With flight prices hitting exorbitant highs, cruise agents are suggesting that booking your flights through your cruise line is the smartest move to combat increases.
Flight costs out of Australia are currently soaring, partially due to seat volume on inbound flights lagging at just 59% of 2019 levels, according to research by Tourism Australia reported in the AFR. Furthermore, these levels are only expected to reach 76% by the second quarter of 2023.
This had led to flights over December and January spiking significantly in the press, with one-way flights to cities such as New York, London and Paris sitting thousands of dollars above what travellers are used to. Some flights are costing $6,000 for a one-way economy seat, while others are at $10,000 for business in a full-service air carrier.
Michelle Levins, director of My Cruise Concierge says it’s always the duty of a travel agent to compare flights between cruise lines and general sales. However, now general flight prices have gotten so high she’s even recommending non-cruise clients to book a cruise for the cheaper flight.
“We always check all options for our clients, with the cruise lines and without as part of our service.
“Even clients who have just requested land arrangements, we have also recommended booking a small cruise in Europe to take advantage of the deals available.”
Can you save money?
Ms Levins says absolutely.
“Yes, we are seeing huge savings for clients when we book their air with cruise. Not all cruise lines have this provided as a service but those that do, are often cheap.
Sharon Summerhayes, director of Deluxe Cruise and Travel echos this sentiment, driving home that you also won’t necessarily need to pay for your flights upfront.
“You can save a packet by booking flights up with the cruise line and the benefits from doing so will give you peace of mind. You could have a flight booking secured at a great rate and not have to pay for it until your cruise balance is due.
“This is beneficial when you find a great cruise fare you can’t resist, but was not expecting a flight expense payable upfront like most flights are.”
Advantages and disadvantages
Another plus of booking through your cruise line is that you’ll be covered if any flights end up delayed and you miss your cruise.
Ms Summerhayes says: “Generally if your flights are booked with the cruise line you have arrival assurance which means if there are flight disruptions that impact your trip, you’ll be accommodated to get you to your cruise at no cost to you.
“Another benefit is that you might be in a very different time zone to your travel agent, yet you have access to the cruise line’s flight concierge wherever you are in the world in the event of a disruption.”
Ms Levins says she had a client earlier this year who had paid for flights through the cruise line and the cruise was unfortunately cancelled. However, this made it an easier process to get refunds.
“We had a cruise earlier this year that was cancelled by the cruise line due to government regulation.
“The airfare with the cruise line was held and not ticketed immediately so the clients were able to receive a full refund on their fare without needing to hold an air credit.”
As far as disadvantages, Ms Levins says: “Some disadvantages might be that with cruise lines they don’t always have the full availability and pricing but your travel agent can help you compare and check other options.”
Which cruise lines are offering the best deals?
Ms Levins says Silversea’s door-to-door deal is a big hit with clients.
“My Cruise Concierge are loving the Silversea door-to-door product which includes economy airfares amongst many other inclusions.
“We have clients that regularly use this feature, and further upgrading to business class saving them anywhere from $1000 to $4000 per person from a market business class fare.”
Ms Summerhayes says she’s been saving her Celebrity customers about $155 per person, but it’s not unusual to see even bigger savings.
“I’ve just been comparing flights to Vancouver and Hawaii for the Celebrity Solstice cruises to Australia next year and the prices are the lowest booking with the cruise line. I’ll be utilising these for my passengers to save them money, and for peace of mind.
“Currently around $155 per person saving on Sydney to Vancouver when comparing Celebrity economy flights versus direct/GDS Qantas, Air Canada and Air New Zealand. With Air Canada and Air New Zealand, these fares can be booked and paid later so they’ll be getting my client’s bookings.
“I’ve definitely seen bigger savings. Just like any group space allocation some of us have with cruises, FIT rates will go up over time making the savings bigger on the cruise airfare allocation. Having the pay later option is the biggest drawcard for most though.”
Beyond this, Ms Summerhayes notes Princess and Silversea as also offering strong savings.
“I love booking my Princess passengers on their flights, especially for Australia departures as their flexible fares are often lower than the instant purchase fares.
“They’ve been a godsend with the disruptions of late! Silversea also now have their door-to-door inclusive fares which are great value when you piece together all the separate components.”
For even bigger flight savings, you can consider turning your attention towards river cruise. Many leading river cruise lines such as APT and Uniworld are offering savings well into the thousands on flights if you’re looking to book for 2023 over the coming weeks.
With more and more cruisers are making the jump from ocean to river, it might be worth seeing whether any of these deals persuade you.