Belfast Telegraph

Ryanair strike fears push up fares as rival airlines look to capitalise

By Anne-Marie Walsh

Holidaymakers are facing hikes of around £90 a seat for last minute getaways as airfares on return flights from the Republic rocket apparently due to Ryanair strikes.

Members of the travel industry claim airline prices have taken off due to a lack of competition as passengers shy away from Europe's biggest budget carrier.

Chief Executive of the Irish Travel Agents Association, Pat Dawson, said the woes of the low fares carrier have pushed up some prices to popular destinations including Malaga, Faro and Majorca by more than €50 (£45) each way. He said flights to Malaga are currently on sale for up to €600 (£534) with some airlines.

Ryanair's rivals are enjoying a boost in bookings as a campaign of industrial action that began among a minority of pilots in the Irish Republic has spread across parts of Europe.

More than 110,000 passengers have already been hit by flight cancellations due to stoppages, variously by certain pilots and cabin crew in Ireland, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Belgium. They are demanding better working conditions.

Pilots in the Republic are due to walk out this Friday along with their counterparts in Sweden and Belgium. Ryanair believes those in Germany and the Netherlands will follow suit. Talks are due to take place in the Irish dispute, but are unlikely to happen until after Friday's strike.

"There's no doubt about it, prices have gone up because people are afraid to fly with Ryanair," said Mr Dawson. "Because of the uncertainty, other airlines are getting the bookings and, if flights are in demand, the prices automatically go up.

"Families have three or four weeks left. They're doing the back to school planning and then heading off.

"There are a lot of them searching around and getting quotes compared to three or four weeks ago when the weather was really good."

He said Spain and Portugal are the two main routes and can cost €350 (£311.39) to €400 (£355.87) for a seat at the moment, compared to €250 (£222.42) to €300 (£266.90) normally.

He said there is always a big late market, as 30% of bookings are done in the final week before a flight. But he added that travel agencies are reporting a surge in demand due to a break in the weather here.

Although prices for August have jumped, he said September still seems to be well priced.

Last week, Chief Executive of Aer Lingus Stephen Kavanagh warned that anything that damages Ryanair's business is good for his, and vowed to capitalise.

He said the airline's flights are heavily booked at present, so the opportunities due to Ryanair's problems are not significant. However, he indicated that these difficulties could soon provide opportunities.

Meanwhile, Policy and Council Advisor at the Consumers' Association of Ireland Dermot Jewell said passengers' mindsets are changing and they are starting to look for alternatives, even if they are more expensive.

Belfast Telegraph

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