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Why are air fares rising – and should I book my summer holiday flight now?

Simon Calder’s Travel

Could your holiday flight cost more because of an inflight scare and a problem with contaminated “powder metal”?

Delays in Boeing aircraft deliveries because of safety concerns, combined with an issue affecting some Airbus engines, means some airlines are struggling to fulfil their planned operations.

That could mean air fares in Europe will rise by as much as 10 per cent, according to the boss of Europe’s biggest budget airline. 

So should travellers book their summer flights now to avoid further fare hikes? Or could they find their planned flights cancelled?

These are the key questions and answers.

Since Covid travel restrictions were lifted across most of the world, what has happened in terms of flying and fares?

Going back to March 2022: after the last requirements for Covid testing and quarantine were lifted in the UK, there was a huge surge in demand for flights as people sought to make up for lost family trips, beach holidays and city breaks.

The airline industry has been struggling to keep pace with demand – and at the same time carriers have been putting up fares to take advantage of the limited supply of seats. Fares went up by an average of one-sixth on Ryanair last summer – and many of us will have paid an awful lot more, typically 50 per cent up on pre-pandemic fares.

Are things getting back on an even keel this year?

No. According to the latest Eurocontrol figures on flights handled across Europe, air traffic was eight per cent down on the same spell before the pandemic. In February and early March that’s not too much of a problem, because demand for travel is fairly weak – but from Easter onwards the pendulum swings in favour of the airlines, with more of us wanting to fly.

Problems facing the two big planemakers, Airbus and Boeing, mean that airlines won’t have enough short-haul aircraft to operate all the flights they were hoping. Which means higher fares as well as less choice.

What are the planemakers’ problems?

These concern the most popular aircraft for European flights: the Boeing 737 and the Airbus A320 family.

Boeing has been unable to increase the rate of deliveries of 737 Max aircraft following an inflight scare in January, when a door plug blew out from the fuselage of an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max 9 shortly after take-off from Portland, Oregon.

The aircraft landed safely, but quality-control…

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