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Disappearing flights, Ryanair revenues rise, goodbye Flybe and welcome back Holiday World – Eoghan Corry talks travel this month.
We have become less connected to Britain and the pendulum is set to swing further in Europe’s direction in 2023, reports Eoghan Corry. We say goodbye to Flybe while Ryanair gets its strategy right. Travel agents welcome back Holiday World but remember to chase those new routes – Eoghan Corry talks travel this month.
Have you booked to Stansted, Birmingham or Leeds Bradford this summer? Then look again. Flights are disappearing from the summer schedule and it would take all the skill and the guile of a few pre-pubescents and Timmy their dog to keep track of them all.
British flights are first to go, with London’s three airports and the regionals all losing out. Our airport stats from 2022 show we have become less connected to Britain since the double whammy of Brexit and Covid and this trend is accelerating. Passenger traffic to and from Britain was 31pc of the total in 2019 and is now down to 28pc, Europe was 53pc and is up to 57pc. The pendulum is set to swing further in Europe’s direction in 2023.
The number of missing bags since last summer is now down to around 200. In normal times these could safely written off as irrecoverable. But these are not normal times and a few are showing up intermittently. In normal times up to 50 bags a day were lost at Dublin airport. That rose to about 300 a day during the summer, with Aer Lingus, Sky handling and Swissport.
Aer Lingus have hired an extra 100 service agents and updated their website to make reporting and claiming easily, both for interim expenses and then for the final claim when the bag is written off after 21 days (Aer Lingus say 80pc of the bags missing in Dublin airport were never loaded in the first place at congested hubs like Heathrow).
Don’t hold your breath for the compo. Compensation for a lost bag is pitiful, and will barely cover lost clothes. Even the calculation sounds like it was arrived at 30,000 feet up in cloud cuckooland, in a fictitious currency called International Drawing Units.
Ryanair’s business update for November to December indicates revenue per passenger is now €60, which is €22 higher than the average fare. It shows the success of the Ryanair strategy of cheap lead fares, and charging us more by the time we have finished the booking and got our digital mitts on that magic six digit booking reference.
Of course, we can always travel without priority boarding, a cup of coffee, a bag and with randomly allocated seats, and (what the heck, let’s do it) a scratchcard. But what would be the fun in that?
The loss of Flybe as an alternative air carrier from Ireland is more significant and worrying than appears at first glance. Passengers will almost certainly get the air fare back, to their card if the payment is recent and from the travel insurer if you have disruption. But hotels and event tickets are going to be trickier, and the English CAA website is notoriously vague on the subject of compensation.
The problem now is that Belfast City has lost 30% of its flights and a lead customer. Less competition is bad for consumers. Competition on flights from Belfast to Heathrow is already reduced by the withdrawal of Aer Lingus on the route.
Rising tides and cruise ships
It will be a big year for cruise with 28 major cruise ship launches, bigger and more luxurious ships set to launch. Cruise ship bookings in January have given companies an indication of the workings and price points that suit the Irish market and they report brisk business. MSC Cruises has two new ships, MSC Euribia in June and the launch of a new luxury category, the 922 passenger Explora 1.
The Holiday World show had a sizeable presence of members of the Irish Travel Agents Association all playing up the benefits of booking with an agent in a post-pandemic environment. Consumer protection is not the only reason for seeking out the assistance
of a travel agent.
Travel agents came into their own when flights were cancelled, refunds sought, and when flights were missed because of security queues, and also for dealing with the headaches when bags went missing. They can offer agent only discounts and robust deposit policies, where as little as €1 deposit can secure the summer holiday instead of paying up front.
Researching a holiday with an agent saves time and webpages, gives the opportunity of booking all parts of the holiday in one go, and offers one point of contact if anything changes or anything goes wrong. The agency holiday should also be equal to or better value than DIY bookings.
Chase the new routes.
Remember to chase those new 2023 routes for the best prices, 14 from Dublin airport, five each from Shannon and Belfast international, three from Belfast City, two from Cork and one from Knock.
Aer Lingus to Cleveland is the headline start-up on May 19th. Eastbound, El Al’s new Tel Aviv route starts March 16th. There are also a clutch of winter routes some of which are continuing (such as Ryanair Dublin to Genoa).
Not all are from high profile airlines: HiSky Dublin to Bucharest-Otopeni is already running and Widerøe to Bergen begins April 27th. It takes a year for a new route to find its price point, during which time the consumer has a short-lived and rare advantage.
Showtime to Go-time.
A severely shrunken series of Holiday World shows in Limerick, Belfast and Dublin made up in excitement what they lacked in size with sunshiny smiles all round. While France and Italy did not show their colours (Ryder cup venue Italy tried, but were hampered by politics at home), Spain, Portugal and USA made up for it with razzmatazz and Declan Nerney showed up to tell
us to “stop the world and let us off.” Not yet, Declan, not yet.