A surge in air fares for half-term Mediterranean holidays means that Bangkok is cheaper to reach than Benidorm, while BA fares to the Costa del Sol are higher than to Florida. And it will cost more to fly on Ryanair from Stansted to Portugal than a trip to New York.
Airlines are exploiting strong demand for half-term Mediterranean breaks by raising prices to levels unprecedented for the late-May bank holiday.
For travellers heading away for a week, many long-haul destinations are cheaper to reach than airports in Spain and Portugal.
The Independent has researched a wide range of fares from UK airports to European destinations travelling out on 23 May for a week, and compared them with long-haul alternatives.
From Manchester, the cheapest easyJet return flight to Alicante - the airport serving Benidorm - is £444, without luggage, meals or drinks. Yet a round trip from Manchester to Bangkok on Etihad via Abu Dhabi costs £426 - with 30kg of baggage allowed, plus meals and drinks on board.
Fares from southern England are even more extreme. The last seat for Ryanair’s flight from Stansted to Faro in Portugal went for £254, with the same for the inbound flight a week later, making a total of £508 return from Essex to the Algarve. Flying from Heathrow to New York and back on United is £2 cheaper.
Booking 24 hours ahead with British Airways, two of the most popular destinations from Gatwick airport showed remarkably similar prices. The cheapest BA ticket for a round-trip to Malaga was £837, £15 more than the airline’s fare to the home of Walt Disney World: Orlando.
The Mickey Mouse prices are even more remarkable once Air Passenger Duty is taken into account. For European destinations the tax is only £13, compared with £71 for long-haul trips.
A spokeswoman for British Airways said: “Prices for flights go up and down according to market demand and generally increase the closer to departure.
“For holiday makers wanting to plan for the next August bank holiday, BA currently has return fares to Malaga from £172.
The aviation analyst, John Strickland, said: “Airlines know there is more demand than supply at key holiday times, so that’s where they make their money. Equally, it’s not peak travel time for many long-haul destinations so lower prices are available.”
Haydn Wrath, director of Travel Nation, said: “The laws of demand and supply reign supreme with airlines. For a week’s trip flying just a couple of hours to Europe is more attractive than going long-haul, especially at a time of year when the weather in Europe is likely to be excellent.”
Travel agenda - 10/4/2015
Travel agenda - 10/4/2015
1/8 NZ bargain
Planning a trip to New Zealand? Next Thursday might be a good time to book, when Air New Zealand will sell 100 return Heathrow-Auckland flights for £75 each. On 16 April, 50 tickets will be available at STA Travel in London Victoria, 40 over the phone, and 10 through social media. The catch is that travel is for specific dates in May and June, with some availability in October. Limits on the number of tickets you can book also apply.
Tourism New Zealand
2/8 Basket case
Forest Holidays and VisitScotland have introduced a "picnic butler", who takes visitors to hidden picnic spots with a hamper of local specialities such as smoked salmon, oat cakes and tablet. From £75 for guests at Forest Holidays' cabins in Argyll and Perthshire.
3/8 China upgrade
The Dragon Trip, an established backpacker circuit of China, now has a premium version, with en-suite rooms replacing dorms and a flight instead of a 25-hour train journey. The two-week trip from Hong Kong to Beijing costs US$2,200 (£1,466), without international flights.
4/8 World view
The One World Observatory in Manhattan is set to open on 29 May and tickets are now on sale. The observatory, which is on levels 100, 101, and 102 of the new One World Trade Center, provide panoramic views of New York City. Tickets $32.
5/8 First steps
"Indigenous Australia: enduring civilisation" is the name of a new major exhibition which runs from 23 April until 2 August at the British Museum. Drawing on objects from the collection and loans from Australia, the display highlights the culture of the Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders, which dates back more than 60,000 years. Entry £10 (free for children under 16)
6/8 Fare deal
South West Trains has extended its Fan Fare offer, of a fixed £15 for a day return (£7 for children) until next Friday. You can travel between London and Bournemouth, Salisbury and – with a supplement for the ferry – anywhere on the Isle of Wight.
7/8 Rhodes work
British Airways is to launch its first flights to Rhodes from Gatwick on 29 April. The airline will compete with easyJet, which flies from Gatwick and Liverpool, as well as with Ryanair, which operates services from Stansted and East Midlands.
8/8 Go Gotham
A new five-star hotel, billing itself as "Europe's sexiest", has opened in Manchester. Set in a former bank, Hotel Gotham has 60 rooms and "inner sanctum suites", and a private members' club on the top floor, while the 1920s-inspired decor plays to the building's heritage.
Britain’s biggest holiday firms are also cashing in on strong demand. The Independent has tracked the prices of specific package holidays, departing this weekend for a week. Over the past 10 days, half-term holiday prices with Thomson from Newcastle to Benidorm have doubled - with the final places for Friday's charter sold just a day before departure.
Many Thomas Cook packages to the Mediterranean for half-term have sold out in the past few days, despite calls for a boycott of the company after its handling of the deaths of Christi and Bobby Shepherd. The children died from carbon monoxide poisoning while on a Thomas Cook holiday in Corfu in 2006, but only this week did the company apologise.
Another European airline has closed down abruptly. Air Lituanica, which flew from Vilnius to 10 cities, placed a notice on its website reading: “Dear passengers, from 22th of May the scheduled flights are not operated, we apologize for all inconvenience!”
The Bank Holiday exodus started with some long delays, especially at Britain’s two busiest airports. Delta’s overnight arrival at Heathrow from Atlanta was 11 hours late, while BA’s morning flight to Chicago took off six hours behind schedule.
At Gatwick delays of up to three hours built up during the day.
Airlines serving Rome’s main airport, Fiumicino, are continuing to cancel one in five flights because of damage caused by a fire earlier this month.Reuse content