October’s half-term break is coming up in the UK, but sky-high airfares make it unlikely that Britons will catch much of a breather.
With the pound at its lowest level against the US dollar since 1985, energy bills skyrocketing and winter looming, holidaying abroad has already become an expense many can’t afford.
And if, on top of that, you feel that travelling has become more expensive than it used to be, then you’re absolutely right. To be precise, flights during the UK’s half-term break are now 42 per cent more expensive than they were pre-pandemic.
Research into flight costs by UK-based consumer champion Which? found “huge price increases” across the entire country.
The company compared prices for six popular destinations - Alicante, Antalya, Dubai, Dublin, Malaga and Tenerife - from England’s busiest airports, including Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted, Manchester and Birmingham.
The steepest price increases were found for flights from London’s Heathrow Airport.
A flight from Heathrow to Spain’s Tenerife cost passengers who booked six weeks in advance an average of €290 (£262) more each way than in 2019. This means a family of four going on holiday to Tenerife would need to fork out an additional €2,325 (£2,096) just on flights.
Flight prices from Heathrow to Malaga rose by approximately €214 (£193) in three years, going from €99 (£89) in 2019 to €312 (£282) in 2022 - a 216 per cent price hike.
Flights from Heathrow to Dublin have increased by 181 per cent compared to pre-pandemic times, going from €93 (£84) in 2019 to €261 (£236) this year. From Gatwick, the jump is even more extreme, with costs now averaging €177 (£160) - considerably more than the €46.50 (£42) of 2019.
London’s Luton and Stansted airports were the exceptions: flights to Dublin were a bargain at €19 (£17) and €20 (£18) each way.
Why are flights so expensive now?
Flights are normally more expensive during the school holiday season - and two years of pandemic-linked travel starvation have pushed demand to unexpected heights. But it’s not just increased demand that is pushing prices up.
During the pandemic, airlines grounded part of their fleets and let go of staff, which they are now struggling to replace. As companies contend with reduced capacity, they’re also facing increased fuel prices as a war-fuelled energy crisis unfolds.
Among these, Heathrow has capped passenger numbers at 100,000 a day until the end of half-term break on 29 October. In 2018, the airport recorded a daily passenger number of almost 220,000.
How can you save money on half-term holidays?
Booking far in advance is one of the best ways to get cheaper flights. Which? found that people who booked six months before half-term paid less in all six British airports than passengers who had booked only six weeks in advance. Only flights from Stansted to Spain and from Birmingham to Antalya were cheaper when booked six weeks in advance.
But as there’s no turning back time, this advice only makes for a good thing to note down on your calendar for next year.
If you still have to book this year’s half-term break holidays, check all your options. Which? research found that travelling from Stansted or Luton - if you’re based in London - is often much cheaper than flying from Heathrow.
If, instead, you’re considering staying in the country, check out our pick of the best staycation hotels in England.