Flight prices to autumn sun destinations have risen tenfold in less than a day as new island travel corridors sparked a half-term holiday frenzy.
Within 24 hours of Transport Secretary Grant Shapps opening quarantine-free travel to Spanish, Greek and Maldive islands, flights had either sold out or surged to as much as 10 times the price they were on Thursday morning.
Coming on the eve of schools’ half term, travel experts cited the rush for holidays as evidence of pent-up demand that illustrated the need to introduce safety measures such as coronavirus testing to open up the travel market.
Paul Charles, chief executive of the travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “It is a case of consumers wanting to travel anywhere that is opening up due to pent-up demand.
“It shows what can be done when ministers accept there are good safety standards in place in countries, such as testing. With measures like that, it is easier than Governments think to open up corridors more quickly. Let’s get on with it.”
Mr Shapps and the Health Secretary Matt Hancock are due to finalise their proposals for the UK’s travel testing regime within the next fortnight, which could open up air corridors to higher-risk areas by reducing quarantine to seven or potentially five days.
Return Ryanair flights from London Stansted to Tenerife on October 24 which were £26 return before Mr Shapps’ announcement had sold out by mid-morning on Friday. The cheapest available return flight leaving on October 24 is now £194 with easyJet
Return Ryanair flights from London Stansted to Gran Canaria on October 24 which were £60 return pre-announcement were £744.61 by Friday.
Thomas Cook, which unveiled Canary Island holidays within hours of the announcement, said demand for holidays rose more than 20-fold on the previous week for Spanish holidays.
Greece, with all its islands and mainland open to quarantine-free travel after the addition of Mykonos on Thursday, has moved up the October bookings rankings from 17th in 2019 to first, with a year-on-year increase of more than 73 per cent, according to Lastminute.com.
Even some of the most expensive business class British Airways flights from London Heathrow to the Maldives for mid November had doubled in price, from £2,980 on Thursday morning, before the announcement, to £5,960 24 hours later.
Travel industry experts said the surge in prices resulted from desperate shortages in capacity with some airlines having cut flights to the Canaries to one a day, adding that there would be reductions in price as they scheduled more planes. They also pointed to cheaper package holiday offers starting to become available.
Jet2.com announced it would be recommencing flights and holidays to the winter sun hot-spots from October 30, while easyJet holidays is planning its first departures from November 2, with packages available from £289 per person.
Tui, Europe's largest tour operator, has unveiled a range of holiday packages including a seven-night break in Lanzarote – departing on Sunday – from £567pp, including flights, and a one-week trip to Tenerife – departing on October 30 – from £753pp.