It is intriguing to see the media regurgitate announced Qantas surcharges for oil prices and carbon taxes today when the deals done by retail agents make them irrelevant in terms of international flights.

The oil price driven fuel surcharge and fare price changes for Qantas flights from 9 February (domestic) and 15 February (international) and two different carbon tax impacts, from Europe since the start of the year,  and from Australia’s scheme, from mid year, have been rolled into the one announcement today.

This may be the better course of action, rather than a series of separate announcements, but it is still messy, and vulnerable to further price shocks, and seriously useless for those who buy overseas fares off-line, in travel agencies.

And Jetstar customers in Australia get clobbered only once,  with a $10 surcharge on lead in fares as flown from 1 July (and bought at any time from 15 February) which combines the effects of higher fuel costs and the Australian carbon tax obligations. Which means that Qantas is saying that for the best part of five months Jetstar passengers don’t have to worry about a higher fuel cost impact on their fares.

After 1 July some Jetstar customers who pay the flat $10 extra on lead in fares for both fuel price effects and and the Australian carbon tax appear to be marginally disadvantaged compared to the lowest fare paying Qantas customers, but the devil will be in the detail when we see how the higher level of Jetstar fares are effected, and they are already sometimes more costly that the best available Qantas offer.

There are two pages to the Qantas/Jetstar announcement.

This is the crux of the fuel related fares rises that affect Qantas domestic and Qantaslink customers from 9 February, and Qantas international travellers from 15 February.

Below are the smaller but more complex changes to Qantas fares from 1 July in response to the Australia’s carbon tax and to Europe’s carbon surcharge on tickets to London and Frankfurt by a comparatively trivial $3.50 per applicable sector fare if purchased in Australia from 15 February, as well as the blanket Jetstar surcharge for its cheapest or lead in fares which is tacked on like it is  an afterthought.

Retail travel agents will be bemused by the Qantas announcements, which only address what will appear on its on-line booking screens, and not of course what happens in the at times extraordinary variability of the street deals offered by licensed travel agents.

As all sophisticated travellers would know by now, what an airline asks for its product on-line may be very different to what an agent can get for you on the same airline, or a better one, for flights on the same day, and without even changing carriers or back-tracking from London Heathrow, for example.

Travel agents widely adopt a more pragmatic view of airfare pricing and such trivialities as changes to fuel surcharges and carbon tax imposts when it comes to getting your business, including your travel insurance policy and other arrangements for hotels, tours and airport-city transfers.

What Qantas is talking about today is for those who are locked onto the notion that internet bookings are better. This is not necessarily so, and the difference in what you pay can substantially exceed the announced fare movements because of fuel surcharges or carbon taxes.

New Zealand fares are unaffected by today’s announcement.

A Qantas spokesman said that at this time the airline was not raising trans Tasman fares as they had managed the fuel situation through previously announced fare increases.