Steep rise in flight and holiday prices as UK travel green list looms

Increase in prices fuelled by limited flights to quarantine-free holiday destinations

Flight prices and holiday bookings jumped as the government prepared to unveil the list of countries to which British holidaymakers can travel without having to quarantine on their return.

Travel experts said the limited number of flights available and the prospect of foreign trips to green list destinations without having to quarantine was pushing up prices.

Airlines have drastically scaled back the number of flights they operate due to Covid-related travel restrictions, but plan to increase them later this month.

The cost of flights has shot up from 17 May, when international travel is to resume according to the government’s roadmap out of lockdown. For example, a British Airways flight from London Heathrow to Faro on the Algarve on 17 May costs £448, compared with £237 two days earlier. A Ryanair flight from London Stansted to Porto is currently priced at £232.99 on 17 May, while anyone travelling the day before would pay only £14.99.

The UK travel firm Not Just Travel, which employs 800 people, has recorded a 50% increase in summer bookings in the last seven days. Its co-founder Steve Witt said: “There is a gold rush ahead for holidays. Prices will be increasing day by day as a result of demand.”

The online travel agency eDreams ODIGEO said it had seen an increase of 165% in searches for trips to Gibraltar over the last week, a 254% jump in searches for flights to Israel, and a 126% spike in people considering a break in Malta, while searches for trips to Portugal have increased by 115%.

The UK tour operator Thomas Cook on Friday had its best day of sales since it relaunched last September, with bookings doubling from the day before, and up to four times higher than a fortnight ago.

The travel firm is recording more bookings than usual to Portugal and Malta, which are expected to be on the UK’s green list of quarantine-free travel. Other countries on that list with low Covid risk are likely to include Gibraltar, Iceland and Israel.

Thomas Cook said Greece, the Canary islands and the Balearic islands were also popular summer destinations this year, even though they are expected initially to be put on the UK’s amber list, which will require a 10-day quarantine on the return home and two PCR tests. Along with France and most other holiday hotspots, Spain and Greece are expected to be given the green light for quarantine-free travel at the end of June, before the school holidays start in July.

Thomas Cook spokesman David Child said the rush to book would continue over the weekend, as “everyone who hasn’t booked a domestic summer holiday yet will get their credit card out and book. [The announcement] is giving people the confidence to book a holiday.”

He said in many cases several families or couples were buying breaks together, and many of them are splashing out on packages with four- to five-star hotels, which account for 80% of bookings.

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While flight prices are going up, hotels are cheaper than usual because there are so many unfilled hotel rooms, Child said. Both Thomas Cook and Tui said their package deals were in line with last year’s prices.

Emma Coulthurst, of the holiday price comparison site TravelSupermarket, said there were package holiday bargains available for under £300 per person, for example a week in a three-star hotel on the Algarve in August for a family of four from £253 per person. “It has been 14 months of many refunds and credit notes and the industry wants and needs to get people away on holidays. Package holiday providers need to sell holidays.”

The estate agent Knight Frank reported that the viewing of Portuguese properties on its website had risen 18% in April from March, as buyers ready themselves for the easing of travel rules.


Julia Kollewe

The GuardianTramp

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