A three-hour flight from Malaga to London is selling for more than a trip to Australia as demand for flights returning from Spain to the UK in the next two weeks is driving air fares to unprecedented levels.
As the summer holidays draw to an end, The Independent has been monitoring fares for families returning to the UK from Spain – the favourite overseas destination for British holidaymakers.
The most extreme example is on Thursday 31 August, when the cheapest flight from Malaga to London Heathrow is currently €714 (£611) – with hand baggage only.
The afternoon trip, operated by Finnair for British Airways, is less expensive than a later BA departure on the same route. The early evening flight is selling at €916 (£783) in economy class, though this includes a 23kg checked bag.
For comparison, on the same day China Southern is flying from Heathrow to Sydney via Guangzhou for £580, including two 23kg checked bags. The distance is over 10 times further than Malaga-London, and complimentary inflight food and drink is provided.
British Airways has a cheaper flight on the same day, from Malaga to Gatwick, priced at €387 (£331) excluding checked baggage.
A spokesperson for BA said: “We offer our customers a wide range of fares to give greater choice and value. We advise customers to book as far in advance as possible in order to take advantage of our lowest prices.
“Like other airlines, our available ticket prices can fluctuate based on high levels of demand, and typically lower fares will normally be taken up first.”
Budget airlines are also charging high prices. Fares on the Malaga-Luton route with easyJet peak at €515 (£440) on Sunday 3 September, with a much smaller baggage allowance then British Airways permits..
A trip from Malaga to Bangkok on the same day on Etihad is six times further and one-fifth cheaper than easyJet to Luton.
On the corresponding easyJet flight one week later, the fare is almost halved.
A spokesperson for easyJet said: “Over the next two weeks the average fare between Malaga and Luton is around £100 and in September fares start from just £29.92.
“Prices increase as fewer seats are available and so we always recommend that customers aim to book as early as possible to secure the lowest rates.”
On the Palma de Mallorca to Leeds Bradford route, Jet2’s most expensive day for flying is also Sunday 3 September, when the lowest fare for the sub-three-hour flight is €484 (£414).
In the opposite direction on the same day, the fare is just £56.
Ryanair is also capitalising on strong demand from Spain. On Sunday 27 August, the airline has two seats left from Alicante to Manchester at €310 (£265). A later flight is selling at €427 (£365).
For Ryanair’s cheapest fare on the route for the rest of the year, €30 (£26), travellers should book for 15 December.
Paul Charles, chief executive at the travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “Who’d have thought it would ever cost more to get from Malaga to London than it would to get from London to Sydney?
“Such are the high-cost times we live in that airlines are able to offer similar short-haul and long-haul fares, and some consumers will still pay whatever it takes to get to their destination. This more blended pricing will pay off for the airlines longer-term, as they will learn that consumers are forever prepared to fork out hundreds of pounds for sub three-hour flights.
“The bargain short-haul flight is indeed dead.”
Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership, said: “Air fares fluctuate all the time and can change significantly from day to day – particularly during peak travel periods such as a bank holiday.
“Unfortunately, this can impact those who purchase their own flights and or accommodation separately. However, those who can book a package have their prices guaranteed at the point of booking which means no hidden surprises and complete peace of mind.
“We would always recommend travellers and holidaymakers book through a travel agent to ensure they get the best deal and best prices.”
By rail from Malaga to London, the lowest fare offered by Trainline for 31 August is £360. The 30-hour journey involves changes at Barcelona, Perpignan and Paris.
All fares researched on airlines’ own websites on Friday 18 August, and are for the lowest available prices