Flight prices cheaper today than in 1974Prices compared as Which? Travel turns 40

23 December 2013

Flight prices

If you're planning your 2014 holiday, you'll be pleased to hear that flying is far more affordable today than when Which? first produced a travel magazine 40 years ago. 

In 1974 when Holiday Which? first launched - Harold Wilson was Prime Minister and a loaf of bread cost 13p - the very first issue reported that a cheap return flight from London to the Algarve would cost about £75 return. That works out as £662 in today’s money, when adjusted for inflation. 

Our spot check found flights to the Algarve in January 2014 for as little as £59 return – 91% cheaper than the real price in 1974. Even in the height of summer 2014, flights to the Algarve were available for £211 (68% cheaper).

The reduction in prices is not just down to the no-frills airlines. Issue 1 of Holiday Which? also reported that flying with British Caledonia (later taken over by British Airways) to Ibiza cost £75 in 1974, or £662 in today's money. But our research found British Airways flights in January 2014 for just £118, and in August 2014 for £135.

Find out which airlines offer the best value by visiting our airlines survey.

Cheap flights in 2014

Back in 1974, the average weekly salary was just £42, compared to the average weekly salary today of £475, and many people simply couldn’t afford holidays abroad.

We may not think of the Canary Islands as an expensive destination, but when we visited in 1974, the cheapest air fare from London was £126, which is a whopping £1,112 in real terms. For the average worker, this was three weeks’ salary. 

In contrast our spot checks found flights to Gran Canaria in January 2014 for £72, – less than a day’s salary for the average worker, and 94% cheaper than the 1974 price.

Long haul flights in 2014

Long haul flights were even more of an expense in 1974. When we travelled to San Francisco, the cheapest economy return cost more than five weeks’ salary at £225 (£1,986 in today’s money). 

If you wanted to fly to San Francisco in 2014, our checks found return flights for £720 in January – less than two weeks’ salary and 64% cheaper than the ‘real’ cost 40 years earlier.

To read more about about changes in travel since 1974, see January's 40th anniversary special issue of Which? Travel magazine

More on this...

  • Holiday companies - find out the best and worst to book with in 2014
  • UK airports - find out the best airports to fly from
  • Luggage - choose the best suitcase for your next holiday