees and it was called not my favorite. Oh, yes, we've got to, I know we were having a chat about, you know, how are things looking in general?

And I think it's getting less volatile and changing or, uh, you know, is it still a bit all over the place with the travel industry at the moment?

Travel Elias: So it is a little bit all over the place, especially here in the U S so a lot of things did open up for awhile. And now we're getting back into a little bit of a COVID coming back.

So things are starting to get a little hairy again, I know Melbourne just opened up. so a lot of people want to go back to Melbourne, but you got to realize that, Even though it's open, the cap limits are still pretty low. And, even if it's open for the 10th, 11th, 12th travel, there's probably no tickets available.

So you still have to move into February and March travel to get a decent price if you want to go to Melbourne. But as far as what we were talking about earlier, I am getting people calling in and they're like, all right, I want to go for April or may travel and we'll get all the information sent over and then they'll wait four or five, six days and say, Hey, I'm ready to book or, Hey, I got another question.

And in between that time, the price has changed now. It's kind of hundreds of dollars. So I say, wow, I know, I know as a little vault, I would figuring out what's going on at home. And that's my job that I've been applying for over there. It was just going to work out all that stuff. If we see a good price, let's lock it in because the prices will change.

So it's not good to price out an April flight now and say, all right, I'll wait until January to book it because by January, that price is going to be gone. And, I tend to vary is going to be full it's. Just prices are going to be ridiculous at that point.

America Josh: No, I, I think that's, I mean, that blows my mind that, months out we're still seeing so much volatility.

So I think it's really about, you know, what we talked about last week, which is planning in advance being flexible. So making sure that you've got, you know, a little bit of a. A window to look at so that you don't have to leave on a particular day at a particular hour. Don't wait until the last minute.

And just as he said, once you've, you know, express some interest or you've worked out the frame of time that you want to travel in to commit to it and lock it down right now and don't wait.

Travel Elias: Yeah. Yeah. The same thing it'll happen. That's happening now for December and January, where the rates are eight, nine and $10,000 a ticket.

If you wait, everybody that can't travel in December and January is going to have. I have to move their trips into February, March, and April. And like I was saying just a second ago there, I had a client who I just priced out on a Friday and by Monday the price had gone up $500 a ticket, any kind of me at that damn

America Josh: that's that's yeah.

Okay. So jump on it. If you were, if you know, where do you want to go then get in touch with you guys and, and lock in a flight? I know also you've been chatting to a travel, Josh. Who's just headed back to Australia and, does he have any updates for us?

Travel Elias: Yes. So I've been talking to Josh to via text and WhatsApp, three, four times a day now, because we've been taking care of it out of his clients.

And I wanted to just kind of see what's going on, uh, over there, boots on the ground. What's going on with the quarantine and what's going on with, how were the flights, things like that. So I was telling, America, Josh, just a second ago that. They actually gave Josh angstrom a first-class ticket home, which was a huge

America Josh: travel.

Travel Elias: And Josh was telling me, he was like, I've never traveled as, so this is going to be fantastic. And it was like a $14,000, one way first-class flight home, and plenty to say about it. So I wanted to kind of just share some of that information. one, uh, if you've ever flown first class or business class for that fact, the food is unbelievable.

It's like sitting at a five star restaurant, but he's saying food has gone downhill a bit since COVID, it must've started because, in first class he said it was. Fairly mediocre. So just be aware if you're a first class flyer and you're expecting the bells and whistles and you have to grab something.

America Josh: No, that's good to know. Cause I think, in the back of our minds, you know, even if we're told what's happening, it's, it's still a very real thing in the world, but you kind of thinking if you're paying the premium for a business class and you want to lock in that flight and make sure you don't, you know, don't get bumped or you've got a lesser chance of being bumped and all that in your mind, you do expect that there's a, the, all the.

Travel Elias: Yeah, you would expect, Hey, I just paid $10,000 for a ticket. This should be a heck of a fight, but sometimes you gotta be aware. the other thing that goes with that is the business class lounges. they're not all open and they are not all running the full hours that they normally would. So you gotta just be aware that if you get through an airport and there's a limit on how many people could be in that lounge at a time that you check the pre-check and see if, the space would be there.

Because you don't want to be caught. and

America Josh: Hey, hanging out at the office with, at the airport,  sorry with, with nowhere to go that's yeah, very good point. Cause I assumed. I don't know all these things that once you say them out loud, it's sort of like, of course the lounges aren't open at full capacity, but it says something that you again, expect to be a part of your, your ticket.

So I think that also goes for, like all the food service in those lounges and all their food service in general is all very limited. And you know, it's no longer there. Sort of rolling buffets or anything, they're all gone. So it's important to consider what exactly your options are before you leave.

Travel Elias: Yeah. And we're trying to share news and not necessarily great news, but we want you to be aware. So when you are at the airports, you don't go, Oh my God, well, what's going on? How come this lounge is closed? Or, I, I got an eight hour layover. This is what I planned on doing. So just so you're aware while you're traveling.

No. And

America Josh: it's really like, it's one thing that Josh and I talked about a lot, you know, in the last few months, because we didn't want these updates to be negative. The point isn't to, you know, be rain on anyone's parade, but we want to make sure that we've set expectations and everyone's informed, but I mean, you get a lot of people, I'm sure that, you know, they do get there on their planes and they do get back to Australia or wherever they're going.

So we do have success stories for what people are looking to do.

Travel Elias: 90% of the stories are success stories. So that's, we do want to share that, but there are some hiccups and I've been joining a lot of Facebook groups and things like that with others, Australians that have been going home, some still in the U S others that have made it back to Australia and just kind of reading over the news and some of these people what they're sharing and they're all saying, make sure you get a balcony in that room.

America Josh: Yeah. Yeah. I think if we could pick balconies that's where everyone would be ticking that box. And I, I think that's a really important thing to mention as well, is that we, we don't know yet, when quarantine, when caps will be lifted, we don't, we don't have any information. There is information to have.

You can hear my, that was it. That was rude.

Travel Elias: The dog. I have to say, I've been scouring through everything through all our contacts and the websites and everything. Just to see what the newest updates are in some, sometimes there are no updates and you just gotta, gotta go with what you have.

America Josh: That's exactly right.

It's exactly. And I think it's just important that people know that because I've gotten a few emails and people asking me, can you address some, can you chat with Elias about. You know, when travel caps are going to believe, somewhere in quarantine will be different, but unfortunately there is no right answer because that has not been set.

There is actually no facts that we can, you know, it's not that we haven't dug deep enough and we haven't looked at enough groups and, and speculated enough, but there is no answer. So as soon as we know the answer, we will no doubt be here and having a chat about how things are going to be ramping down.

But. For, from, you know, there's no point in me speculating either, but you know, I can't see it changing myself for some time. And that would be my guess without it, without any reason to change, it's going to be a little while.

Travel Elias: Yeah. And there's one last tidbit of information I wanted to share because I get this question a lot.

people wonder. What's the availability on this particular flight? Do I have, or I want to book economy. Are there enough seats for me to try to get into this or wait a day or two to so one we don't know. How many seats are booked on their flight and how many seats are available? The one thing we do know that people that are flying business versus economy have a much better shot of actually making it back home.

And I hate to say this because I'm embarrassed sometimes. Send people the pricing as some of the air, but they're on most of these flights, there are more people sitting in business class than there are an economy. Economy might have 300 seats in it, but they may only have 50 seats that are allowed to be phoned.

So, even Josh on the flight, he said there's more business class people on their flight than there were economy because they bumped all the economy, people off to make. Roland for basically the business class travelers, unfortunately it's the way in the world, I guess.

America Josh: Yeah. Okay. Sucks. But, yeah, if you're a desperately in native getting back that's unfortunately the, the cost that we will have to bear at the moment.

Yeah. Thank you. Elias mate. We're going, gonna work on your good days at the beginning every single week. Don't you worry, but we really appreciate you taking the time. And if people do want to reach out and ask you a question or get in touch about booking some flights, what's the best way to get in touch with you.

Travel Elias: The best way would be to email us at [email protected] makes it very simple and you know, you'll get an answer that day cause there'll be multiple people keeping tracking.

America Josh: Okay. No. Awesome. I'm privileged to have, my very own Liberty email address. So America, Josh. so it's [email protected]. and that'll go to Alliance and the Liberty travel team who will get back to you with information. Thank you, mate. And we'll speak to you next week.

Travel Elias: Thank you so much.

Josh Pugh

Josh Pugh

Josh is a business founding, digital marketing focused, charity driving, community builder from South Australia, living in New York City. After moving in 2017, Josh realized that there was an opportunity to curate and help the community of expats who moved to the United States – and launched America Josh. Josh is also the President of Variety – the Children's Charity of New York, Secretary at The Mateship Foundation, and Founder & CEO at Fortnight Digital.View Author posts

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