The days of cheap flights to Europe could be numbered
This week has seen mixed news for travelers. First the bad. Pressures from the pandemic have taken a toll on a well-known operator – on Wednesday liquidators were appointed to shut down Teletext Holidays. And a report by the international accounting firm Mazars, also released this week, identified a sharp increase in insolvencies of tour operators and travel agents over the past year – the number of failures rose 17% from 59 to 69. Rebecca Dacre, an Associate of Mazars drew up a clearly negative assessment of the situation. “The bankruptcies we’ve seen so far are probably just the tip of the iceberg. In many cases, time off support has been the only thing that kept travel companies going. From now on, these companies will have to pay their entire payroll and could find creditors knocking on their doors. ”
This may be on the pessimistic side, but there is no doubt that there will be more turbulence to come and it is interesting to compare this analysis with what seems to be happening with flights and airfares right now. . Last month, The Anker Report and the website (airserviceone.com) – which analyze and monitor new air services – found that 67 new routes opened from European airports between September 11 and October 8. , including Luton’s services in Rome and Naples.
But that is insignificant compared to Anker’s analysis of Ryanair’s latest moves he published this week. This revealed that the airline was planning more than 250 new European routes over the coming winter, including 33 to and from the UK, including Bristol to Madrid and Barcelona, Birmingham to Budapest, as well as Birmingham to Turin and Bergamo – two good entry points. for skiers going to Italian resorts.
What does this mean for the tariffs? As a spot check, I did some research for flights for the last weekend of November (travel Thursday-Sunday) and found extraordinarily low prices. Returns from London to Venice (using Treviso Airport) cost from £ 28 with Ryanair and £ 64 direct to the more convenient Marco Polo Airport with EasyJet. For the same dates, Wizz Air offered £ 35 round trip from Luton to Rome and the same fare from Manchester. For Barcelona, Ryanair was again the cheapest at £ 28 from Stansted, and Vueling entered the mix at £ 78 from Gatwick. Additionally, this weekend you can get returns to Vienna from £ 104 (from Stansted with Ryanair). And flights to Amsterdam were from £ 84 from Stansted, or £ 74 from Manchester, both with EasyJet.
Of course, it’s not peak season – prices always drop this time of year – and these are rudimentary rates. If you want to choose your seat, or travel with luggage for example, you will end up paying a little more. But even so, these are exceptionally low prices, and they’re a clear sign that no-frills airlines – especially Ryanair and Wizz Air – are considering building on the old model of aggressive expansion and low prices.
But how long will these fares last and how many airlines can survive the fierce competition? Few flights will turn a profit at these levels, and fares will certainly increase next spring (although you can currently still get a return to Venice at Easter, for example, for £ 76 with EasyJet, so early bookings can still find good business). But exactly when and to what extent will depend in part on how many of us will travel again by then and whether enough airlines survive to maintain competitiveness.
The best strategy for the consumer is to grab the bargains while you can while making sure to protect your vacation. Book with an operator linked by Atol (caa.co.uk/atol-protection) or, if you are arranging independently, make sure your tickets are flexible and you can cancel accommodation without penalty. And always pay with a credit card so you can be insured against insolvency in case the worst happens and your airline goes bankrupt.