Ryanair’s boss has warned that the budget airline’s trademark one euro and 10 euro fares will not be seen for a ‘number of years’ due to soaring fuel prices – as hard-hit British holidaymakers face the biggest squeeze to their living standards in 60 years.
Michael O’Leary said he expects Ryanair’s average fare to rise by about 10 euros over the next five years, from around 40 euros (£33.75) last year to roughly 50 euros by 2027 – and that ‘many millions’ of people will ditch the likes of British Airways and EasyJet as flight prices rise across the board.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I don’t think there’s going to be ten euro flights anymore because oil prices are significantly higher as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
‘Our average fare, which last year was 40 euros… we think that 40 euros will need to edge up to 50 euros in the next five years.
‘There’s no doubt that at the lower end of the marketplace, our really cheap promotional fares – the one euro fares, the 0.99 euro fares, even the 9.99 euro fares – I think you will not see those fares for the next number of years. … We think people will continue to fly frequently. But I think people are going to become much more price sensitive and therefore my view of life is that people will trade down in their many millions.’
In July last year, Ryanair launched £5 one-way tickets to European destinations including Athens in Greece, Lisbon and Faro in Portugal, Madrid and Seville in Spain, and Dublin in Ireland as Covid restrictions were eased. However, MailOnline has found that the cheapest flights to these cities from London Stansted on August 18 are now significantly higher than this. A one-way flight to Lisbon now costs £130, while to Athens it is £189 and £130 for Madrid. It is even £149 for a flight from London Stansted to Dublin. The cheapest of the lot is a flight to Faro for £60.
Across the board, average flight prices based on searches for European routes departing from the UK have surged by around a third since pre-Covid, new data shared with MailOnline shows. A single ticket from all London airports to Istanbul and Antalya in Turkey now cost £588 and £456 respectively on average, up 62% and 44% this week from the same period in 2019. The average cost of a flight to Larnaca is now £446, up from £299, to Zurich in Switzerland around £380, up from £178, and around £360 to Athens up from £252 three years ago.
Travel experts say that the price increase is being caused by a combination of rampant inflation and a surge in demand since the end of lockdown restrictions. But the impact of long periods of grounded flights, rising costs and savage air industry job cuts during the crisis have left some carriers struggling to meet the demand.
However, Mr O’Leary said he had ‘very little sympathy’ for airports which have been mired in chaos, saying they knew schedules months in advance. He also accused Heathrow, which has been one of the worst affected airports and which has capped the number of passengers coming to the airport over the summer, of ‘mismanagement’.
The Ryanair boss added: ‘People are going to get much more price sensitive on energy. you’re looking at inflation that’s double digits in the UK, it’s not just energy, it’s food, its rent, it’s going to be almost everything the normal family is purchasing in the UK.
‘History has taught us that you enter into a period of inflation… it greatly damages people on lower incomes, because there’s no way that salaries and social welfare payments will keep track of inflation. … It’s only when you get inflation under control that you have real growth in wages, real growth in social welfare payments, and a better economy and a better lifestyle for your citizens.’
In July last year, Ryanair launched £5 one-way tickets to European destinations including Athens in Greece, Lisbon and Faro in Portugal, Madrid and Seville in Spain, and Dublin in Ireland as Covid restrictions were eased. However, MailOnline has found that the cheapest flights to these cities from London Stansted on August 18 are now significantly higher than this. A one-way flight to Lisbon now costs £130, while to Athens it is £189 and £130 for Madrid. It is even £149 for a flight from London Stansted to Dublin. The cheapest of the lot is a flight to Faro for £60
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary speaking at a press conference at the InterContinental Park Lane in London on August 31, 2021
Passengers board Ryanair airplanes in Orio al Serio near Bergamo, Italy on May 8, 2022
Across the board, average flight prices based on searches for European routes departing from the UK have surged by around a third since pre-Covid, new data shared with MailOnline shows. A single ticket from all London airports to Istanbul and Antalya in Turkey now cost £588 and £456 respectively on average, up 62% and 44% this week from the same period in 2019. The average cost of a flight to Larnaca is now £446, up from £299, to Zurich in Switzerland around £380, up from £178, and around £360 to Athens up from £252 three years ago
Surging costs have been across the board, including at discount carriers such as Wizz Air, which previously warned that ticket prices would rise by around 10% over the summer.
Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency, told MailOnline: ‘Flight prices are sky-high at the moment, literally sky-high, because of pent-up demand after two years of Covid restrictions and people having saved a lot of money during lockdown.
‘For many people, this is the first holiday they’ve had in a couple of years – they’ll be wanting to escape the dreary news about inflation and the cost of living crisis, but they’ll also be wanting to see friends and family from abroad who they’ve not seen in a while. All of this demand drives up prices.
‘Some of this is also being driven by a reduced number of available flights, what with airlines cancelling large numbers of them.’
He added: ‘I wouldn’t expect prices to start falling for a while yet, probably not until the sales begin in around October – but I would also say that if you’re able to get away, if you’ve saved, then you should still try to get abroad while you can.’
A spokesperson for travel agency Kayak, which shared some of the data with MailOnline, said: ‘We’ve seen flight searches on Kayak surpass pre-pandemic levels throughout this year – clearly showing that people in the UK want to travel again.
‘But the industry is struggling to keep up with demand, and prices are going up. In recent weeks, we’ve seen average flight prices based on searches for European routes departing from the UK are up by about 30% compared to 2019 levels.’
It comes as Wizz Air announced it will be cancelling most of its winter flights from Cardiff Airport due to ‘economic pressures’.
The budget airline is to suspend journeys to nine popular destinations from September 19, saying the routes are not commercially viable. The airline is no longer offering tickets to Alicante, Corfu, Heraklion, Faro, Larnaca, Lanzarote, Palma de Mallorca, Sharm el-Sheikh or Tenerife.
Its bosses said the decision was made to minimise disruption to passengers, who will be informed by email if they are affected.
Ticket-holders will be offered options to either rebook to take their trip this year as planned but from London Gatwick or Luton Airport, or book comparable flights to go next summer from Cardiff.
People will also be offered either a full cash refund or 120% of their ticket cost in airline credit. Flights to Milan, Italy, and Romanian capital Bucharest will still operate over the winter months, Wizz Air confirmed. Tickets to those destinations are being offered from October. However, all other links will be cancelled until April 2023 when the airline said it intends to then increase operations from Cardiff.
Its staff at Wales’s only international airport will be offered opportunities at other UK airports over the winter to return in the spring.
The company set up a new base at Cardiff Airport in December 2020, creating 40 new jobs, with the aim of increasing the airport’s yearly seat capacity by 350,000.
However it reported growing losses of £381 million in the first quarter of this year, which it said was down to the effect of fuel costs and recent airport disruption. It said rising demand and ticket prices should ensure a ‘material operating profit’ in the second quarter.
BA has cancelled more than 30,000 flights over the summer and axed more after Heathrow last month brought in a daily departing passenger cap of 100,000. It means customers are entitled to being re-booked on to alternative services if their original flight was cancelled, and the move is to ensure there are enough seats to accommodate those affected.
Those who can’t be re-booked on to a BA service will be entitled to be being given a seat on a rival carrier at great cost to the airline.
It comes after Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye warned curbs on holiday flights from the UK and European airports could continue until next summer.
Mr Holland-Kaye told the Mail: ‘We’ve seen no change in airline behaviour towards ground handling and unless something changes radically we’re going to be in the same situation in six months’ time or maybe even 12 months.’
The airport’s cap disproportionately affects BA as it is the largest airline at Heathrow.
BA’s decision to suspend sales will affect the whole industry, pushing up prices on rival carriers.
But it will help to stabilise the carrier’s operations and reduce the risk of disruption caused by overbooking.
BA’s suspension of ticket sales for short-haul ticket flights comes as passengers were filmed crawling through hatches in the baggage reclaim area at Manchester Airport, after they lost patience with hours of delays and ‘chaos.’
An undercover reporter working at Manchester Airport as a baggage handler for Swissport was told that travellers trying to get air-side to reach their bags ‘happens all the time.’
Overhead views shows a busy Terminal 2 at Heathrow airport amid the summer travel chaos
They added that it causes ‘fights’ and branded the situation ‘f*****g chaos’, saying the cause was that they had ‘literally no staff’.
The investigation by Channel 4 Dispatches also exposes how a whistle-blower claimed pilots with one budget airline feel pressured to fly longer hours while suffering fatigue.
While a UK Border Force insider warns that on current staffing levels, lengthy queues at passport control will exceed three hours if passenger numbers reach pre-pandemic levels.
The alarming revelations come after months of disruption which has seen a staggering 1.7million people flying out of or into the UK impacted by cancellations within 48 hours of their flight.
Channel 4’s Dispatches also discovered that physically demanding work that would typically be covered by two or more people was performed by individual handlers at Heathrow, with conditions at shifts starting at 3am described as ‘absolutely brutal’.
The Home Office said the warning about queues at passport control exceeding three hours was ‘false’, with over nine out of ten passengers queuing for less than 30 minutes in July.
A spokeswoman said Border Force ‘works hard to ensure it has the right level of resources to check that passengers are compliant with our measures and to maintain border security as travel continues to open’. It had recently recruited 800 new staff, she added.
Swissport, the baggage-handling company used by many airlines, sacked over half of its 6,000 baggage handling staff during the pandemic.
In a bid to speed up counter-terrorist and accreditation checks on new recruits, ministers have ordered the vetting centre to prioritise airport staff to help plug the gaps quicker.
Swissport told the programme it was ‘sorry for our part in the disruption some people have experienced at Manchester Airport’.
‘We are doing everything we can to mitigate delays for passengers, including hiring more than 4,100 people since January,’ it added.
In response to the claims, a Department for Transport (DfT) spokesman said: ‘We’ve done everything within our power to support the aviation industry, including providing £8billion to protect jobs during the pandemic, but it’s now for the sector itself to make passengers can get away on their well-deserved summer holidays.’
The department said action had included accelerated security vetting checks, as well as a temporary amnesty on airport slots to allow airlines to plan ahead and prevent last-minute cancellations.
The DfT spokesman added: ‘These measures are clearly working and flight cancellations have recently fallen back to their 2019 levels following the changes which are providing passengers with more certainty.’
In a statement to the Daily Mail, Swissport stressed that delays were caused by ‘disruption from multiple sources’ and not just ground handlers. Headcount at Manchester Airport had seen a net increase of 415 this year, it added. The firm stressed it did not work with airlines which had experienced disruption at Heathrow or Gatwick.
Manchester Airport – whose managing director, Karen Smart, resigned in April following weeks of chaos for travellers – stressed that the undercover filming was done around a month ago.
It said the first week of the school summer holidays had seen 95 per cent of passengers pass through security in under half an hour.
Ground handling including check in and baggage is the responsibility of individual airlines, it added.