How to find a cheaper flight to Asia this summer - and good news for SeaFrance customers

 

Q. Why are flights to Asia in summer 2012 at least £100 more than they were when I went last year? It is putting me off going: £800 at least to Kuala Lumpur. I am sure I can't be the only one. Paul Swannie

A. You're not the only one – we have received similar questions from people flying to the US, Australia and Africa.

The short answer: supply and demand. The supply of seats to South-east Asia, and Kuala Lumpur (KL), pictured above, in particular, will fall this summer because of the decision by Air Asia X to abandon flights from Gatwick to KL at the end of March. Malaysia Airlines is replacing one of its daily 747s with an Airbus A380 "superjumbo" from Heathrow in July, but the extra seats will not compensate – and the disappearance of its only competitor from the UK to Malaysia is seeing prices rise. A flight from Heathrow to KL on the first Saturday of August, returning a week later, is being sold by the airline at £1,252.

There are cheaper alternatives, as long as you are prepared to change planes en route. The lowest fares – looking at online agents such as Opodo.co.uk and Expedia.co.uk – are on Egyptair via Cairo and Bangkok for under £700. But Singapore Airlines is available via its home hub for around £830. And if your destination is close to Singapore or Bangkok, either city is likely to offer better fares because of the intense competition from the UK.

The best plan, perhaps counter-intuitively, is to buy a customised package, including a hotel along with the flight. This generally opens up seats at cheaper prices. At worst, the hotel will be more or less free; at best, you could save hundreds of pounds. Agents such as Trailfinders and Flight Centre can advise.

 

Q. In October 2011 I booked a return crossing for later this year on SeaFrance. The ferry company has now collapsed. How do I get my money back? Name withheld

A. Earlier this month the Commercial Court in Paris ordered the liquidation of SeaFrance. But unlike many collapses, in which customers with forward tickets lose out, the firm has set up "an automatic refund process for all current bookings". If this has not already happened, call SeaFrance on 0845 458 0666.

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