Placeholder Content Image

Singapore Airlines offers huge compensation to turbulence victims

<p>Singapore Airlines has offered compensation to passengers who were on board the SQ321 flight, that encountered deadly turbulence last month. </p> <p>One man died of a heart attack and a dozen others were <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/travel/travel-trouble/victim-identified-after-plane-hits-deadly-turbulence" target="_blank" rel="noopener">injured </a>when the flight from London to Singapore experienced sudden and extreme turbulence while flying over Myanmar. </p> <p>The flight carrying 211 passengers and 18 crew members diverted to Bangkok for an emergency landing, where the injured were treated, with some suffering spinal, brain and skull injuries. </p> <p>In a recent statement, the airline said that they will offer anyone injured on the flight from US$10,000 (AU $15,150) in compensation. </p> <p>"For passengers who sustained minor injuries from the incident, we have offered US$10,000 [$15,150] in compensation," they said. </p> <p>"For those who sustained more serious injuries from the incident, we have invited them to discuss a compensation offer."</p> <p>The airline said they sent out the compensation offers on June 10. </p> <p>"Passengers medically assessed as having sustained serious injuries, requiring long-term medical care, and requesting financial assistance are offered an advance payment of US$25,000 to address their immediate needs,"  the compensation offer read. </p> <p>They will also provide full refunds of the air fare to all passengers who were on flight SQ321, regardless of their injuries. </p> <p>All passengers were also provided AU$1,120 for their expenses in Bangkok. </p> <p>"SIA has also been covering the medical expenses of the injured passengers, and arranged for their family members and loved ones to fly up to Bangkok where requested," the airline said. </p> <p>Under international regulations, airlines must offer compensation when passengers are injured or die on a plane. </p> <p>Director of Carter Capner Law, Peter Carter, who is representing passengers on the flight, said all passengers should seek legal advice before signing anything with the airline. </p> <p>"I doubt there is anyone on the aircraft who did not suffer an injury one way or the other. The insurer should clarify that the $10,000 offer covers all passengers including those who endured the terror of the moment but were fortunate to escape physical injury," he told <em>ABC News</em>. </p> <p>"Those with any sort of injury should exercise extreme care and should be evaluated by their own medical specialists to determine how this accident might still affect them."</p> <p><em>Image: Andrew Davies/X</em></p>

Travel Trouble

Placeholder Content Image

Singapore airline passenger's emotional text mid-turbulence

<p>A mum has revealed the terrifying text she received from her son while he was on board Singapore Airlines flight that <a href="https://www.oversixty.co.nz/travel/travel-trouble/victim-identified-after-plane-hits-deadly-turbulence" target="_blank" rel="noopener">plunged 6,000 feet</a> in a matter of minutes. </p> <p>As turbulence hit the plane 11 hours into its journey from London to Singapore, Josh Barker sent what he thought would be his final text to his mum at 9.10am on May 21. </p> <p>“I don’t want to scare you, but I’m on a crazy flight. The plane is making an emergency landing… I love you all," his text read. </p> <p>His mother, Alison recalled the most "terrifying" two hours of her life after receiving the text, as she waited to hear from her son who was en route to Bali. </p> <p>“It was terrifying. I didn’t know what was going on,” she told <em>BBC</em>. </p> <p>"We didn't know whether he'd survived, it was so nerve wracking. It was the longest two hours of my life.</p> <p>"It was awful; it was petrifying."</p> <p>She said that while her son was lucky to have survived the incident, he was still in “a lot of pain” having sustained minor injuries to his teeth. </p> <p>The aircraft was hit by "severe turbulence" 11 hours into the 13-hour flight to Singapore and was forced to make an emergency landing in Bangkok, Thailand. </p> <p>71 people were left injured, and one man, British grandfather Geoffrey Kitchen passed away after suffering a heart attack when the turbulence hit. </p> <p>Of the 211 passengers on board, 56 were Australians and 23 were from New Zealand. </p> <p>Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong has issued a public apology for the incident in a video message saying that the airline is cooperating with investigations. </p> <p>"We are deeply saddened by this incident. It has resulted in one confirmed fatality, and multiple injuries," he said.</p> <p>"On behalf of Singapore Airlines, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of the deceased.</p> <p>"We are very sorry for the traumatic experience that everyone on board SQ321 went through... our deepest apologies to everyone affected by this incident."</p> <p>He also said that 143 people who had been on the flight had been taken to Singapore this morning, while the remaining 85 - including six crew members - were still in the Thai capital. </p> <p>"Singapore Airlines swiftly dispatched a team to Bangkok last night, and they have been helping our colleagues with the support on the ground," he said.</p> <p>"A relief flight with 143 of the SQ321 passengers and crew members who were able to travel landed in Singapore this morning at 5.05am.</p> <p>"Another 79 passengers and six crew members are still in Bangkok.</p> <p>"This includes the injured who are receiving medical treatment, as well as their families and loved ones who were on the flight.</p> <p>"Singapore Airlines will continue to extend all possible support to them."</p> <p><em>Images: X/ news.com.au</em></p> <p> </p>

Travel Trouble

Placeholder Content Image

Gina Rinehart's financial advice for Anthony Albanese

<p>Gina Rinehart has offered some free and unsolicited financial advice to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in the wake of his divisive Federal Budget. </p> <p>Australia's richest woman, who has no experience in politics, suggested cutting the fuel excise and halting immigration would have a greater positive impact on the economy, as opposed to the Albanese government's measures to curb the cost of living. </p> <p>Rinehart has been critical of the $300 handout to combat energy bills regardless of household income, and believes that a big-spending budget is not the best way forward.</p> <p>Rather than tax Australians more to hand the money out again through handouts and welfare, she said lower taxes overall was a better way forward.</p> <p>Ms Rinehart said cutting fuel tax, which the government has rejected as too expensive, was one option.</p> <p>“I have advocated strongly for the government to directly reduce costs of living for Australians by cutting their fuel excise taxes, which would spread not only to car users, but all products that require transport,’’ she told <a href="https://www.news.com.au/finance/economy/australian-economy/gina-rinehart-tells-anthony-albanese-to-cut-fuel-excise-migration/news-story/bb84ef69e8a19506e7e3ae3e1f678e7c" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>news.com.au</em></a>.</p> <p>“I have also advocated for cutting other taxes, payroll tax, stamp duty and license fees, that not only would bring down the cost of living, but were supposed to have been cut when GST was introduced decades ago."</p> <p>“Big spending, big government costs all (which I advocate against), and adds to the costs of living."</p> <p>“Recycling taxes paid is very inefficient, the taxpayer is actually better off paying less tax, and spending their income as they prefer.”</p> <p>Ms Rinehart, who has racked up a net worth of over $46.5 billion AUD through her investments into mining, has previously suggested a better way is to cut taxes and allow people to keep more of what they earn.</p> <p>“To help people suffering the most on low incomes, such as veterans, pensioners and uni students, if the government really cared about these fellow Australians struggling with high costs, they would remove the onerous government paperwork and their unfair limits on pensioners, veterans and students working hours, each of whom face higher effective tax rates than me if they choose to work above a very small threshold of hours,’’ she said.</p> <p>“Letting Australians who want to work, work, would be not only better for those Australians and their families, but would save the need for the government’s very expensive policy of hugely increased immigration, to allegedly bring in more workers.”</p> <p><em>Image credits: Darren England/EPA-EFE & LUKAS COCH/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Editorial</em></p> <p> </p>

Money & Banking

Placeholder Content Image

Nat Barr quizzes Jim Chalmers over one major budget flaw

<p>Nat Barr has quizzed treasurer Jim Chalmers over one major flaw in the federal budget. </p> <p>On Tuesday night, Chalmers <a href="https://oversixty.com.au/finance/money-banking/biggest-winners-and-losers-of-the-2024-25-federal-budget" target="_blank" rel="noopener">handed down</a> his third federal budget that prioritised cost-of-living relief, with one major initiative saving Aussies big on their next energy bills. </p> <p>All Australian families will get $300 off their annual electricity bill, while small businesses will also get a $325 rebate for their bills.</p> <p>Chalmers joined Nat Barr on <em>Sunrise</em> on Wednesday morning to discuss the initiative further, as the host pointed out one major flaw in the government's plan. </p> <p>“If you’re earning a million dollars, why do you need a $300 power rebate?” Barr asked.</p> <p>But Chalmers said wealthier Australians weren’t the focus of the rebate, as everyday Aussies struggling with the rising cost of living were sure to benefit. </p> <p>“It is primarily for people doing it tough — you know, millions and millions of Australians are under cost-of-living pressure,” he said.</p> <p>“We’re trying to help. So more help is on the way for millions of people under the pump. Whether it is a tax cut for every taxpayer or energy bill relief for every household.”</p> <p>Barr asked Chalmers if people earning $1 million were “under pressure”, but the treasurer said offering specifically targeted assistance was logistically impossible.</p> <p>“Once you go beyond (pensioners), you have to design a whole new system because the energy retailers that we use to provide this help, they don’t have income information for people,” he said.</p> <p>“We deliver this relief via energy bills, via the retailers. There’s not a system that allows you to slice and dice that beyond providing it either to people on pensions and payments.”</p> <p>Barr's comments were echoed online, with many slamming the logistics of the rebate on social media. </p> <p>"I'm sure Gina Rinehart is stoked she's getting $300 back on her energy bills," one person commented. </p> <p>Another added, "If this stupid government gives me $300 off my energy bills it goes straight to charity. Join me if you can afford it."</p> <p>A third wrote, "Feel like there should be an exemption in the $300 energy rebate for anyone who has ever slept under a doona with the aircon on."</p> <p><em>Image credits: Sunrise </em></p>

Money & Banking

Placeholder Content Image

Biggest winners and losers of the 2024-25 Federal Budget

<p>The unveiling of the federal budget by Treasurer Jim Chalmers was marked by a dual focus on addressing cost-of-living pressures and strategically investing in Australia's future – and was predictably met with <span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">both praise and criticism. </span></p> <p>Reflecting a delicate balancing act between providing immediate relief to vulnerable segments of society and ensuring long-term fiscal sustainability, the measures to alleviate cost-of-living pressures and support key sectors appear commendable, yet concerns persist regarding the adequacy of support for welfare recipients and the potential implications of immigration policies on international education. </p> <p>Read on for the high points, the low points, and all the biggest winners and losers of the federal budget for 2024-25.</p> <p><strong>BIGGEST WINNERS:</strong></p> <p><strong>Low and Middle-Income Earners:</strong></p> <p>At the core of the budget lies a commitment to alleviate the financial strain on low and middle-income earners. With the implementation of stage three tax cuts, Australians can anticipate a welcome increase in their take-home pay. These cuts, announced earlier in the year, are projected to inject an average of $36 per week into taxpayers' pockets by 2024-25. Notably, this initiative is expected to benefit 84% of taxpayers and 90% of women, signalling a targeted effort to support those most in need.</p> <p><strong>Parents:</strong></p> <p>In a move towards greater gender equality and financial security, the government has extended superannuation payments to parents on paid leave. This initiative aims to bridge the superannuation gap and provide approximately 180,000 families annually with additional financial support during crucial early parenting stages.</p> <p><strong>Households and Small Businesses:</strong></p> <p>Acknowledging the escalating energy costs, a $300 rebate on energy bills was announced for more than 10 million households. It was this facet of the budget that drew ire from Jacqui Lambie, Federal Senator for Tasmania, who was furious over the "bizarre" decision, which sees funds being spent on high-income earners such as herself at a time of rising inflation. 'We don't need $300, I can assure you,' she said to a post-budget panel on <em>ABC's Insiders</em> on Tuesday night. "That [funding] should have been passed forward. I find it bizarre."</p> <p>Additionally, small businesses stand to benefit from a $325 boost to alleviate power bill pressures. The extension of the instant asset write-off and the abolishment of 457 nuisance tariffs signal the government's commitment to supporting small businesses and fostering economic growth.</p> <p><strong>Aged Care Workers, Renters, Women, Last-Minute Travellers, Music Festivals, and PBS Patients:</strong></p> <p>The budget also addresses various sectors of society, including aged care workers, renters, women, last-minute travellers, music festivals and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme patients. Measures such as wage increases, rent assistance, healthcare subsidies and support for cultural events underscore the government's multifaceted approach to addressing societal needs.</p> <p><strong>Students:</strong></p> <p>Recognising the financial challenges faced by students, the government has taken steps to ease the burden of student debt. By wiping out $3 billion in student debt and overhauling the indexation of HECS debt, thousands of Australian students stand to benefit. Moreover, the introduction of payments for compulsory work placements acknowledges the financial strain faced by students pursuing vocational and tertiary education.</p> <p><strong>BIGGEST LOSERS:</strong></p> <p><strong style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">International Students:</strong></p> <p>In response to concerns about housing shortages and migration pressures, the government has signaled a crackdown on the influx of international students. Universities will be required to match enrolment growth with adequate housing infrastructure, potentially limiting opportunities for international students seeking education in Australia.</p> <p><strong style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">Welfare Recipients:</strong></p> <p>Despite calls for a significant increase in JobSeeker and Youth Allowance payments, the budget falls short of implementing substantial changes in welfare support. While some targeted assistance is provided to individuals facing barriers to employment, broader calls for income support reform remain unaddressed.</p> <p><strong>High-Income Earners:</strong></p> <p>While the budget aims to provide relief to low and middle-income earners, high-income earners may experience a less substantial boost to their incomes compared to previous projections. This recalibration reflects the government's commitment to a fair and equitable distribution of resources.</p> <p><em>Image: ABC</em></p>

Money & Banking

Placeholder Content Image

“The spirit of Australia”: Rival airlines' actions praised after Bonza collapse

<p>Thousands of passengers were left stranded across the country when budget airline Bonza cancelled all their flights and announced that they have entered into voluntary administration. </p> <p>“Bonza has temporarily suspended services due to be operated today, as discussions are currently underway regarding the ongoing viability of the business,” CEO Tim Jordan said. </p> <p>“We apologise to our customers who are impacted by this and we are working as quickly as possible to determine a way forward that ensures there is ongoing competition in the Australian aviation market," he later told news.com.au.</p> <p>Rival airlines, including Jetstar, Qantas and Virgin have all stepped in to help passengers and staff affected by Bonza's sudden collapse. </p> <p>Jetstar and Virgin Australia sprung into action when one passenger, <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/travel/travel-trouble/not-good-enough-karl-takes-aim-at-airline-cancellation" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Tracy Hilbert</a>, revealed her devastation after her morning flight to Melbourne got cancelled on the day that she was planning to be with her family following her father's passing on Monday. </p> <p>The two airlines helped her get to her destination without charging her for a ticket.</p> <p>Jetstar, which is owned by Qantas, also released a statement on Tuesday and said:  “We understand today’s news about Bonza will have a significant impact on many people’s travel plans.”</p> <p>“For Bonza customers who are due to travel today or who are stuck away from home, Jetstar and Qantas will assist by providing flights at no cost where there are seats available.”</p> <p>Qantas also released a statement offering employment support to staff affected by the budget airline's collapse. </p> <p>“We extend our thoughts to our aviation industry colleagues and their families – from pilots and cabin crew to flight planners and operations controllers,” it read.</p> <p>“If Bonza employees would like to discuss recruitment opportunities within Jetstar and Qantas, particularly in specialised fields which are unique to aviation, we’ve set up a dedicated page on the Jetstar careers website.</p> <p>“For any customers with a cancelled Bonza flight on a route we operate, to make sure you’re not further out of pocket, you can fly with us at no cost where we have seats available.”</p> <p>Virgin Australia also extended its hand to staff seeking employment, and offered support to any passengers stranded mid-journey with complimentary seats, where available. </p> <p>“When Bonza started in Australia, we welcomed its launch because competition makes us all better and benefits consumers. We are saddened to hear of Bonza’s current situation and the impacts on its people, customers and partners,” the statement read.</p> <p>“We will do what we can to support Bonza’s employees by prioritising them for any current and future roles at Virgin Australia, and encourage them to contact our careers team at recruitmentteam@virginaustralia.com if they wish.”</p> <p>The three airlines' responses have been applauded by the aviation industry and Aussies alike with many branding it “the spirit of Australia”. </p> <p><em>Image: </em><em>Lachie Millard/ news.com.au</em></p>

Domestic Travel

Placeholder Content Image

What just happened to Bonza? Why new budget airlines always struggle in Australia

<div class="theconversation-article-body"> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ian-douglas-2932">Ian Douglas</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/seena-sarram-1469656">Seena Sarram</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p>The history of budget jet airlines in Australia is a long road <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/traveller/travel-news/grounded-five-of-australias-biggest-airline-failures-20221216-h28pzn.html">littered with broken dreams</a>. New entrants have consistently struggled to get a foothold.</p> <p>Low-cost carrier Bonza has just become the industry’s <a href="https://www.afr.com/companies/transport/bonza-flights-cancelled-as-aircraft-repossessed-20240430-p5fnjf">latest casualty</a>, entering voluntary administration on Tuesday after abruptly cancelling all flights.</p> <p>Losing the airline would be heartbreaking for the 24 regional Australian locations that were <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/system/files/domestic-airline-competition-report-february2024_0.pdf">not connected directly</a> by any other airline. It would also mean even less competition in a heavily concentrated domestic air travel market. Over 85% of routes are operated by just <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/system/files/domestic-airline-competition-report-february2024_0.pdf">three airline groups</a>.</p> <p>But Bonza hasn’t just fallen into this situation by chance. Strategic missteps likely played a key role from the very beginning.</p> <h2>What went wrong</h2> <p>First, running an airline is an expensive business – any cost savings airlines can find are extremely valuable.</p> <p>Bonza chose to enter the Australian market with a very small fleet of <a href="https://skybrary.aero/aircraft-family/b737-series">Boeing B737</a> jet aircraft. But these had no operating cost advantage over the B737s already flown by Qantas, Virgin and Rex. Bonza’s small fleet also lacked any scale advantage in scheduling aircraft or crew.</p> <p>Second, to sell tickets, Bonza adopted a radically different “<a href="https://flybonza.com/media/bonza-gets-wheels-up#:%7E:text=Bonza%20is%20the%20first%20airline,uniform%20including%20custom%20Bonza%20sneakers.">app first</a>” approach. The only place customers could search for and book tickets directly was the official Bonza app. But this meant potential customers using conventional search tools – such as search engines or booking websites – often couldn’t find Bonza flights.</p> <p>The fact Bonza <a href="https://www.couriermail.com.au/business/qld-business/gold-coast-airport-sweetheart-deals-raise-concern-for-bonza/news-story/5ecdfe749b7c8a636cfe740ee0359ba3">struggled</a> to gain traction on its routes to Gold Coast airport, which handles a sizeable 250,000 domestic passengers each month, underscores this issue with the company’s approach.</p> <p>And third, although it served a unique range of locations, Bonza’s flight schedule across its network was far from optimal. In some cases, routes were flown only <em>once weekly</em>, compared to much more frequent gateway city services on Rex and QantasLink.</p> <p>For European airlines like easyJet or Ryanair, less-than-daily flights to smaller tourist destinations might be viable. But these airlines have the scale and connectivity to offer customers alternative pathways across their networks. Unlike Bonza, small regional routes are not at the core of their business model.</p> <h2>Making an airline succeed</h2> <p>Bonza isn’t the first Australian budget carrier to fail, and likely won’t be the last. Why are so many new entrants doomed to fail?</p> <p>Making a jet airline succeed hinges on optimising three key factors – market scale, airport access, and geography. For would-be budget airlines, Australia offers a brutal starting ground on all three.</p> <p><strong>Market scale</strong></p> <p><a href="https://www.icao.int/sustainability/Pages/Low-Cost-Carriers.aspx">Low-cost carrier</a> and ultra low-cost carrier airlines have successfully gained strong footholds in Europe, the US, and Southeast Asia. But these markets are orders of magnitude larger than Australia.</p> <p>The US, for example, offers airlines a market of <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/183600/population-of-metropolitan-areas-in-the-us/">large cities across a large area</a>. New York’s population is approaching 20 million, Chicago 9.6 million, Houston 7.1 million, and Miami 6.1 million.</p> <p>The population of the European Union is close to 450 million. And if you include the UK, there are over 30 cities in Europe with populations over 1 million. Australian carriers have only a handful of cities on that scale.</p> <p>Australia lacks both the population density of Europe, and the range of secondary airports that European low-cost carriers have leveraged to access nearby markets and to drive down operating costs.</p> <p>After more than a year of operation, Bonza had only achieved an overall market share of <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/system/files/domestic-airline-competition-report-february2024_0.pdf">about 2%</a>.</p> <p><strong>Airport access</strong></p> <p>Airport access is the next key barrier facing low-cost and ultra low-cost market entrants. The main routes between large Australian cities are all in a corridor along the east coast, and the largest flow into Sydney.</p> <p>Use of Sydney airport is heavily constrained, both by the incumbent operators who <a href="https://australianaviation.com.au/2023/07/sydney-slot-system-a-threat-to-bonza-owner-hints/">hold most of the slots</a>, and by regulations that artificially limit the flow of aircraft at peak times to just 80 movements (take-offs or landings) per hour.</p> <p>In contrast, London Heathrow, another constrained two-runway airport, delivers a capacity of <a href="https://www.caa.co.uk/media/dwfgyk53/estimating-the-congestion-premium-at-heathrow.pdf">88 movements per hour</a>.</p> <p>Completion of the new Western Sydney Airport will provide some relief from this capacity constraint. But it will not alter the fact Sydney Airport operates under an imposed constraint on operations.</p> <p><strong>Geography</strong></p> <p>Geography is the third constraint in Australia. Unlike Europe, the US, or Southeast Asia, most of our major cities are in a line on the east coast. There is no hub to connect our major cities with smaller regional points.</p> <p>Towns that are too distant for convenient rail or road links often have populations that are too small to support viable – let alone frequent – flights to the larger centres.</p> <p>Some regional routes are successfully serviced by small “<a href="https://nbaa.org/business-aviation/business-aircraft/turboprop-aircraft/">turboprop</a>” aircraft. Operating these incurs a higher cost per passenger than the passenger jets connecting the major cities. But it makes no sense to fly larger aircraft on these routes if the planes are half empty.</p> <h2>A big loss for regional Australia</h2> <p>The combination of Australia’s small population, the capacity constraints imposed on Sydney Airport, the presence of strong incumbent airlines, and our linear east coast market make new entry difficult.</p> <p>Virgin Blue occupied the space created by the collapse of Ansett. But Impulse, Tiger, Air Australia, Ozjet, and two versions of Compass were unsuccessful market entrants. Even Air New Zealand – which has the fleet, brand strength, and market access to support entering the market – chooses not to operate domestically in Australia.</p> <p>Understanding why new entrants fail offers little consolation to underserved regional towns in Australia. But given Bonza’s small footprint, capital city travellers looking for more competition on the major east coast routes will hardly notice a change.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/228995/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ian-douglas-2932">Ian Douglas</a>, Honorary Senior Lecturer, UNSW Aviation., <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/seena-sarram-1469656">Seena Sarram</a>, Lawyer and Casual Academic, UNSW School of Aviation, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/unsw-sydney-1414">UNSW Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Bonza - PR Image</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-just-happened-to-bonza-why-new-budget-airlines-always-struggle-in-australia-228995">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Travel Trouble

Placeholder Content Image

Battling to make ends meet? Financial planning expert offers 5 tips on how to build your budget

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/bomikazi-zeka-680577">Bomikazi Zeka</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-canberra-865">University of Canberra</a></em></p> <p>Every day seems to bring new headlines about rising costs. <a href="https://www.news24.com/news24/africa/news/nigerias-big-unions-call-indefinite-strike-over-fuel-prices-and-the-cost-of-living-20230926">In Nigeria</a>, unions are threatening to strike amid soaring fuel prices; the country’s inflation rate <a href="https://www.cbn.gov.ng/rates/inflrates.asp">hit 25%</a> in August. The amount it costs to fill a food basket in South Africa <a href="https://pmbejd.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/PMBEJD_Key-Data_September-2023_27092023.pdf">keeps climbing</a>. Ghanaians <a href="https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/multi-day-protests-over-economic-crisis-grip-ghanas-capital-2023-09-23/">took to the streets</a> of Accra in late September to protest about the cost of living.</p> <p>A <a href="https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/industry/retail-distribution/consumer-behavior-trends-state-of-the-consumer-tracker.html">recent study by the audit and consulting firm Deloitte</a> found that 75% of South Africans were concerned that the prices for everyday purchases would continue to increase, while 80% of consumers across all income groups expected the prices of groceries, household utilities and fuel to rise.</p> <p>This stark reality means budgeting may be more necessary than ever.</p> <p>If you don’t know how to create a budget, then you shouldn’t feel bad – most adults aren’t taught how to create one. And most people don’t budget, because they see it as restrictive or unsustainable. But it need not be: once you appreciate that a budget can work for you, it can be a financially empowering exercise. It’s a cornerstone of financial planning because it ensures you are living within your means and helps you remain in financial control.</p> <p>As a financial planning academic, I focus in <a href="https://researchprofiles.canberra.edu.au/en/persons/bomikazi-zeka/publications/">my research</a> on improving financial wellbeing and promoting savings behaviours through interventions such as budgeting. Here are five guidelines for creating a budget.</p> <h2>1. Apps vs spreadsheet</h2> <p>A good place to start is to choose the format of how you’re going to budget. There are several <a href="https://www.sanlamreality.co.za/wealth-sense/setting-up-a-family-budget-that-works/">online templates</a> and apps you can use for budgeting. For instance, <a href="https://www.22seven.com/">22Seven</a> has gained popularity in South Africa due to its compatibility with several financial institutions, including the country’s big five banks. Similarly, <a href="https://www.the-star.co.ke/business/kenya/2021-01-25-budgeting-using-mint-app/">Mint</a> is a popular budgeting tool that is used in Kenya and Nigeria.</p> <p>If you prefer to put pen to paper, some online templates come with <a href="https://www.wonga.co.za/blog/free-budget-template">free printable budgets</a>. Creating your own <a href="https://create.microsoft.com/en-us/learn/articles/how-to-make-excel-budget">Excel spreadsheet</a> is an equally good approach.</p> <p>What matters most is using a tool that you can commit to.</p> <h2>2. Itemising your income and expenses</h2> <p>A budget essentially shows how much you’re spending in relation to how much you’re earning. So once you have selected your budgeting tool, you need to fill in your income and itemise how much you’re spending on each expense in a month. A budget can be considered a cashflow statement because it allows you to track money coming in (income) and money going out (expenses).</p> <p>If you are living within your means, your budget should indicate a surplus – more cash inflows than cash outflows. So budgeting provides an accurate account of your short-term financial position.</p> <h2>3. A realistic account of expenses</h2> <p>When you look at your financial statements, fill your expenses into your budget honestly and accurately. Don’t cheat! Since everyone’s financial situation is different, your budget will also be unique.</p> <p>Even though there is no one-size-fits-all approach to budgeting, it should still consider all of your expenses (both regular and intermittent). A general rule of thumb is that if it’s deducted from your account then you should treat it as an expense. This includes payments for housing, medical insurance, fuel, dining out, credit card repayments and even bank fees.</p> <h2>4. Save first, spend later</h2> <p>Now you’ve seen how much you’re spending. Either it’s too much – and you can plan where to cut back – or you have savings at the end of the month.</p> <p>When compiling your budget it’s important to demarcate how much will be in the form of savings. What’s more important is getting into the habit of saving before you spend instead of saving after spending. If you spend first then you’ve deprived yourself of the opportunity to save for a rainy day.</p> <p>Furthermore, <a href="https://eprints.hud.ac.uk/id/eprint/10231/1/Microsoft_Word_-_submitted_version_3rd_June_201.pdf">research</a> has shown that getting into the habit of saving has a transgenerational effect: it can be considered a cultural value that is passed on from one generation to another. So think of saving as paying yourself first. Once you have done so, you won’t feel guilty for treating yourself because you’ve already done the financially responsible thing by putting your savings aside.</p> <h2>5. Considering assets and liabilities</h2> <p>Once you’ve become comfortable with consistently budgeting, you can take it up a notch by including your assets (everything you own with an economic value) and liabilities (everything you owe) to determine your overall financial position.</p> <p>You can get a clearer picture of your overall financial wellbeing by compiling a list of all your assets, for example your savings and <a href="https://www.investopedia.com/terms/h/home_equity.asp">home equity</a>, in relation to liabilities (such as bank loans). Knowing your long-term financial position can indicate how financially resilient or vulnerable you are. In the event of a financial emergency, you will know which resources you can draw upon to meet an unexpected expense.</p> <p>By creating a budget (and sticking to it), you can protect yourself and your household from financial shocks. Consider the alternative. Imagine you haven’t budgeted and set savings aside. If a financial emergency were to arise, your next best bet would be to borrow the funds you need. You’d have to come up with a plan to repay what you’d borrowed while also building your savings.</p> <h2>A healthy habit</h2> <p>Getting into the habit of budgeting isn’t easy, especially if you haven’t done it before or you’re intimidated by the process. But, as the expression goes, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. Think of budgeting as taking a small but important step towards reclaiming control over your finances and improving your financial well-being.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/214861/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/bomikazi-zeka-680577">Bomikazi Zeka</a>, Assistant Professor in Finance and Financial Planning, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-canberra-865">University of Canberra</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/battling-to-make-ends-meet-financial-planning-expert-offers-5-tips-on-how-to-build-your-budget-214861">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Money & Banking

Placeholder Content Image

"Not good enough": Karl takes aim at airline cancellation

<p>Karl Stefanovic has ripped into Aussie airline Bonza, who cancelled all their flights at the last minute and left people stranded all across the country. </p> <p>One of the travellers who were left abandoned was Tracy Hilbert, who was due to fly out of Melbourne on Tuesday morning to see her family after her father suddenly died on Monday night. </p> <p>However, instead of being with her mother and brother, she instead spent the day stuck inside the airport after a fellow passenger informed her their flight had been cancelled with no warning. </p> <p>Tracy spoke to Karl Stefanovic and Sarah Abo on <em>Today</em> to share how let down she felt by the airline, as they failed to communicate the cancellation with their customers. </p> <p>“I text my husband. He said, ‘yes, it’s been cancelled’ and sent me all the details,” Ms Hilbert told <em>Today</em>.</p> <p>“Then the crew came in and about a 5.45am they said that it’s been cancelled.”</p> <p>Ms Hilbert fought back tears as she told Karl and Sarah the heartbreaking reason why she was so desperate to make her flight. </p> <p>“I’ve actually had my father pass away last night, so I needed to get up there because my brother text me and said that he’s not in a good way.”</p> <p>Ms Hilbert’s husband quickly booked her a flight with the budget airline last night, not realising that as of this morning, services will be “temporarily suspended”.</p> <p>“I’ve never had this problem with them before,” Ms Hilbert said. “It’s only a two-hour flight but now it’s going to take me all day to get up there.”</p> <p>Thankfully for Ms Hilbert, along with thousands of other stranded passengers, Virgin and Jetstar said those who were affected by the cancellation would be assisted to get to their destination. </p> <p>“We are aware of the temporary suspension of Bonza flights,” Virgin posted on X.</p> <p>“We will immediately support any passengers stranded mid-journey by offering complimentary seats on Virgin Australia-operated flights to the airport nearest to their final planned Bonza destination.”</p> <p>While wondering if she would receive a refund for her cancelled flight, Ms Hilbert said she was frustrated with the lack of communication with Bonza, saying, "You can’t talk to anybody, it’s all through emails.”</p> <p>Ms Hilbert said it’s all been “very hard” as she should have been with her mother, brother and other family now.</p> <p>“Oh, sweetheart. Hey, Tracy, we’ll let you go,” Karl quickly responded as Ms Hilbert continued to break down in tears.</p> <p>“Obviously there’s going to be a lot of people who are inconvenienced. You’re inconvenienced in a whole lot more emotional away. And it’s such a big thing for you to be handling right now. And we’re so sorry for your loss.”</p> <p>Karl hit out at the airline saying the very least they can do is communicate with travellers who have been left in the lurch. </p> <p>“It’s not good enough just to say something is cancelled. They might be going through the most, you know, horrible business morning of their lives, but that shouldn’t stop you from communicating with people."</p> <p>“It’s just a basic human necessity. And especially for people like Tracy.”</p> <p>On Tuesday, Bonza CEO Tim Jordan said services will be “temporarily suspended” while discussions surrounding the “viability of the business” take place.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Today </em></p>

Travel Trouble

Placeholder Content Image

Beyond the spin, beyond the handouts, here’s how to get a handle on what’s really happening on budget night

<div class="theconversation-article-body"><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/peter-martin-682709">Peter Martin</a>, <em><a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/crawford-school-of-public-policy-australian-national-university-3292">Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University</a></em></p> <p>Three weeks from now, some of us will be presented with a <a href="https://budget.gov.au/">mountain</a> of budget papers, and just about all of us will get to hear about them on radio, TV or news websites on budget night.</p> <p>The quickest way to find out what the budget is really doing will be to listen to the treasurer’s speech, or to peruse online the aptly-named “<a href="https://treasury.infoservices.com.au/page/budget2023">glossy</a>” – a document that last year was titled “<a href="https://archive.budget.gov.au/2023-24/overview/download/budget_overview.pdf">Stronger foundations for a better future</a>”.</p> <figure class="align-right zoomable"><a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/589444/original/file-20240422-23-vkinrm.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=1000&fit=clip"><img src="https://images.theconversation.com/files/589444/original/file-20240422-23-vkinrm.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=237&fit=clip" sizes="(min-width: 1466px) 754px, (max-width: 599px) 100vw, (min-width: 600px) 600px, 237px" srcset="https://images.theconversation.com/files/589444/original/file-20240422-23-vkinrm.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=600&h=848&fit=crop&dpr=1 600w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/589444/original/file-20240422-23-vkinrm.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=600&h=848&fit=crop&dpr=2 1200w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/589444/original/file-20240422-23-vkinrm.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=600&h=848&fit=crop&dpr=3 1800w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/589444/original/file-20240422-23-vkinrm.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=45&auto=format&w=754&h=1066&fit=crop&dpr=1 754w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/589444/original/file-20240422-23-vkinrm.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=30&auto=format&w=754&h=1066&fit=crop&dpr=2 1508w, https://images.theconversation.com/files/589444/original/file-20240422-23-vkinrm.png?ixlib=rb-4.1.0&q=15&auto=format&w=754&h=1066&fit=crop&dpr=3 2262w" alt="Cover of 2023 budget glossy" /></a><figcaption><span class="caption">Glossies are used to make each budget attractive.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="source" href="https://archive.budget.gov.au/2023-24/overview/download/budget_overview.pdf">Commonwealth Treasury</a></span></figcaption></figure> <p>But they will tell you exactly what the government wants you to hear, exactly as it wants you to hear it.</p> <p>If you are looking instead for the truth – what the government is actually trying to achieve and what it is holding itself and its officials to, I would suggest something else, tucked away on about page <a href="https://cdn.theconversation.com/static_files/files/3225/8787.pdf">87</a> of the main budget document.</p> <p>It is required by the <a href="https://www.legislation.gov.au/C2004A05333/latest/text">Charter of Budget Honesty Act</a> introduced in 1998 by Peter Costello, the treasurer under Prime Minister John Howard.</p> <p>On taking office in 1996, Costello set up a <a href="https://webarchive.nla.gov.au/awa/20101119021633/http://www.finance.gov.au/archive/archive-of-publications/ncoa/execsum.htm">National Commission of Audit</a> to examine the finances he had inherited from the Hawke and Keating governments, presumably with an eye to discovering they had been mismanaged.</p> <p>But the members of the commission weren’t much interested in that. Instead, they decided to deal with something more fundamental.</p> <h2>Budget as you wish, but explain your strategy</h2> <p>Governments were perfectly entitled to manage money in whatever way they wanted, and they were perfectly entitled to spend more money than they raised (which they usually do, it’s called a <a href="https://www.investopedia.com/terms/d/deficit.asp">budget deficit</a>).</p> <p>What the commission wanted was for governments to make clear what they were doing, and to spell out the strategy behind it.</p> <p>Only part of it was about being upfront with the public. The commission also wanted governments to be upfront with themselves – to actually develop frameworks for what they were doing, rather than doing whatever they felt like.</p> <p>The commission recommended a <a href="https://webarchive.nla.gov.au/awa/20101119021633/http://www.finance.gov.au/archive/archive-of-publications/ncoa/execsum.htm">Charter of Budget Honesty</a>, which among other things requires officials to prepare independent assessments of the finances before each election, requires budget updates six months after each budget, and requires <a href="https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/BriefingBook45p/TaxExpenditures">tax expenditures</a> (tax breaks) to be accounted for like other expenditures.</p> <p>And it requires the publication and regular updating of a <a href="https://cdn.theconversation.com/static_files/files/3227/CBH_Fiscal_strategy.pdf">fiscal strategy statement</a>.</p> <h2>Where treasurers hold themselves accountable</h2> <p>The <a href="https://cdn.theconversation.com/static_files/files/3225/8787.pdf">fiscal strategy</a> can be thought of as an exam question set by the student who is being examined – something along the lines of “this is what you say you want your budget to achieve, please set out the means by which you plan to achieve it”.</p> <p>It turns out to have been exceptionally effective in getting governments to organise their thoughts, make budgets at least try to achieve something, and let the rest of us know what they are trying to achieve.</p> <p>Every few years, treasurers change the strategy, as is their right. Treasurer Jim Chalmers says he’ll change it again this budget, to de-emphasise the fight against inflation and to more greatly emphasise the need to <a href="https://ministers.treasury.gov.au/ministers/jim-chalmers-2022/transcripts/press-conference-washington-dc-0">support economic growth</a>.</p> <p>His statement will tell us what’s behind his actions in a way the glossy words in his brochure and speech might not.</p> <h2>The strategy that has signposted 26 years</h2> <p>Previous statements have signposted all the important turns in what the budget is trying to do.</p> <p>The first, in <a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/589686/original/file-20240423-16-rncqg3.PNG">1998</a>, committed Costello and Howard to achieving a budget surplus on average over the economic cycle and whenever “growth prospects remain sound”.</p> <p>Making that commitment more difficult was another “not to introduce new taxes or raise existing taxes over the term of this parliament”.</p> <p>Two years later, after the government had won an election promising a new goods and services tax, that commitment was <a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/589692/original/file-20240423-18-q843xn.PNG">changed</a> to “no increase in the overall tax burden from its 1996-97 level”, a condition met by calling the GST a state tax.</p> <h2>Hockey and Morrison wound back spending</h2> <p>The Labor budgets from 2008 <a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/589702/original/file-20240423-18-mikx6f.PNG">loosened</a> the tax target to the <em>average</em> share of GDP below the reference year, which they changed to the higher-tax year of 2007-08.</p> <p>The first Coalition budget under Treasurer Joe Hockey in 2014 changed the target from tax to spending, pledging to bring down the ratio of <a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/589705/original/file-20240423-16-9spkdy.PNG">payments to GDP</a>, and pledging a surplus of 1% of GDP by 2023-24.</p> <p>Any new spending would be more than offset by cuts elsewhere, and if the budget did receive a burst of unexpected revenue it would be “banked” rather than spent.</p> <p>In 2018 Treasurer Scott Morrison reintroduced tax as a target, that he spelled out precisely. Tax was not to increase beyond <a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/589706/original/file-20240423-16-b7gj5d.PNG">23.9%</a> of GDP.</p> <h2>During COVID, Frydenberg spent big</h2> <p>In 2020, in the face of a COVID-induced recession and soaring unemployment, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg pushed the old strategy to one side.</p> <p>They would spend big now to keep the economy afloat so they wouldn’t have to spend more bailing it out later, and they wouldn’t return to their old concern about the deficit until the unemployment rate was “<a href="https://cdn.theconversation.com/static_files/files/3228/fs2020.pdf">comfortably below 6%</a>”.</p> <p>So well did they succeed that in 2021 Frydenberg made the momentous decision to keep going, abandoning the promise to return to worrying about the deficit when unemployment fell below 6%.</p> <p>Instead he promised to keep spending big until unemployment was “<a href="https://images.theconversation.com/files/589709/original/file-20240423-16-9pmpaf.PNG">back to pre-crisis levels or lower</a>”.</p> <p>The decision propelled unemployment down to a 50-year low of <a href="https://www.datawrapper.de/_/wPfXO/">3.5%</a>.</p> <p>Along with high iron ore prices, that one change of strategy has probably helped deliver Chalmers two consecutive budget surpluses – the one he announced last year for 2022-23, and the one he is set to announce this year for 2023-24. More of us have been in jobs <a href="https://www.finance.gov.au/publications/commonwealth-monthly-financial-statements/2024/mfs-january">paying tax</a>, and fewer have been out of jobs <a href="https://theconversation.com/half-a-million-more-australians-on-welfare-not-unless-you-double-count-227342">on benefits</a>.</p> <p>It’s a powerful demonstration of the real-world difference budget decisions can make, and the way in which the <a href="https://cdn.theconversation.com/static_files/files/3225/8787.pdf">fiscal strategy</a> tells the story.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/228387/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/peter-martin-682709">Peter Martin</a>, Visiting Fellow, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/crawford-school-of-public-policy-australian-national-university-3292">Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/beyond-the-spin-beyond-the-handouts-heres-how-to-get-a-handle-on-whats-really-happening-on-budget-night-228387">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Money & Banking

Placeholder Content Image

What to expect from the federal budget

<p>There's just three weeks left until Treasurer Jim Chalmers unveils the federal budget.</p> <p>With the cost of living crisis still a major issue across the country, we can expect to see some policies aimed at alleviating the pressure. </p> <p>Some policies, have already been announced and here are a few others that we can expect to hear from Chalmers on May 14. </p> <p>Stage 3 cuts announced in January, will form a key part of this year's budget, which will direct more benefit towards low- and middle-income earners – although Australians on high salaries will still receive a tax cut.</p> <p>The decision was made to alleviate the cost-of-living pressures and partly address the bracket creep. The cuts lower the threshold for the lowest two brackets (so they pay less tax on that income), and raise the threshold for the highest two brackets (so they need to earn more to be taxed at a higher rate). </p> <p>This means that someone with average income of around $73,000 will get $1504, but how much you actually receive will depend on your income. </p> <p>The new version of the stage 3 cuts will come into effect on July 1.</p> <p>Superannuation will be paid on government-funded parental leave, with the change due to kick in for parents with babies born after July 1, 2025.</p> <p>They will receive a 12 per cent superannuation on top of their government-funded parental leave, with around 180,000 families expected to benefit from it. </p> <p>The figures will be included in the May 14 budget. </p> <p>Although nothing has been officially announced,  there will likely be HECS-HELP debt relief for current and former students. </p> <p>"I think there's a range of areas where we need to do much better with the younger generation, and HECS is one of them," Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on radio on April 18.</p> <p>"We've received a review of that... and what that has said is that the system can be made simpler and be made fairer.</p> <p>"We're examining the recommendations and we'll be making announcements pretty soon on that. We, of course, have a budget coming up."</p> <p>There have also been some hints from the government that energy bill relief will continue in this year's budget. </p> <p>"Our government understands that for small business – as for Australian families – energy bills remain a source of financial pressure," Albanese said, citing the existing policy that gives eligible families up to $500 off their power bills and eligible small businesses up to $650.</p> <p>"Our government understands that for small business – as for Australian families – energy bills remain a source of financial pressure," he said.</p> <p>"That's why the energy bill relief package I negotiated with the states and territories delivered up to $650 in savings for around 1 million small businesses, along with 5 million families.</p> <p>"And as we put together next month's budget, small businesses and families will again be front and centre in our thinking."</p> <p>Energy bills are also set to go down, or remain stable for the most part from July 1. </p> <p><em>Image: Getty</em></p>

Money & Banking

Placeholder Content Image

Your passport to salon-quality haircare on a budget

<p dir="ltr">There’s nothing quite like the feeling of walking out of the hairdressers to proudly show off your new cut or colour, and your hair is the softest it's ever felt. </p> <p dir="ltr">While this post-salon feeling is second to none, it's hard to recreate at home to avoid spending big bucks at your hairdressers more than you need to. </p> <p dir="ltr">And then begins the seemingly endless journey to find a shampoo and conditioner that works for your unique hair type without breaking the bank. Trawling down the aisles of supermarkets and chemists in search of these elusive products can often raise more questions than answers. </p> <p dir="ltr">What ingredients should you be steering clear of? What brands are better than others? What problem area should you be targeting? Does more expensive actually mean better?</p> <p dir="ltr">And so on and so forth, forever. </p> <p dir="ltr">Until, an unsung hero swoops in to save the day. </p> <p dir="ltr">After absolutely perfecting affordable makeup, Revlon have made their foray into haircare, with Revlon Professional having the answer for everyone’s individual hair care needs while keeping the prices low.   </p> <p dir="ltr">Revlon Professional have a shampoo, conditioner and hair mask to cover everyone, with their systems covering everything from hydration and volume to colour protection, restoration, curly hair maintenance and more. </p> <p dir="ltr">I tried out the Revlon Professional RE/START Hydration system over two weeks while on holiday to really put it to the test.</p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/p/C1X1n6AI9FP/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"> </div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"> <div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style="width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"> </div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/C1X1n6AI9FP/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by Revlon Professional Australia (@revlonprofessionalaustralia)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p dir="ltr">While I was testing out the three-step system, I was exposing my hair to chlorine pools, salty ocean water and relentless humidity. On top of this, my poor hair has suffered years of abuse (at my own hands), and has been bleached several times, draining my hair of any natural moisture.</p> <p dir="ltr">I have tried dozens of ultra hydration products to make my hair look marginally better than a hay bale, and have yet to find my holy grail solution. </p> <p dir="ltr">I was expecting the Revlon Professional range to do what every other product does: give me maybe 12 hours of softness before my hair goes back to looking like a tumbleweed.</p> <p dir="ltr">Obviously my years of trying every product on the market has made me jaded, because the  RE/START Hydration system was so much more than I ever expected. </p> <p dir="ltr">Over two weeks of trying out the products, I used the shampoo, conditioner and mask about four times. After the first time of using them, I was completely shocked at how hydrated my hair stayed until it was next time for a wash. </p> <p dir="ltr">Unlike other products on the market, the RE/START Hydration system keeps your hair hydrated for days, all while looking clean, healthy, shiny and untangled, without weighing your hair down. </p> <p dir="ltr">At last, I have finally found my holy grail products and I will sing their praises from the rooftops. </p> <p dir="ltr">Whatever your hair concerns may be, Revlon Professional has the answer for you, all while keeping your wallet in mind. </p> <p dir="ltr">But don’t just take my word for it. The Revlon Professional ranges are available at <a href="https://www.adorebeauty.com.au/b/revlon-professional.html?p=2">Adore Beauty</a>, <a href="https://www.ozhairandbeauty.com/brands/revlon-professional">Oz Hair &amp; Beauty</a> and Revlon’s <a href="https://www.revlonprofessional.com/">official website</a> for you to find your own holy grail products, and have salon fresh hair all year round. </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p>

Beauty & Style

Placeholder Content Image

Why do airlines charge so much for checked bags? This obscure rule helps explain why

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jay-l-zagorsky-152952">Jay L. Zagorsky</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/boston-university-898">Boston University</a></em></p> <p>Five out of the six <a href="https://www.oag.com/blog/biggest-airlines-in-the-us">biggest U.S. airlines</a> have <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2024/03/05/delta-is-the-latest-airline-to-raise-its-checked-bag-fee.html">raised their checked bag fees</a> since January 2024.</p> <p>Take American Airlines. In 2023, it cost US$30 to check a standard bag in with the airline; <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/airline-news/2024/02/20/american-airlines-bag-fees-mileage-earning/72669245007/">today, as of March 2024, it costs $40</a> at a U.S. airport – a whopping 33% increase.</p> <p>As a <a href="https://www.bu.edu/questrom/">business school</a> <a href="https://www.bu.edu/questrom/profile/jay-zagorsky/">professor who studies travel</a>, I’m often asked why airlines alienate their customers with baggage fees instead of bundling all charges together. <a href="https://www.vox.com/2015/4/16/8431465/airlines-carry-on-bags">There are</a> <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/columnist/2023/06/21/bag-fees-will-stay-a-while-cruising-altitude/70338849007/">many reasons</a>, but an important, often overlooked cause is buried in the U.S. tax code.</p> <h2>A tax-law loophole</h2> <p>Airlines pay the federal government <a href="https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-26/chapter-I/subchapter-D/part-49/subpart-D">7.5% of the ticket price</a> when <a href="https://www.pwc.com/us/en/services/tax/library/aircraft-club-nov-2023-air-transport-excise-tax-rates-for-2024.html">flying people domestically, alongside other fees</a>. The airlines dislike these charges, with their <a href="https://www.airlines.org/dataset/government-imposed-taxes-on-air-transportation/">trade association arguing</a> that they boost the cost to the consumer of a typical air ticket by around one-fifth.</p> <p>However, the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations <a href="https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-26/chapter-I/subchapter-D/part-49/subpart-D/section-49.4261-8">specifically excludes baggage</a> from the 7.5% transportation tax as long as “the charge is separable from the payment for the transportation of a person and is shown in the exact amount.”</p> <p>This means if an airline charges a combined $300 to fly you and a bag round-trip within the U.S., it owes $22.50 in tax. If the airline charges $220 to fly you plus separately charges $40 each way for the bag, then your total cost is the same — but the airline only owes the government $16.50 in taxes. Splitting out baggage charges saves the airline $6.</p> <p>Now $6 might not seem like much, but it can add up. Last year, passengers took <a href="https://www.transtats.bts.gov/Data_Elements.aspx?Data=1">more than 800 million trips on major airlines</a>. Even if only a fraction of them check their bags, that means large savings for the industry.</p> <p>How large? The government has <a href="https://www.bts.dot.gov/topics/airlines-and-airports/baggage-fees-airline-2023">tracked revenue from bag fees</a> for decades. In 2002, airlines charged passengers a total of $180 million to check bags, which worked out to around 33 cents per passenger.</p> <p>Today, as any flyer can attest, bag fees are a lot higher. Airlines collected over 40 times more money in bag fees last year than they did in 2002.</p> <p>When the full data is in for 2023, <a href="https://www.bts.dot.gov/baggage-fees">total bag fees</a> will likely top $7 billion, which is about $9 for the average domestic passenger. <a href="https://viewfromthewing.com/the-real-reason-airlines-charge-checked-bag-fees-and-its-not-what-you-think">By splitting out the cost of bags</a>, airlines avoided paying about half a billion dollars in taxes just last year.</p> <p>In the two decades since 2002, flyers paid a total of about $70 billion in bag fees. This means separately charging for bags saved airlines about $5 billion in taxes.</p> <p><iframe id="88MYD" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/88MYD/2/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>It seems clear to me that tax savings are one driver of the unbundling of baggage fees because of a quirk in the law.</p> <p>The U.S. government doesn’t apply the 7.5% tax to <a href="https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-26/chapter-I/subchapter-D/part-49/subpart-D/section-49.4261-3">international flights that go more than 225 miles</a> beyond the nation’s borders. Instead, there are fixed <a href="https://www.airlines.org/dataset/government-imposed-taxes-on-air-transportation">international departure and arrival taxes</a>. This is why major airlines charge $35 to $40 <a href="https://www.aa.com/i18n/travel-info/baggage/checked-baggage-policy.jsp">for bags if you’re flying domestically</a>, but don’t charge a bag fee when you’re flying to Europe or Asia.</p> <h2>Do travelers get anything for that money?</h2> <p>This system raises an interesting question: Do baggage fees force airlines to be more careful with bags, since customers who pay more expect better service? To find out, I checked with the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, which has been <a href="https://www.bts.gov/content/mishandled-baggage-reports-filed-passengers-largest-us-air-carriersa">tracking lost luggage for decades</a>.</p> <p>For many years, it calculated the number of mishandled-baggage reports per thousand airline passengers. The government’s data showed mishandled bags peaked in 2007 with about seven reports of lost or damaged luggage for every thousand passengers. That means you could expect your luggage to go on a different trip than the one you are taking about once every 140 or so flights. By 2018, that estimate had fallen to once every 350 flights.</p> <p>In 2019, the government <a href="https://www.bts.gov/topics/airlines-and-airports/number-30a-technical-directive-mishandled-baggage-amended-effective-jan">changed how it tracks</a> mishandled bags, calculating figures based on the total number of bags checked, rather than the total number of passengers. The new data show about six bags per thousand checked get lost or damaged, which is less than 1% of checked bags. Unfortunately, the data doesn’t show improvement since 2019.</p> <p>Is there anything that you can do about higher bag fees? Complaining to politicians probably won’t help. In 2010, two senators <a href="https://www.nj.com/business/2010/04/us_senators_present_bill_to_ba.html">tried to ban bag fees</a>, and their bill went nowhere.</p> <p>Given that congressional action failed, there’s a simple way to avoid higher bag fees: <a href="https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/packing-expert-travel-world-handbag/index.html">travel light</a> and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2023/07/08/opinion/carry-on-packing-airlines-lost-luggage.html">don’t check any luggage</a>. It may sound tough not to have all your belongings when traveling, but it might be the best option as bag fees take off.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/225857/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/jay-l-zagorsky-152952">Jay L. Zagorsky</a>, Associate Professor of Markets, Public Policy and Law, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/boston-university-898">Boston University</a></em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-do-airlines-charge-so-much-for-checked-bags-this-obscure-rule-helps-explain-why-225857">original article</a>.</em></p>

Travel Trouble

Placeholder Content Image

Airline selling international flights for under $400

<p>Looking to jet off to Europe without breaking the bank? Well, now might be your chance! Budget airline Scoot has just unveiled an irresistible March sale, offering one-way flights to various European and other international destinations for less than $400. With more than 60 destinations on offer, travellers from Sydney, Melbourne and Perth are in for a treat.</p> <p>Scoot, known for its affordable fares and quality service, is the low-fare subsidiary of Singapore Airlines. The airline kicked off its one-week sale on Tuesday March 19, much to the delight of eager globetrotters. From Greece to Japan, and from Singapore to Indonesia, there's a plethora of destinations waiting to be explored.</p> <p>Among the highlights of this enticing offer are flights to Singapore starting from a mere $198, Athens from $355, Osaka from $315, and Denpasar from just $189. With such competitive pricing, it's no wonder travellers are scrambling to secure their seats.</p> <p>However, with great deals often come limited availability. While Scoot has not disclosed the exact number of seats up for grabs, travel experts advise acting fast. Graham Turner, from Flight Centre, <a href="https://7news.com.au/news/scoot-launches-march-sale-with-flights-to-europe-from-395-c-14009924" target="_blank" rel="noopener">cautioned 7News</a> that while the deals are fantastic, they're likely to be snapped up quickly. "There won't be a lot," he warned, while stressing the importance of doing thorough research before making a booking.</p> <p>It's essential for travellers to note that the fares advertised are all one-way and do not include additional charges such as taxes, checked baggage, WiFi, in-flight entertainment, food or flight changes. Despite these add-ons, the base fares remain incredibly competitive, making Scoot's March sale an attractive option for those seeking budget-friendly travel options.</p> <p>If you've been dreaming of am international getaway, now is the time to turn those dreams into reality. But don't delay – Scoot's March sale is set to run only until Monday night March 25, giving travellers just a limited window of opportunity to snag these incredible deals.</p> <p>So, whether you're yearning to wander through the historic streets of Athens, indulge in sushi delights in Osaka, or relax on the pristine beaches of Denpasar, Scoot's March sale has something for every traveller's taste and budget. Don't miss out on this chance to explore Europe without breaking the bank!</p> <p><em>Image: Scoot</em></p>

Travel Tips

Placeholder Content Image

Five tips for developing and managing your budget – even in tough economic times

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/oluwabunmi-adejumo-1370664">Oluwabunmi Adejumo</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/obafemi-awolowo-university-2843">Obafemi Awolowo University</a></em></p> <p>There’s nothing quite like a new year to prompt us to take stock of our lives, our health, our goals – and our finances. Many people will start a new year by contemplating how best to budget, plan and save. This is always a good set of aims, but it’s especially important in the inflation-prone and unpredictable economies we’re seeing <a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/268225/countries-with-the-highest-inflation-rate/">all over Africa and the world</a>.</p> <p>Budgeting is especially key. It is the most effective method to <a href="https://www.thebalancemoney.com/how-to-make-a-budget-1289587">monitor income and expenditure</a>. <a href="https://www.uslendingcompany.com/blog/key-differences-in-writing-a-household-budget-vs-a-personal-budget/">Personal budgets</a> can help you to monitor your resources in pursuit of larger financial goals. Budgeting also offers <a href="https://www.acrwebsite.org/volumes/v46/acr_vol46_2411998.pdf">more opportunities</a> to save money, reduce your debts and live a comfortable life. It can even <a href="https://prucomm.ac.uk/assets/uploads/blog/2013/04/Personal-Budgets-review-of-evidence_FINAL-REPORT.pdf">improve your mental health</a>.</p> <p>But where should you start? What questions do you need to answer in creating a budget? Here are some tips that I’ve learned – not just as an economist, but as a research cost analyst and someone who keeps a budget too.</p> <h2>1. Understand the broader economic conditions</h2> <p>It is imperative that individuals keep themselves aware and up-to-date on the realities of their country’s economic landscape. You don’t have to be a professional economist, but keep an eye on new developments like free business registration, small business development funds and printing of new money notes. What is the current exchange rate? What’s the political landscape and what international factors, like the price of crude oil, are at play? You should also watch the inflation rate and have a sense of unemployment trends.</p> <p>This economic awareness will prepare you to draft your own budget and you’ll have a sense of when external factors mean it’s time to revisit your plans.</p> <h2>2. Review your income sources</h2> <p>The ability to earn income is critical to sustaining livelihoods. Having a definite source of income is the bedrock of budgeting.</p> <p>Some important questions you should ask about your income – and how you might budget with it – include:</p> <ul> <li>What is my current income?</li> <li>What do I use my income for?</li> <li>Am I able to save, given my current income?</li> <li>What proportion of my income do I save and what proportion do I spend?</li> <li>Do I have the capacity to earn more than this?</li> <li>How can I improve my income?</li> </ul> <p>Your answers can help you to identify gaps or untapped potential. Those with irregular or unpredictable income should factor in the element of time-gap in their income, for effective budgeting. Time gap is when they are not earning income. And everyone should make allowance in their budgets for uncertainties like health issues, social engagements, inflation, unemployment, recession and price shocks.</p> <h2>3. Appraise your expenses</h2> <p>Expenses can be broadly categorised into “variable” and “fixed”.</p> <p>Fixed expenses recur within a short period: housing, food, transport, medical costs, electricity, utilities, toiletries and clothing. Variable expenses are more long-term and irregular, such as investment in property or interest-yielding assets, and the purchase of machinery.</p> <p>The main essence of revising our expenses is to analyse and possibly improve our spending habits. In reviewing our expenses, we can consider issues such as:</p> <ul> <li>What is the proportion of consumption-savings ratio from my income? This is how much do I spend compared to how much I save.</li> <li>What are my regular expenses?</li> <li>What are my fixed, capital or investment expenses?</li> <li>What are my extraordinary expenses that need modification?</li> <li>Have there been emergency or extraordinary expenses?</li> </ul> <p>A careful response to the issues raised above offers an occasion to re-evaluate the pattern and direction of our expenses. For instance, overspending, unplanned or extraordinary expenses can be identified. This can lead to an optimal, efficient reallocation of available resources.</p> <h2>4. Stabilise your finances through savings</h2> <p>Savings have been <a href="https://klinglercpa.com/bedrock-principles-for-saving-money/">described</a> as a financial stabiliser, given their potential to cater for urgent needs and create opportunities for investments.</p> <p>Of course, savings have more value when they grow faster than the rate of inflation. Inflation erodes the value of savings. For instance, an amount of 300,000 naira (US$676) saved to purchase an autorickshaw today may be impossible in two months’ time with an inflation rate of 10% when the tricycle price rises to 330,000 naira (US$744). The reverse is the case when there is deflation.</p> <p>Therefore, it is advisable to improve the value of savings through investments in interest-yielding assets such as stocks, shares, bonds, microfinance and production.</p> <p>That’s not to say it’s always easy to save. Many income earners spend as they go, not seeing savings as part of their budgets. Harsh economic realities can also make it difficult – sometimes seemingly impossible – to save. But it’s not impossible: savings can be made in small amounts, through a daily, weekly or monthly contribution to collections, cooperative schemes or microfinance affiliations. For instance, a point of sale business in Nigeria can permit a daily contribution of 500 naira (US$1.13) over 25 work days, giving an average saving of 12,500 naira (US$28.18) per month.</p> <p>The Point-of-Sale business started in Nigeria in 2013 when the Central Bank of Nigeria introduced the agent banking system. A POS agent operates and processes transactions through a POS service provider. Providers of such services include banks, microfinance banks and fintech companies.</p> <h2>5. Run a flexible budget</h2> <p>Once your budget is created, remember that it’s not set in stone. It should be flexible if anything changes in your life. For instance, an amount saved to buy a car can be invested in a promising venture buying shares through public offerings or private placements in multinational organisations like Nestle or Unilever.</p> <p>Also, health emergencies or career advancement programmes can require taking some money out of our savings.</p> <p>In all, budgeting should be flexible enough to incorporate exigencies, especially when catering for the current situation will culminate into a greater good.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/195590/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/oluwabunmi-adejumo-1370664">Oluwabunmi Adejumo</a>, Lecturer/Researcher, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/obafemi-awolowo-university-2843">Obafemi Awolowo University</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/five-tips-for-developing-and-managing-your-budget-even-in-tough-economic-times-195590">original article</a>.</em></p>

Money & Banking

Placeholder Content Image

Supermarkets, airlines and power companies are charging ‘exploitative’ prices despite reaping record profits

<p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sanjoy-paul-1141384">Sanjoy Paul</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a></em></p> <p>Australians have been hit by large rises in grocery, energy, transport, child and aged care prices, only adding to other cost of living pressures.</p> <p>While extreme weather and supply delays have contributed to the increases, an inquiry into what’s causing the hikes has confirmed what commentators and consumers suspected - many sectors are resorting to dodgy price practices and confusing pricing.</p> <p>Headed by the former Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) boss, Allan Fels, on behalf of the ACTU, the inquiry found inflation, questionable pricing practices, a lack of price transparency and regulations, a lack of market competition, supply chain problems and unrestricted price setting by retailers are to blame for fuelling the increases.</p> <p>The inquiry, which released its <a href="https://www.actu.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2024/02/InquiryIntoPriceGouging_Report_web9-1.pdf">final report</a> on Wednesday, is one of four examining price rises. The other three are being undertaken by a Senate committee, the Queensland government and the ACCC, which has been given extra powers by the government.</p> <h2>Prices vs inflation</h2> <p>The inflation rate in Australia peaked at <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/economy/price-indexes-and-inflation/consumer-price-index-australia/latest-release">7.8%</a> in December 2022 and has been gradually dropping since then.</p> <p>While the inquiry found higher prices contributed to inflation, it reported that businesses claimed it was inflation that caused price rises - making it a chicken-or-egg kind of problem.</p> <p>However, many businesses made enormous <a href="https://theconversation.com/amid-allegations-of-price-gouging-its-time-for-big-supermarkets-to-come-clean-on-how-they-price-their-products-219316">profits</a> in 2022-23, which the inquiry said contributed to rising prices and inflation. In most cases, post-pandemic profit margins were much higher than before the pandemic.</p> <h2>How prices are set</h2> <p>Business pricing strategies had a big impact on product prices.</p> <p>In Australia, businesses often provided partial and misleading pricing information which differed from the actual price. For example, supermarkets were “<a href="https://www.afr.com/politics/federal/accc-warns-supermarkets-about-discount-claims-20240114-p5ex1s">discounting</a>” products by raising prices beforehand.</p> <p>These practices helped raise prices and were “exploitative”, the inquiry found.</p> <p>A lack of transparent pricing information caused a poor understanding by consumers of how prices were set. This was significantly worsened by a lack of competition. While market concentration was a major issue, the inquiry found prices in Australia are way higher than in many other less competitive markets.</p> <p>Large price increases occurred across many sectors:</p> <p><strong>AVIATION</strong></p> <p>While it is free to set any price for airfares, Australia’s largest and highest profile aviation company, Qantas, has been <a href="https://www.thenewdaily.com.au/life/2023/12/28/qantas-deceptive-conduct-accc">accused</a> of price gouging since the pandemic.</p> <p>According to the inquiry report, Qantas made a profit of $1.7 billion in 2023 - 208% higher than in 2019. At the same time, its reputation has been badly damaged by unreliable timetables, lost baggage and so-called <a href="https://www.9news.com.au/national/qantas-files-legal-defence-refutes-accc-case-and-ghost-flight-claims/9a6296c9-9238-4053-9f36-cc3cbf1f8a55">“ghost” flights</a> (selling tickets for a flight that’s been cancelled or doesn’t exist).</p> <p>Despite its huge profits and poorer service, Qantas passed on extra expenses to consumers in the form of higher airfares, the inquiry found.</p> <p><strong>BANKING</strong></p> <p>The banking industry has a long history of being tardy in passing on the Reserve Bank’s cash rate cuts to consumers. However, when the reserve raised the cash rates, banks immediately increased their standard variable rates and passed them on to customers. This practice keeps the bank’s profit margin higher.</p> <p>According to the inquiry report, the major banks’ average profit margins have been higher since May 2022 than in the 15 years before the pandemic. For 2022-23, the four big Australian banks’ profit margins were 35.5%, compared to an average of 32.4% from 2005 to 2020.</p> <p><strong>CHILDCARE</strong></p> <p>Australian households spent a good portion of their income on childcare, and for many of them, it was <a href="https://www.vu.edu.au/sites/default/files/mitchell-institute-assessing-childcare-affordability-in-Australia.pdf">unaffordable</a>.</p> <p>In Australia, the lack of availability and difficulty in switching services makes it even harder for working parents to find alternative options. This indicates parents are forced to pay more if the service providers raise prices.</p> <p>The inquiry found the childcare sector increased fees by 20% to 32% from 2018 to 2022. Accordingly, Australian households’ out-of-pocket expenses for childcare increased more than the rate of wage growth. For-profit childcare businesses have higher margins than not-for-profit centres.</p> <p><strong>ELECTRICITY</strong></p> <p>In recent years, electricity price increases have impacted all Australian households. The inquiry found both wholesale and retail electricity pricing strategies were responsible for these increased prices.</p> <p>It reported that wholesale price increases were mainly responsible for an estimated 9% to 20% increase in electricity bills in 2022-23.</p> <p>The report noted the “price bidding system” was largely responsible for increasing wholesale electricity prices.</p> <p>The inquiry was critical of the profit margin of AGL, a leading electricity retailer:</p> <blockquote> <p>It would seem that AGL needs to explain why consumers are paying $60.10/MWh more than seems to be justified by cost differentials. That is, for every consumer bill of $1,000 there is an apparent excess to be explained of $205.61 relative to prices charged to large business customers and not accounted for by genuine cost differences.</p> </blockquote> <p><strong>SUPERMARKETS</strong></p> <p>Supermarket prices have received the most attention recently with the main providers being accused of price gouging.</p> <p>As has occurred in other sectors, profit margins were well above pre-COVID levels. In 2023, the margin was more than 3.5% compared to less than 3% in 2017 and 2018.</p> <p>In Australia, <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/not-happy-little-vegemites-food-prices-rising-faster-than-inflation-20230522-p5da9w.html">food prices</a> also increased well above the inflation rate.</p> <p>According to the inquiry, the price increases for groceries between March 2021 and September 2023 varied between 19.2% and 27.3% for different categories, including cheese, bread, milk, eggs, dairy products and breakfast cereals.</p> <p>Farmers recently <a href="https://www.news.com.au/finance/business/retail/aussie-farmer-shipping-beautiful-melons-to-japan-rather-than-deal-with-coles-and-woolworths/news-story/bd685cd91f934f31c02c764097f496ae">accused</a> supermarkets of making too much profit from their crops.</p> <p>This was backed by the inquiry, which found the disproportionate market power held by supermarkets and food processors was of significant concern.</p> <p>The report noted that supermarkets increased prices when there was a shortage or cost increase, but the opposite did not happen easily when supplies were plentiful and prices were cheaper.</p> <h2>Issues common to all sectors</h2> <p>Among the issues common to all sectors were weak competition, a lack of price transparency, the difficulty consumers face switching between suppliers and providers, a lack of pricing policies and a lack of consumer awareness.</p> <p>While the price rises imposed by service providers and retailers were <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/business/pricing/setting-prices-whats-allowed">not unlawful</a>, the increases in all sectors were significant and were hurting everyday Australians.</p> <h2>Fels’ recommendations</h2> <p>Many of the recommendations were sector-specific, but the one that applied to all areas related to the lack of regulation and pricing policies.</p> <p>The ACCC should be empowered to investigate, monitor and regulate prices for the child and aged care, banking, grocery and food sectors, the inquiry found. This was necessary to ensure businesses used fair and transparent pricing.</p> <p>A review of all existing policies was also recommended. For example, the government should use the current aviation review to remove international and domestic restrictions on competition. It was important aviation stakeholders, such as airlines and airports, were involved in the process.</p> <p>The report suggested the grocery <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/business/industry-codes/food-and-grocery-code-of-conduct">code of conduct</a> should be mandatory for the food and grocery sector, and a price register for farmers should be created. This should be a government priority to protect farmers from unfair pricing by major supermarkets and food processors.</p> <h2>Change is needed</h2> <p>The current pricing practices for all business sectors must improve for greater transparency and to protect Australian consumers from unfair pricing.</p> <p>The inquiry report’s findings and recommendations are helpful in ensuring fair and transparent pricing policies and improving the current regulations for price settings.</p> <p>Implementing the recommendations will improve fair and transparent pricing practices and may help Australians get relief from the cost of living pressure in future.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/222755/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/sanjoy-paul-1141384"><em>Sanjoy Paul</em></a><em>, Associate Professor, UTS Business School, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/university-of-technology-sydney-936">University of Technology Sydney</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/supermarkets-airlines-and-power-companies-are-charging-exploitative-prices-despite-reaping-record-profits-222755">original article</a>.</em></p>

Money & Banking

Placeholder Content Image

The cheapest places to travel in 2024

<p dir="ltr">With the cost of living continuing to rise, many people are looking for cost-friendly ways to travel the world in 2024. </p> <p dir="ltr">Some destinations are more economic than others, with these somewhat overlooked holiday hotspots showcasing the best of travelling without breaking the bank.</p> <p dir="ltr">If you’re looking for a new adventure this year, these corners of the globe are the cheapest places to travel in 2024.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>The Philippines</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">The underrated gem located only a few hours northeast of Australia is one of the cheapest destinations in Asia, it's a wonder why more tourists don’t visit. </p> <p dir="ltr">Not only is it home to over 7,500 picturesque islands, six UNESCO World Heritage Sites and an endless chain of pristine beaches, it's also very affordable with resort accommodation under $100 a night is not hard to find.</p> <p dir="ltr">On top of accommodation, day tours and activities (snorkelling, for example) will set you back around $30 to $40.</p> <p dir="ltr">Flights are also reasonable in cost, with return flights from Sydney to Manila coming in around $600 per person. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Turkey</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Travellers can get to Istanbul from Melbourne and back for approximately $1,300 per person, to visit some of the world’s most historical sites. </p> <p dir="ltr">Turkey is a paradise for those travelling on a budget, with mouthwatering meals can be found regularly for as little as $5, and even less for street food.</p> <p dir="ltr">To make it even better, striking accommodation in the historic Galata region can be as low as $50 a night. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Hungary</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Hungary is regularly dubbed one of Europe’s cheapest tourist destinations, with  accommodation, dining and entertainment costs significantly lower than the neighbouring countries.</p> <p dir="ltr">Expect to part with $60 to $100 a night for a pretty-as-a-picture hotel in the city centre, around $10 to $15 for meals in restaurants, and anywhere between $7 to $30 for activities. </p> <p dir="ltr">There are also tourist passes available that make these costs even cheaper. </p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Albania</strong></p> <p dir="ltr">Located on the western part of the Balkan peninsula, this destination is often overlooked by tourists, making it an ideal budget-friendly destination. </p> <p dir="ltr">The stunning country is home to UNESCO World Heritage sites and turquoise beaches, all while keeping your budget in mind. </p> <p dir="ltr">Beachside accommodation can be found for as little as $70 a night, with prices comparable to Turkey for restaurant meals. </p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p> </p>

International Travel

Placeholder Content Image

Backlash after airline starts weighing passengers

<p>Finnair has announced that they will start weighing passengers and their luggage, as part of their latest data collection. </p> <p>The flagship airline for Finland has copped some backlash following this move, which they claim is designed to improve balance calculations which will enhance flight safety, according to the<em> NY Post</em>. </p> <p>“Finnair will collect data by weighing volunteering customers and their carry-on baggage at the departure gate,” according to a statement from the company. </p> <p>“The weighing is voluntary and anonymous, and the data will only be used to optimise Finnair’s current aircraft balance calculations.”</p> <p>The airline said that weighing passengers would help ensure that they wouldn't exceed the set maximum weight that a plane can bear before take off. </p> <p>“We use the weighing data for the average calculations required for the safe operation of flights, and the collected data is not linked in any way to the customer’s personal data,” head of Finnair’s ground processes, Satu Munnukka said. </p> <p>Munnukka also said that the airline won't ask for the passengers name or booking number. </p> <p>Many were left shocked by the move taking to X, formerly known as Twitter, to voice their fury. </p> <p>“#Finair are to start weighing their passengers? Have I read that correctly? I am utterly shocked! And disgusted,” wrote one person. </p> <p>“I will not be travelling via @Finair as I won’t be #fatshamed by a bloody airline. Am I alone? (ie I never weight myself: my choice)" another person tweeted. </p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">What do you make of this one then?</p> <p>An airline has announced it will begin weighing passengers with their carry-on luggage in order to better estimate the plane's weight before take-off.</p> <p>The controversial move comes from Finnish carrier Finnair, who told media they began… <a href="https://t.co/EqEyTQXROG">pic.twitter.com/EqEyTQXROG</a></p> <p>— Darren Grimes (@darrengrimes_) <a href="https://twitter.com/darrengrimes_/status/1755276929853231333?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 7, 2024</a></p></blockquote> <p>This comes after Air New Zealand announced that they too will weigh passengers travelling internationally in May last year. </p> <p>“We weigh everything that goes on the aircraft – from the cargo to the meals on-board, to the luggage in the hold,” Alastair James, Air New Zealand load control improvement specialist, said at the time. </p> <p>“For customers, crew and cabin bags, we use average weights, which we get from doing this survey.”</p> <p>Finnair joins Korean Air, Hawaiian Air, Uzbekistan Airways and Air New Zealand in the group of airlines that are weighing their customers. </p> <p><em>Image: Getty/ X</em></p> <p> </p>

Travel Trouble

Placeholder Content Image

Widow "cranky" after Qantas denied late husband's points claim

<p>A widowed grandmother has been left frustrated after Qantas refused to let her claim the 6,800 frequent flyer points in her late husband's account. </p> <p>72-year-old Rhonda told <em>Yahoo</em> that she reached out to the airline after Brian - her husband of 52 years - passed away in May.</p> <p>Rhonda hoped to claim his frequent flyer points, but was met with a brutal rejection letter instead.</p> <p>While they offered their "sincere condolences", it also stated Qantas' "terms and conditions" didn't allow such a transfer, and Rhonda was asked to send through a copy of Brian's death certificate so they could close his account. </p> <p>"I know it's not a lot of points but it's the principle of it because, damn, you get hardly anything out of it anyway," she told <em>Yahoo</em>. </p> <p>"I just thought it would naturally come to me so, once I told them he passed away, I could've easily gone in and transferred them to myself without telling them but I wanted to do the right thing."</p> <p>Four months later, Qantas announced that from October they would change their policy to allow next of kin to claim frequent flyer points. </p> <p>When Rhonda heard about this, she reached out to the airline again.</p> <p>"I immediately wrote back and said that, 'After hearing the news item, I was under the impression you were now looking at this'," she said. </p> <p>"I haven't heard a word back since. I don't know if they're just ignoring me.</p> <p>"I've just had enough," she added. </p> <p>The grandmother-of-five added that she was "cranky" with the airline. </p> <p>"Everywhere I turn there's a barrier, and what's 6,800 points to them? </p> <p>"They are trying to keep their reputation intact and until I heard that announcement I was done with it. Now I still haven't heard and I am cranky about it," she concluded. </p> <p>Fortunately, after Rhonda shared her complaints with the media, Qantas eventually credited her the points, although she remains unimpressed with the "ridiculous" process. </p> <p>A Qantas spokesperson has also offered their sincere apologies to Rhonda. </p> <p>"Our customer team have been in contact with her to advise that her husbands' points have now been transferred to her frequent flyer account," they said. </p> <p>Rhonda said that she hopes to use the points for a holiday and explore the outback in the iconic <em>The Ghan</em> train next year. </p> <p><em>Image: Daily Mail/ Getty</em></p> <p> </p>

Travel Trouble

Placeholder Content Image

Qantas chief executive issues second apology

<p>Qantas chief executive Vanessa Hudson has issued a second apology, as the airline continues to try and fix its reputation and win back customers' trust amid recent controversy over its <a href="https://www.oversixty.com.au/finance/legal/jubilant-scenes-as-high-court-hands-down-judgment-against-qantas" target="_blank" rel="noopener">unlawful mass firing</a>.</p> <p>In a video message released on Friday, Hudson, who replaced chief executive Alan Joyce earlier this month, said she understood customer’s frustration and apologised for the airline’s recent track record. </p> <p>“I know that we have let you down in many ways and for that, I am sorry,” she said.</p> <p>“We haven't delivered the way we should have. And we’ve often been hard to deal with.”</p> <p>This apology comes just weeks after the new chief executive apologised to their staff and said that the new management will be more focused on their customers. </p> <p>Hudson has also promised to rectify the airline's problems. </p> <p>“We understand we need to earn back your trust not with what we say, but with what we do and how we behave,” she said. </p> <p>She added that customers can expect more frequent flyer seats, improved resources for call centres, and a review of customer policies, assuring customers that their frontline teams will be granted more flexibility “to better help you when things don't go to plan”.</p> <p>“This has been a humbling period,” she said.</p> <p><em>Images: Qantas/ news.com.au</em></p>

Travel Trouble

Our Partners