Cheap holidays abroad could soon be a thing of the past, experts warn

Cheap foreign holidays could be a thing of the past as the ongoing travel chaos at airports threatens to drive up the price of flights, industry experts warn.

The rising cost of fuel combined with chronic staff shortages mean some airlines are warning passengers there will be no last-minute bargains this summer.

It comes after a disastrous week for the travel industry during which more than 350 flights were axed and customers complained of long delays in departure halls.

Many people were taking their first holiday since the pandemic, and nearly 11,000 flights – with the capacity for 1.9million passengers – were expected to land over the extended Bank Holiday weekend.

© Provided by Daily Mail Cheap foreign holidays could be a thing of the past as the ongoing travel chaos at airports threatens to drive up the price of flights, industry experts warn

But the surge in demand coincided with staff shortages after the travel industry made tens of thousands of workers redundant during the Covid lockdowns. 

They have been unable to re-hire quickly enough to cope and are offering generous financial incentives to recruit and retain staff.

But the extra costs, experts warn, will have to be passed on to customers already struggling with the spiralling cost of living.

John McEwan, former Thomas Cook managing director and ex-chairman of the travel association ABTA, said the problem was likely to drag on as the recruitment issues will not be solved quickly. ‘Prices will ultimately have to go up because the cost of doing business will go up,’ he said. ‘It’s already starting to happen – you can see the prices to certain destinations rising.’

British Airways cut 10,000 jobs, easyJet 4,500, and Ryanair and Virgin Atlantic 3,000 each. Airports made thousands more redundant.

BA is offering sign-on bonuses of £1,000 for ‘below-wing’ jobs and easyJet is promising employees a £1,000 bonus if they stay until the end of the summer. Ground handlers at Gatwick have secured 10 per cent pay rises.

© Provided by Daily Mail The rising cost of fuel combined with chronic staff shortages mean some airlines are warning passengers there will be no last-minute bargains this summer

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has driven up the cost of crude oil, with a knock-on effect for jet fuel.

David Tarsh, managing director of the travel firm Tarsh Consulting, said a prolonged conflict may drive up the cost of flights further.

He added: ‘The oil price component of a flight is about 30 per cent, so if there is a 50 per cent rise in oil prices over an extended period then you are looking at around a 15 per cent increase in the cost. Staffing is probably 50 per cent of your costs. In exceptional times, when you’re desperate for staff, your recruitment costs go up.’

Friedrich Joussen, chief executive of travel giant Tui, has already warned that the prices of holidays are rising as the company faces higher costs, adding: ‘There will be practically no last-minute offers at low prices this summer.’

Gordon Smith, The Mail on Sunday’s aviation expert, agreed: ‘The usual run of last-minute discounts is very unlikely to materialise.

‘Flight cancellations mean more people on fewer services, so airlines and holiday firms won’t need to slash prices to fill aircraft.’

‘Greedy’ airlines may now be forced to give refunds 

 By Anna Mikhailova, Deputy Political Editor for the Mail on Sunday

Grant Shapps has told airlines they could be forced to give automatic refunds to their passengers for cancelled flights.

An insider familiar with the plans said customers would be protected against cancellations and not be dependent on a carrier’s goodwill, with airlines no longer able to ‘fob off’ passengers with vouchers.

The Transport Secretary is understood to have raised the prospect of automatic refunds in a meeting with airline bosses on Wednesday. It comes as a Minister told The Mail on Sunday the half-term holiday chaos was the industry’s fault for ‘bad planning’ for post-Covid freedoms, adding: ‘The airlines didn’t prepare properly.’

A Government source said airlines had been ‘greedy’ and ‘don’t take any responsibility for overbooking’. The source added: ‘They winged it and hoped they could get through… But they overcut the staff and then they overbooked the holidays.’