Collingwood fans face sky-high airfares to fly to Sydney for AFL final | AFL
Diehard Collingwood fans face return flights of over $1,000 to get to the Sydney Cricket Ground for the AFL preliminary final on Saturday, with many opting instead to brave overnight carpools on the Hume Highway .
Virgin Australia’s cheapest return overnight flight from Melbourne to Sydney cost $1,178 to land in time for Saturday afternoon’s game, with some options costing just under $1,500.
There was only one ticket left for Sydney at 6am on Saturday morning, priced at $799 – more expensive than a Jetstar flight from Melbourne to Bali.
The same flight a week later was selling for $200 less.
A Qantas spokesperson said “hundreds” of Collingwood fans had booked flights to Sydney ahead of this weekend’s clash.
“Since Sunday evening, Qantas and Jetstar have operated additional flights and larger aircraft between Melbourne and Sydney this weekend to help fans get to the game,” they said.
“As is always the case, each airline’s lowest fares sell out the fastest.”
Qantas and Jetstar added three more return flights for Saturday and moved four flights to larger planes, adding just under 1,000 seats each way. Two additional return flights have been added by Jetstar for Sunday.
On Tuesday morning, the cheapest round-trip overnight flight with Jetstar was $813. Flying with Qantas, the cheapest round-trip overnight flight was $956.
Prices ranged from $586 for a Saturday morning flexible ticket to $1,609 for a business seat. All red e-deal flights have been sold.
On the way back, the cheapest option was $371, departing at 6am on Sunday morning. Alternatively, travelers could shell out $3,733 to return home business class via Brisbane, arriving in Melbourne just before 11 p.m. on Sunday.
The following week, a return flight was up to $387 less.
Collingwood footballer Mason Cox called the prices “absurd”.
“Airlines are doing no favors to regain public trust,” he posted on social media.
A Virgin Australia spokesperson said the airline was “committed to delivering incredible value and choice” and was considering adding more flights due to demand.
“Fares booked very close to departure dates and times tend to be higher than the average fare, in line with the reduced number of available seats,” they said.
Night buses and trains also sold out quickly, leaving Magpie fans with little choice but a nine-hour overnight journey on the Hume Highway.
Tuesday morning, a Facebook group dedicated to the “road trip” of Collingwood brought together more than 300 members organizing carpools to the SCG.
Three $200 night buses, set up by the Magpie Army to carry nearly 60 passengers each, were nearly sold out.
Teresa Shipera has reserved a seat on one of them, departing from Southern Cross station at 1am on Saturday morning.
“The train was full and the flights were way too expensive,” she said.
A One Pies fan paid $250 for two seats on the XPT overnight train to arrive at 7 a.m. on game day with his young son.
Six hours after booking he received an email telling him that they had no more seats and that he could choose another time, which would arrive after the game, or wait up to two weeks for a repayment.
By this time almost all accommodation on Sydney Road had been taken.
All but a few of the hotel rooms in Wagga Wagga, halfway between Melbourne and Sydney, have been booked through booking.com. Fewer than a dozen rooms were available across the city center Friday night.
Gundagai, Holbrook, Yass and nearby Jugiong had no availability.
Tristan Knight was hoping for the best. He and three friends had planned to get in the car after work on Friday evening, taking night shifts in the car along the way.
“We hope to be able to find accommodation,” he said. “We’re going to have to drive all night just to play the game because the flights have cost us money.
“It’s a pretty big dedication, we get back to work at 9am on Monday…so realistically we’re going to be in Sydney for 30 hours for the game.”
Meanwhile, nearly 1,000 parking spaces are likely to be closed within the grounds of Moore Park due to recent rain and government legislation when sports fans eventually descend on Sydney.
The AFL preliminary final at the SCG coincides with the NRL semi-final at the newly reopened Allianz Stadium, the biggest back-to-back events at the venue since Covid-19. A total crowd of nearly 90,000 people was expected.
If the Lower Kippax section, closed due to wet Sydney weather, were to remain closed, only the Sydney Showground field, which takes 900 cars, would be open for the double header.