Summer holiday flight prices are still cheaper than before the pandemic despite warning of hikes to come

Travellers planning to jet off on holidays this summer should treat airline bosses’ warnings of higher fares in the future with a pinch of salt, consumer champion Which? has said.

It comes after Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary warned holidaymakers could face flight price hikes of up to 10 per cent this summer due to soaring demand.

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, told i: “There is no doubt that demand for travel is increasing, but there is no reason to feel rushed into panic-buying your holiday either. Airline bosses are in the business of trying to sell seats and travellers should treat their warnings of higher fares in the future with a pinch of salt.”

Mr Boland added: “Our analysis shows airfares for this summer to many European destinations remain lower than before the pandemic. While these may increase, there remain a lot of good value prices if you are flexible on destination and dates.”

Research published by Which? last month showed that flights to Europe are 48 per cent cheaper than they were before the pandemic.

The average cost of an August summer holiday flight from the UK to Europe booked in March 2022 was £92 compared to £182 in March 2019, the consumer champion said.

Mr O’Leary said holidaymakers could be hit with a “high single-digit per cent” rise across the peak season as consumers flock to European beach resorts as Covid-19 travel restrictions are lifted.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme on Monday: “For the September quarter at the moment, based on about 50 per cent of all bookings, we expect prices will be up high single-digit per cent.

“It seems to us that there will be higher prices into that peak summer period because there’s so much demand for the beaches of Europe and those price rises going to continue.”

Ryanair, which hopes to return to “reasonable profitability” in the current financial year, said its peak fares for this summer may exceed those seen prior to the pandemic.

Other budget airlines and travel firms have shared mixed outlooks about potential spikes in flight prices in the coming months.

A spokesperson for easyJet said: “We are focused on providing low fares, over a quarter of our seats for this summer are still available for under £50 and our Low Fare Finder tool on helps customers find the lowest fares available across our network.”

Last week Tui boss Fritz Joussen said there would be “practically no last-minute offers at low prices this summer” due to rising demand.