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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Airlines slash prices to as little as £15 in bid to kickstart foreign travel

Airlines have slashed prices to as little as £15 for October half-term flights to Europe in a bid to persuade fully-jabbed holidaymakers to take advantage of the reopening of foreign travel.

Half-term flights to popular Spanish resorts including Alicante and Tenerife are up to 30 per cent below pre-pandemic prices as airlines seek to pump-prime the autumn holiday market.

Low-cost airline EasyJet is offering October flights from Luton to Fuerteventura, the second biggest Canary Island, at £15.08, and at £22.99 for UK flights to Malaga and Faro.

Skyscanner, which monitors prices and bookings, said there are also last-minute deals on offer for Milan from £19, Nice from £41, Pisa from £51 and Barcelona from £98.

It follows the Government’s announcement that pre-departure tests for returning holidaymakers will be ditched from Oct 4 and PCR tests on arrival in the UK could be replaced by cheaper lateral flow versions in time for the October half-term.

‘Prices for next summer are going up’

“There are a lot of offers being added onto the market for October and November to encourage people to return to flying but prices for next summer are going up and are about 10 per cent higher than this year,” said Paul Charles, chief executive of the travel consultancy The PC Agency.

The cost-cutting appears to be targeted more at city-break destinations like Milan, Lyon and Amsterdam where there is generally less demand than for late autumn beach resort breaks.

However, Alicante flights are averaging £125 for half term week, nearly 30 per cent below pre pandemic charges of £164. Tenerife is similar with prices a third lower, at £227 compared with £299 before Covid and Malaga at £131 against £159.

It has meant that some holidaymakers who booked their flights earlier in the summer have seen prices plummet below their original outlay.

Property developer Ian Dunckley and his wife Steph from Medbourne, Leicestershire paid £216 per easyJet flight from Luton to Faro for the first week of the October half-term with children Hattie, 15, and Tom, 16.

‘We knew it was a gamble’

However, the prices have since been slashed to less than £70. “We knew it was a gamble booking in June and we had no idea what the situation would be come October,” said Mrs Dunckley.

“But we’re staying in a friend’s apartment so didn’t have to worry about losing money on accommodation and we knew that, if we were unable to fly, easyJet would honour our flights and hold over our booking to the ski season or our next holiday.”

Travel experts have, however, warned that prices may ratchet up if demand increases and seats are steadily filled. It already appears to have hit the business flight market for popular resorts.

Secondary school teacher Simon Hare revealed that the two return flights he booked a month ago to Madrid in BA business class for Covid reasons because of the extra space have doubled in price from £567.

“I checked to see how much they were when the traffic light system was dropped and the exact same flights were priced at over £1,300,” he said.

Gavin Harris, pricing expert at Skyscanner, said: “Now more than ever it is in the interest of travellers and the industry to keep prices as competitive as possible in order to reboot travel.

“Travel fares always fluctuate following any major announcement on travel, and that’s true for pre-pandemic times too, for instance if a new route opens up.

“What happens is that there is a short period of time for pricing to adjust to new demand levels, and then they usually return to close to what they were before the announcement.”

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