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Updated: 14 Apr 2022

Are flight prices really rising? Flights to Europe 50% cheaper than pre-pandemic

Return flights to Venice and Barcelona for this summer were less than £100 when booked in March

Despite spiralling fuel prices, flights to Europe are actually 48% cheaper than they were pre-pandemic.

Research by Which? has found that overall, the average cost of a summer holiday flight this August from the UK to Europe booked in March 2022 was just £92 compared to £182 in March 2019.

When we compared six individual routes from London Stansted to popular European holiday destinations we found all six were significantly cheaper in 2022.

Tickets to Barcelona and Venice saw the largest reductions. In March 2019, a return to Barcelona departing in August 2019 averaged at £90. In March 2022 for a flight departing in August 2022, the average price was £62 - almost a third cheaper. Similarly, a flight from London to Venice averaged at £151 in March 2019 and in March 2022 it was £41 - that's just over a quarter of what it was pre-pandemic.

While some airlines have reported surging bookings and warned of higher fares, it's clear passenger demand has still not fully recovered. It's likely airlines are continuing to incentivise passengers to book with low fares, despite the removal of most restrictions on international travel.

Unsure if you still need to wear a mask on your flight? We've looked at 18 airlines and their latest face mask policies.

Cheap flights to Europe: Tenerife, Portugal and Greece

RoutePrice in March 2019Price in March 2022Price differencePercentage decrease
London to Barcelona£90£62£2831%
London to Tenerife South£264£170£9435%
London to Faro£193£131£6232%
London to Heraklion£373£259£11430%
London to Venice£151£41£11073%
London to Larnaca£281£238£4315%
UK to Europe (all destinations)£178£92£8648%

Table notes: Average flight prices for August 2019 and August 2022 departures if booked in months listed above. Data provided by Skyscanner.

All six routes we compared were significantly cheaper when booked in March 2022 versus March 2019. We also compared bookings made in January 2019 and 2022 and found the same results.

The price comparison on long haul flights had more mixed results.

While three out of four long-haul flights from London we compared were cheaper overall in 2022 than they were in 2019, New York had increased by 1%. That's likely a reflection of reduced capacity on some long-haul routes. Budget carrier Norwegian Air stopped its long haul flights, including to New York, during the pandemic. This has likely caused prices to rise.

RoutePrice in March 2019Price in March 2022Price differencePercentage decrease/(increase)
London to Dubai£467£292£17537%
London to New York£446£442£4(1%)
London to Toronto£549£321£22842%
London to Cancun£568£292£27649%

Table notes: Average flight prices for August 2019 and August 2022 departures if booked in months listed above. Data provided by Skyscanner.

Will fuel surcharges be introduced to flights in 2022?

It depends on the airline. Some airlines, such as AirAsia and Emirates have introduced or increased fuel surcharges amid soaring oil prices. This is a hidden fee which contributes to the total cost of your ticket. It's not a separate charge (unless you're using airmiles), which means the overall cost of your ticket could go up.

But other airlines such as Ryanair, easyJet and Wizz Air have hedged their fuel requirements, which means they have essentially pre-ordered fuel at an agreed rate for the coming months. For passengers, this means they shouldn't, in theory, see a huge difference to ticket prices as a result of rising fuel costs in the months covered by hedging.

Will flights to Europe stay cheap?

It's hard to say what will happen to flight prices over the next few months with several factors at play. In respect of rising energy costs, passengers are likely to see more of a difference next year if the airline they are flying with has hedged its fuel.

But as travel restrictions continue to ease and demand subsequently increases for flights abroad, it's likely prices will begin to increase. Ryanair's Michael O'Leary claimed the airline was expecting to see aircraft reach 80% capacity by April across the business and that they are preparing for a strong summer recovery.

Skyscanner believes that it will be a while before airlines see a return to pre-pandemic levels.'Flight prices have been low for the last two years as carriers have used low fares to compete for bookings,' a spokesperson from Skyscanner told Which?. 'However, over the last few months, robust demand for both domestic and international travel has allowed airlines to price airfares closer to pre-pandemic levels in order to return to profitability.

'In the short term, this demand from travellers is leading to higher fares as capacity returns to the market and destinations re-open. In the long term, airfare pricing will remain dynamic for some time to come as new travel patterns continue to emerge and airlines adjust their routes and schedules accordingly.