How much will you pay for your flights this summer?

As the airline industry begins a long and arduous takeoff, many people are already wondering what impact the crisis will have on their wallets and the prices of the tickets they will buy in the weeks and months to come.

Indeed, and this is good news in itself, it seems that more people than expected are planning to fly again this summer or at least are wondering about it. Provided of course that the borders of the targeted countries are reopened, which is another subject.

A priori reasonable fares

What we have observed for the moment is that the promotional logic of the “market fare” type continues to exist and that the countries from which the prices are the lowest remain the same as before.

We see more one-off promotional offers than we usually see at this time of the year and this is logical: it is not a summer like any other, reservations have not been anticipated and therefore we have to fill up at all costs.

What we also observe is that at this time the fares are not soaring and are even rather low for a summer (except if you are aiming for destinations like Corsica for which the fares have everything of the big banditry in general and a fortiori today.

On the other hand, if the fact that the fares are relatively low for the time can be a good news, we advise you to book without waiting because we can expect them to go up strongly. Why ? While fewer people will be traveling than in other summers, the capacities offered are also much lower, so the number of seats offered in the lowest fare classes will be less. And if by chance the demand is higher than expected, even if it’s only a little bit, we can have prices go up again promptly.

Indeed, once enough seats have been sold to ensure that the flight will not be an economic fiasco, the logic is that the airlines should restore their margins as promptly as possible and therefore quickly offer expensive fare classes without marketing the intermediaries too much.

A real risk of price hikes

And, finally, it is all the more important to jump on the first “good” rates identified as we cannot anticipate as usual how prices will evolve and over what period. The reason is very simple: yield management, which we described in a previous article, is a statistical science. But the current context does not resemble anything known, so there is no historical data to apply a model. Will we see prices rise strongly? Collapse? Stay at an average level? Normally it is very easy to predict, but here we are in the unknown. Of course the evolution of prices will follow logics but logics that will depend on the “pricers” of each airline and their strategy knowing, once again, that there is no past situation that can help predict anything.

But if we had to make a bet, and this only engages us, it is that

  • Demand will be higher than expected
  • After having sold the first seats at attractive prices, airlines will take advantage of this excessive demand in relation to the proposed capacities to raise prices very quickly and make the margin they need more than ever.

So if you want or need to go, book quickly if you find a fare that suits you. A wait-and-see attitude can help you find great deals if things aren’t going as well as expected, or on the other hand, pay a lot more than you would have in “normal” times. In our opinion, there will be no in-between: fares will be either soft or very expensive, rarely “acceptably expensive”.

Cheap may be too expensive for what it is

And one last piece of advice: before booking, look at how much the airline you are planning to take will degrade the service and ask yourself if it is really worth the price. For example, you will find medium-haul flights on Air France much cheaper than if you had waited until July to book another year. But knowing that there will be no service on board this cheaper will surely be too expensive for what you get. The same goes for Turkish Airlines. Same for KLM on flights of less than 9 hours!

We will start a regular monitoring of the price trends to try to keep you informed and resume our hunt for “good deals” now that you can fly again but our recommendation for now is to book quickly if you find a good price and to ask yourself if this good price does not hide a shamefully degraded service under the pretext of cost-cutting wrapped in a reassuring health message.

That’s for the short term. In the long term, everything will depend on the speed at which countries reopen, the hypothesis of a second wave and the consolidation movement which, by reducing the number of airlines, will lead to higher prices in the medium term for almost everyone. But we’ll talk about that later.

Photo : plane at sunset by muratart via Shutterstock

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrin
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.

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