Covid UK: Airlines offer prices at a fifth of 2019 levels as 17 May in sight


Britons are snapping up summer flights which are only a fifth of the average price in 2019 as travel firms report a foreign holidays booking bonanza this week.

Demand has surged after Boris Johnson said there was ‘every chance’ breaks abroad can go ahead this summer, with the current plan to allow them again from May 17.

Skyscanner, the flight booking website, said some prices were significantly lower than two years ago with many travellers still concerned about travelling overseas.

It found the price of flights to southern Europe was down 82 per cent, with flights to Italy in August at £24 per adult on average compared with £131 this time in 2019.

The average cost of a flight to Greece has been reduced from £216 to £75, while Spain is down from £151 to £52 and Portugal has dropped from £148 to £54.   

But Britons could face losing out on good deals for summer holidays as experts expect prices to rise in the coming weeks as planes fill up which normally happens.  

And a stampede for staycations in the UK has seen holiday cottage companies accused of hiking prices – pushing up some short breaks to more than £1,000.

Huge price rises have been spotted in the past few days by customers of websites marketing thousands of cottages in the UK on behalf of owners around the country. 

One MailOnline reader found a luxury lodge for four people at Retallack Resort and Spa in Cornwall was up by more than 500 per cent compared to last summer.

In 2020 it cost £2,092 when he booked it for 14 nights from September 19, 2020, but the equivalent period from September 18 this year is now priced at a whopping £12,880. Aria Resorts, the owner, has been contacted for comment by MailOnline.

Another MailOnline reader revealed a luxury cottage stay at the five-star Headland Hotel in Newquay, Cornwall, in May had gone up by nearly 300 per cent this year.

She booked a cottage for six people for three nights for £1,100 for May 1 to 4, 2020 – but this year it is £4,065 for April 30 to May 3. The hotel has been asked to comment.

It comes as health experts said they won’t book a holiday abroad until at least 2023 because other nations are lagging behind Britain with their Covid-19 vaccine rollout. 

The price of a Ryanair return flight from Stansted to Corfu (file picture) for a family of four is down 25 per cent to £615 for a week this August, compared to the same period in 2019

Those heading to Antalya (above) in Turkey can get a return with easyJet from London Gatwick for a family of four for £1,062 this August, which is down 30 per cent on August 2019

A Ryanair return flight from Stansted to Ibiza (pictured) in Spain for a family of four is down 29 per cent to £313 for a week this August, compared to the same period in 2019

A British Airways return flight from London Heathrow to Paris (pictured last October) will cost £292 for a family of four this August, which is down 32 per cent on the figure in August 2019

RETURN FLIGHTS FOR A FAMILY OF FOUR – SUMMER 2019 AND 2021 
AIRLINE FROM TO 2019 2021 CHANGE
Ryanair London Stansted Corfu, Greece £822 £615 -£207
Ryanair London Stansted Ibiza, Spain £439 £313 -£126
Ryanair Manchester Bordeaux, France £278 £226 -£50
easyJet London Gatwick Rome, Italy £299 £431 +£132
easyJet London Gatwick Antalya, Turkey £1,514 £1,062 -£452
easyJet Bristol Crete, Greece £1,157 £1,320 +£163
British Airways London Heathrow Athens, Greece £898 £869 -£29
British Airways London Heathrow Paris, France £431 £292 -£139
Flight prices checked for a return for a week from August 7/8 in February 2019, and in February 2021 

Professor Graham Medley, who sits on the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, told LBC Radio yesterday: ‘I didn’t last year and I won’t next year.

‘I think it’s a time of caution and we need to see that. We’re doing very well with the vaccine in this country; other countries are not doing so well. The whole situation is going to be uncertain for a long time.’

Europe deals you can still book for summer

BACK TO BULGARIA

Enjoy a week all-inclusive at Riu Astoria in Golden Sands on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast from £446 per person, including flights. Book for June 11 with First Choice.

CROATIAN CAPER

Seven nights’ all-inclusive at Tui Blue Kalamota Island in Kolocep, an island off the coast of Dubrovnik, from £685 per person, including flights. Book for May 20 with Tui.

CLASSIC CANARIES

Marylanza Suites & Spa Resort in Playa de las Americas, Tenerife, has a week all-inclusive from £508 per person, including flights. Book for May 23 with Tui.

DUBAI DREAM

A week half-board at Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai costs from £1,311 per person, including flights. Book for June 2 with Away Holidays 

Tui, the UK’s largest tour operator, saw a six-fold increase in bookings following the publication of the Prime Minister’s roadmap for lifting lockdown on Monday.

Greece, Spain and Turkey were the most popular destinations, with bookings for those countries up 500 per cent. It was Tui’s busiest day for more than a month.

Rival package holiday giant Jet2.com also reported a surge in bookings, up 600 per cent – with Spain, Greece and Cyprus among the most-booked countries.

Steve Heapy, the chief executive of Jet2.com, said: ‘We have seen enormous pent-up demand from British holidaymakers for some time, with people wanting nothing more than to get away to the sunshine and enjoy their well-deserved holidays.

‘The Government’s announcement is the news they have been longing for, and the surge in bookings shows how ready our customers are to get away to the sunshine on a real package holiday.’

However, both firms confirmed they have cancelled all holidays up until May 16, with the day after the first possible date international travel can resume again under Mr Johnson’s blueprint.

As he announced the lifting of lockdown in the Commons on Monday, he said there was ‘every chance of an aviation recovery later on this year’.

A new travel taskforce will report to ministers on April 12 on when international travel can re-start. But whatever its findings, curbs cannot begin being lifted earlier than May 17.

Despite this, easyJet also reported soaring bookings. Yesterday it said flight bookings had increased 337 per cent, while package deals were up 630 per cent week on week.

Spanish beach resorts were among the most popular, including Malaga, Alicante and Palma, while bookings also poured in for Faro in Portugal and the Greek Island of Crete.

The firm also launched sales for 19million seats on more 110,000 flights for spring 2022, more flights and holidays than the airline has ever put on a year early before.

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said: ‘We have consistently seen that there is pent-up demand for travel and this surge in bookings shows that this signal from the Government that it plans to reopen travel has been what UK consumers have been waiting for.’

Europe’s biggest budget airline, Ryanair, said it had seen ‘a large surge in bookings from the UK to holiday destinations in Spain, Greece and Italy’.

A spokesman added: ‘Ryanair welcomes the UK’s roadmap for the reopening of EU air travel this summer, on the back of the UK’s very successful vaccine rollout to date.’ 

Retallack Resort and Spa in Cornwall in 2020

Retallack Resort and Spa in Cornwall in 2021

One MailOnline reader found a luxury lodge for four people at Retallack Resort and Spa in Cornwall was up by more than 500 per cent compared to last summer. In 2020 it cost £2,092 when he booked it for 14 nights from September 19, 2020 (left), but the equivalent period from September 18 this year (right) is now priced at a whopping £12,880

Prices have soared at the Retallack Resort and Spa in Cornwall, which is owned by Aria Resorts

Prices have soared at the Retallack Resort and Spa in Cornwall, which is owned by Aria Resorts

Headland Hotel in Newquay in 2020

Headland Hotel in Newquay in 2021

Another MailOnline reader revealed a cottage stay at the five-star Headland Hotel in Newquay, Cornwall, in May had gone up by nearly 300 per cent. She booked a seaview cottage for six people for three nights for £1,100 for May 1 to 4, 2020 (left) – but this year the price for a village view is £4,065 for April 30 to May 3 (right)

An example of a seaview cottage at the five-star Headland Hotel in Newquay, Cornwall

An example of a seaview cottage at the five-star Headland Hotel in Newquay, Cornwall

One woman looking for a place in Dorset posted: 'Watch out 'Sykes Price Hikes'! The cottage we booked for last April – 2020 – was £580 per week. This year – 2021 – same week £1,010'

One woman looking for a place in Dorset posted: ‘Watch out ‘Sykes Price Hikes’! The cottage we booked for last April – 2020 – was £580 per week. This year – 2021 – same week £1,010′

A woman in Wales, who has rented her property to holidaymakers through Sykes, said on Facebook: 'I'm an owner, have just checked my prices and they've gone from £459 to £1,145!'

A woman in Wales, who has rented her property to holidaymakers through Sykes, said on Facebook: ‘I’m an owner, have just checked my prices and they’ve gone from £459 to £1,145!’

Meanwhile, online travel firm Thomas Cook said traffic to its website was up 60 per cent following the PM’s announcement.

Phone app for tourists ‘within weeks’ to prove negative test or jab

Holidaymakers could be offered a phone app ‘within weeks’ that would enable them to prove they have tested negative for Covid or been vaccinated.

The International Air Transport Association, which is in talks with the UK Government, yesterday revealed plans to go live with its digital Travel Pass next month. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has asked a new taskforce to look into how holidays can safely be resumed, with ‘vaccine passports’ seen as one potential long-term measure. 

Popular holiday destinations such as Greece, Cyprus, Spain and the Canary Islands have already expressed interest in the idea.

IATA’s app will be capable of verifying if a passenger has had the Covid-19 tests or vaccines required to enter a country.

It would also prove they were administered by an approved authority and store the information on individual phones rather than in a centralised database to better protect privacy. 

IATA stressed the app would not be live for use next month as a ‘vaccine passport’, partly because Britain does not currently issue proof of vaccination in digital format.

But it is understood this is one of the issues being worked through by the new Department for Transport-led travel taskforce – raising the prospect of British holidaymakers using such an app this summer.

The UK’s vaccine credentials, which are currently given in paper format, would need to be ‘digitalised’, IATA said.

One way this could be done is if health authorities began issuing QR codes which could be scanned and uploaded into apps as proof that both doses of the vaccine had been given, along with information about where it was given, which jab was received and who it was administered by. 

The industry sees digital passes as an essential part of reopening air travel, as many countries still have strict restrictions or quarantines, which could be lifted for those who can prove they have been inoculated. Singapore Airlines was the first airline to start trials of the IATA Travel Pass in December. Etihad, Emirates, Qatar Airways and Air New Zealand are among the others conducting trials.

Other airlines are also trialling different apps which could end up being used for ‘vaccine passports’.

British Airways is trialling one called VeriFLY and expanded the trial last week to cover all inbound flights to the UK, in addition to all outbound flights to the US. It is currently only used to verify a negative Covid test result.

Its chief executive, Alan French, said the roadmap was ‘good news’ and that bookings were ‘flooding in’ for countries like Greece, Cyprus, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

He said: ‘While we await more details, it’s clear that the government’s ambition is to open up international travel in the coming months and hopefully in time for the summer holidays.’

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency and co-founder of the Save Our Summer campaign, which called for a May travel re-start, said: ‘Sales have started to soar again as some consumers start spending their wall of money stored up for overseas travel.’

Amanda Matthews, managing director and owner of luxury travel agency network Designer Travel, said her firm saw double the usual number of enquiries on Monday.

Meanwhile private jet firms said enquiries about chartering flights was also up.

UK-based private jet broker, PrivateFly, said enquiries were up 184 per cent up on the same day last year, while bookings were up 150 per cent.

Adam Twiddell, PrivateFly chief executive, said: ‘We are certainly seeing increasing confidence. Yesterday was our busiest day of the month so far, with enquiry levels well over double the same day last year and a rise in bookings for July and August last night and this morning.

‘Many UK clients who were uncertain and sitting on decisions have now booked.’

He said charters to Ibiza and Malaga in Spain, Santorini in Greece and Split in Croatia were among the most popular.

However, some in the industry urged caution given the tough travel restrictions currently in place and the difficulty officials will face in unpicking them completely in the coming months.

For instance, some countries may remain closed to British tourists if they have not vaccinated enough of their own populations.

Popular destinations are also currently subject at any moment to being added to the ‘red list’ of countries where worrying new variants have been discovered that could undermine the vaccination programme.

Those returning from these places are currently subject to 11 nights quarantine in a hotel and, even if this is lifted, could remain subject to stricter measures.

Testing will almost certainly remain a requirement for many destinations too and for those who have not been vaccinated, potentially adding hundreds of pounds to the cost of getaways.

Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said: ‘Holidaymakers who have been waiting for the green light to book some long-awaited travel plans will be very happy with the prospect of international travel resuming this summer.

‘But it’s vital that travellers are advised when booking of the additional costs and risks still involved in planning foreign holidays.

‘Our advice remains that anyone considering booking a holiday abroad in the near future should proceed with caution.

‘If you do book, only use providers that offer flexible booking policies, and where appropriate, book a package holiday as these come with stronger consumer protections.’ 

Huge crowds enjoy the hot weather on Bournemouth beach in Dorset on August 8 last year

Huge crowds enjoy the hot weather on Bournemouth beach in Dorset on August 8 last year

In the UK, Sykes Cottages, one of the biggest providers with over 15,000 properties, has been accused of trying to take advantage of families desperate to escape lockdown.

UK’s chief pandemic modeller won’t take a summer holiday abroad before 2023

The surge in booking foreign holidays came despite Britain’s chief pandemic modeller revealing he would not travel abroad for a summer break before 2023.

Professor Graham Medley, who sits on the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, said this was partly because other nations are lagging behind Britain with their Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

He told LBC Radio yesterday: ‘I didn’t last year and I won’t next year.

‘I think it’s a time of caution and we need to see that. We’re doing very well with the vaccine in this country; other countries are not doing so well. The whole situation is going to be uncertain for a long time.’

Concerns were raised yesterday by the chairman of the South West Tourism Alliance, Alistair Handyside, who operates three holiday cottages in Devon. 

At the same time, critics of Sykes used Facebook to allege huge price increases. The company denied the allegations.

One woman looking for accommodation close to the Dorset coast posted: ‘Watch out ‘Sykes Price Hikes’! The cottage we booked for last April – 2020 – was £580 per week. This year – 2021 – same week £1,010.’ 

A woman in Wales, who has rented her property to holidaymakers through Sykes and is in the process of leaving, said she had no control over the prices.

She wrote: ‘I’m an owner, have just checked my prices and they’ve gone from £459 to £1,145! I’ve questioned this and they have said it’s due to demand. Quite frankly I’m embarrassed and have told them to sort themselves out.’

Mr Handyside said: ‘Capacity is down. Lots of people have left the sector because they can’t cope with dealing with the Covid preparations or they have gone bust.

‘When there is less capacity and greater demand, you get price hiking. It was inevitable – but not at these levels.’ Sykes Holiday Cottages said it would be wrong to accuse it of changing its prices because of the pandemic.

The company said its prices are set automatically according to availability and demand. It said it was unable to comment on the examples posted on Facebook because of a lack of detail.

One MailOnline reader said she booked on August 3, 2020 to go to the Haven site at Hopton in Norfolk on March 27 this year for a week in a two-bedroom caravan for £580, which is during the school Easter holidays.

She has now looked to rebook for the next school holidays from May 29 for seven days and the price is £1,418 – a cost she described as ‘disgusting’. Haven has also been contacted for comment.

Confused about the roadmap? Unsure whether to book a break? Here’s a Q&A with answers on how holidays for Britons will take off 

By HARRIET SIME FOR THE DAILY MAIL 

Will I really be able to go on holiday abroad from May 17 as the Government announced this week?

International travel is due to resume from May 17 but this depends on a Department for Transport review — to be published on April 12 — that will examine the prevalence of mutant strains of coronavirus as well as vaccine programmes in other countries.

What about travel corridors? Will these be back when the ban on travel abroad is lifted?

The quarantine-free ‘travel corridor’ system of last year may be reintroduced as the Government restarts holidays on a country-by-country basis. However, Paul Charles, of travel consultancy PC Agency, says: ‘Testing and digital health apps, which prove whether someone’s been vaccinated, are likely to take prominence over travel corridors.’

I can’t afford to pay the £1,750 to quarantine at a hotel. Will the ‘red list’ remain in place this summer?

The roadmap published by the Government on Monday suggested restrictions, including the requirement for arrivals from 33 high-risk countries to quarantine in hotels, could be scrapped in May and replaced by testing.

I was hoping to go on a European cruise this summer. Will that be possible?

‘You may well be able to go on a cruise this summer but there are two main hurdles,’ says the Mail’s cruising expert Lesley Bellew. ‘First, the cruise industry has been treated separately from other foreign travel so a restart still depends on the Government removing specific advice against cruise travel. Cruise lines say it takes at least six weeks to get ships ready for sailing, so if the April 12 travel review includes a green light for cruise ships they could set sail by the end of May. Secondly, all cruise itineraries will be dependent on other countries easing their current restrictions.’

I’ve heard lots about vaccine passports. Are these likely to be introduced?

Talks with foreign officials over possible vaccine passports are being ramped up. Greece, Spain and Cyprus have all expressed interest.

What is the best way to guarantee I get a refund if there is another lockdown?

Package holidays offer the best protection. You’ll be entitled to a refund within 14 days if punitive quarantine measures are put in place — at home or abroad — or your trip is cancelled. Check the company you are booking with has a good track record of processing refunds; providers such as TUI and Jet2 have been praised for this. When booking a staycation, scrutinise the terms and conditions.

Will EU nations have the same system for allowing travel or set their own rules?

Countries are most likely to adopt their own restrictions. However, the EU could introduce a one-size-fits-all policy for British tourists.

I’m in my 30s and have booked a holiday in Greece in June. If I haven’t had my jab by then, will I be able to go?

If borders are open and travel is allowed, it’s likely you will, but you may need proof of a negative test on arrival. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said last week he wanted it to be ‘as easy as possible’ for those who have not been vaccinated to travel to his country.

Q I want to book a break in June or July. Which countries are my safest bet?

Greece is looking good. It was one of the first to reopen to tourism last year and is keen to roll out the red carpet to British tourists. Israel is also a strong contender for a summer getaway, having led the charge when it comes to vaccinations.

Q When will I be able to go on a staycation? I would like to book a UK break.

Holiday lets and self-contained accommodation can reopen from April 12 to people from the same household. Visiting second homes will also be allowed. Hotels and B&Bs will have to wait until May 17. Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford says ‘self-contained’ holidays may be able to take place at Easter, but that would just apply to Welsh residents.

Will booking a cottage with my elderly parents, who are in my bubble, be allowed?

Yes, you can stay in self-contained accommodation with your household and/or whoever is in your bubble.

What about campsites? Do they have any specific rules about reopening?

Campsites with private facilities, such as en-suite bathrooms, can open from April 12. However, those with shared facilities will not reopen until at least May 17.

Will airlines put on extra flights from May 17 to meet pent-up demand?

Airlines are already increasing their capacity on the back of the Government’s announcement this week and are likely to continue to do so as demand increases. EasyJet has announced it is adding new routes to its summer programme, including Enfidha in Tunisia and Sunny Beach in Bulgaria.

Are all the current holiday deals likely to stick around for a while?

 Holiday providers have been slashing prices significantly to stimulate sales. However, prices are likely to increase as companies respond to growing demand and make up for big losses.

I have relatives in Australia and am desperate to see them. When will I be able to travel Down Under?

You could be waiting a while. Australia has pledged to keep its borders closed until its entire population has been vaccinated and the country only started its programme this week. On Monday, Australia’s Tourism Minister Dan Tehan said he hoped that international tourism would resume ‘by this time next year’.

I’ve booked a trip to New York at the end of May, will this be possible?

Unlikely. President Joe Biden recently reimposed a travel ban on the UK due to fears about the new coronavirus variants. Travel between the two countries could be possible this autumn.

Children are not being vaccinated. Will they be able to travel abroad on holiday this year?

The situation is unclear. Children are likely to be exempt from the vaccine requirement but not much has been said on the matter. While many countries will require those who have not been vaccinated to provide proof of a negative test, children under 12 will not have to.

Greek island holidays as early as MAY? Athens considers plan to break from EU rules and reopen borders to sun-seeking Britons before summer

By SOPHIE TANNO FOR MAILONLINE

Greek island holidays could be on the cards as soon as May as the country examines opening its borders early. 

Greece is looking into whether it can give an early green light to British tourists who have received the vaccine. 

The move would break from the rest of the European Union, which is pushing for a united and cautious approach to reopening non-essential travel from outside the bloc. 

Greek island holidays could be on the cards as soon as May as the country examines opening its borders early

Greek island holidays could be on the cards as soon as May as the country examines opening its borders early

It comes as Greece has recorded a total of 182,783 Covid-19 cases and 6,343 deaths. Over the previous 24 hours, the country recorded 2,111 new cases and 22 new deaths

It comes as Greece has recorded a total of 182,783 Covid-19 cases and 6,343 deaths. Over the previous 24 hours, the country recorded 2,111 new cases and 22 new deaths

It comes as Greece has recorded a total of 182,783 Covid-19 cases and 6,343 deaths. Over the previous 24 hours, the country recorded 2,111 new cases and 22 new deaths. 

Athens is seeking to boost the country’s vital holiday industry, which has taken a hit due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The government is considering plans to allow in British visitors who can prove that they have been vaccinated Covid-19 in time for the summer months, according to a report in The Times. 

Athens is seeking to boost the country's vital holiday industry, which has taken a hit due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Above, Oia on the island of Santorini

Athens is seeking to boost the country’s vital holiday industry, which has taken a hit due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Above, Oia on the island of Santorini 

Greece is looking into whether it can give an early green light to British tourists who have received the vaccine. Elafonisi beach on the island of Crete is pictured above

Greece is looking into whether it can give an early green light to British tourists who have received the vaccine. Elafonisi beach on the island of Crete is pictured above 

Athens is also putting in plans to ensure that airport staff and hotel employees will receive a vaccine. 

The reopening of the country would be in contrast with EU leaders who are expected to say that it is too soon to start lifting restrictions on non-essential travel. 

A video call in which EU leaders will gather to warn that infections are still too high to remove travel restrictions is expected to state that the ‘epidemiological situation remains serious, and the new variants pose additional challenges.’  

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk