Q. Last November, I flew from Gatwick to Lanzarote for £160 return. Looking at booking ahead for November 2013, I was staggered to see that the price had gone up to £277. All airlines I checked seemed to have hiked their prices this year – are they in collusion? Sylvia Mather
A. The bosses of Monarch, Thomas Cook Airlines and Thomson Airways will be wryly amused by your question. The main carriers that connect the UK with the Canary Islands are just as fiercely competitive to Lanzarote as they are for many other desirable destinations. That is why Britain, and specifically London, is the best place in northern Europe to begin a journey to many Spanish locations.
November is a splendid month to claim a reviving burst of sunshine, still-warm sea and relaxation in one of the finest Spanish islands. Lanzarote has a winning combination of great beaches, weird volcanic scenery and architectural flourishes.
More pragmatically, it is also the cheapest month of the year in which to travel, with no school holidays intruding to push up prices. There is plenty of availability on Monarch, on a wide range of dates, at around £170 or £180. Fares on Thomas Cook and Thomson are typically £100 higher – but only someone desperate to lock in to specific dates would pay nearly £300 for a return flight in the lowest of seasons.
The two holiday companies may sell a few at that sort of price, but their real focus is on using most of the capacity as part of inclusive packages. With almost a year to go, they can both be relaxed about the level of bookings, knowing that there will be a surge of interest come September for winter breaks. By the start of October, you can expect much keener prices – and with a few days to go, package prices will probably fall to £200 or lower.
Your impatience to get a trip booked is understandable, but you can afford to relax. "Load factors" are notoriously low in November. Even if you book the day before, you can expect a good deal.