Frankfurt If you don’t have any plans for your fall vacation yet, you should check the airline websites more often in the coming days. The airlines are starting more discount campaigns again. The British low-cost airline Easyjet is running a campaign called “Big Orange Sale” this Tuesday. Selected flights are available with a 20 percent discount.
The strong pent-up demand after the long pandemic, combined with a reduced offer, meant that flights were fully booked and prices went through the roof. The so-called Low Cost Monitor, which the German Aerospace Center (DLR) regularly carries out, shows how strong this is. The experts calculate an average value from the ticket prices including taxes, fees and surcharges on selected days.
At Ryanair, a flight in spring 2019 cost just under 60 euros on average, and in spring 2023 it was a good 123 euros. Easyjet increased the ticket price similarly, rising from just under 56 to almost 103 euros. In the case of Wizz Air, flights actually increased in price from around 50 to almost 150 euros in the spring.
At Eurowings – the airline no longer sees itself as a purely low-cost company and was already charging higher prices before the pandemic – the average value increased only slightly from 106 to just under 118 euros.
It is true that “competitive prices” from before the pandemic, such as a 9.99 euro ticket, will no longer return. A flight away from the bargains and to particularly popular destinations will probably still be quite expensive in the fall. In the medium term, passengers can hope for slightly cheaper tickets again after the long-term maximum prices.
There are several reasons for this: Firstly, the booming summer business is coming to an end. Many airline managers assume that customers will fly less in autumn and winter. So they try to make full use of their jets through attractive offers. There is still confidence among some in the industry.
“So far we have not seen in our bookings that demand is weakening,” said Eurowings boss Jens Bischof a few days ago. But one thing is clear: there will no longer be as many flights in the coming weeks and months as in the summer.
The high cost of living may also contribute to this. So far, travel budgets have not been capped because of this. But it is by no means certain that it will stay that way.
In fact, in a recent survey by the IFAK Institute on behalf of the radio station RPR1, one in four people said they had already made their first compromises while on vacation. Among other things, expensive destinations were avoided, trips were taken for shorter periods of time, and accommodation was saved. Since inflation in Germany remains at a high level, many citizens will likely be forced to forego vacations more than before in the coming year.
Secondly, more supply is coming into the market. The Federal Association of the German Aviation Industry (BDL) assumes that, for example, as many seats will soon be offered on routes to and from southern Europe as before the start of the pandemic.
The peak has been reached, said Bernd Bauer, CEO of Lufthansa subsidiary Discover Airlines, a few days ago. Business will slow down somewhat in the coming year, also because more capacity will be offered.
>> Read also: What at Lufthansa and Co. are left with the expensive tickets
Less demand and more supply at the same time – this has always depressed prices in aviation in the past. That is likely to be the case this time too, even if the significantly increased fees for airports or air traffic control will probably prevent a ruinous price war like in the years before the pandemic.
Greater customer reluctance could have a double impact on the industry. On the one hand, there is less flying. On the other hand, passengers are likely to book premium less frequently in the future than before.
Above all, the trend of treating yourself to more when flying as a private traveler has brought companies like Lufthansa high profits. But Alex Irving from Bernstein Research warns against false expectations: The Lufthansa Group is betting that it can permanently shift the booking behavior of private customers towards premium. But it is much early to be really sure about that.
In addition, political pressure is growing due to the airlines’ pricing policy. The Italian government recently capped the prices for flights to the two islands of Sicily and Sardines by decree. Providers may set their prices at a maximum of 200 percent above the average cost of flights to both destinations.
Airline managers are more annoyed by the general approach than the direct consequences of this order. Lufthansa, Easyjet, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Ryanair complain in rare agreement that it is an intervention in the free market. Ryanair even speaks of an illegal operation.
How with airlines like Ryanair a ticket for 20 euros becomes a flight for 100 euros
Now it’s an easy exercise for many airlines to supposedly drive down the prices for the actual flight – and then make the money with additional fees. This has long been practice with low-cost airlines. According to calculations by the British platform Net Voucher Codes, a ticket for around 20 euros with Ryanair can turn into a flight for almost 100 euros if luggage, a fixed seat, insurance and quick check-in at the gate are booked.
But the industry is also threatened with trouble here: the Spanish government has initiated an investigation against seven airlines – including Ryanair, Vueling and Wizz Air – because of baggage costs. And British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently announced that he wanted to take action against the practice of “hidden fees” – not just in aviation, but also in hotel bookings or the purchase of event tickets. The British Ministry for Economic Affairs was commissioned to investigate.
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