People in France who want to travel abroad this summer are being urged to book flights now as prices remain stable – despite uncertainty over Covid restrictions and airports warning of impending ‘chaos’ due to Covid checks.
Prices for summer flights have not yet seen the ‘explosion’ that some were predicting in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, even as destinations begin to open up for the summer months.
BFM Business consulted several price comparison websites to check if flight prices had increased for destinations including Spain, Italy, Greece or Portugal. So far this does not appear to be the case.
One site, MisterFly, found flights to Spain for August at an average of €260 now, compared to an average of €266 in 2019. Italy was at €212, compared to €244 in 2019, pre-pandemic. Portugal was similar (€246 compared to €312), as was Greece (€385 compared to €423).
Some flights are listed for a lower average price than in 2019.
Another site, AlgoFly, listed the average for flights to Rome at €68.56 compared to €120 in 2019; €99 vs €120 for Madrid; and €176.51 for Lisbon versus €300 in 2019.
The website Kayak had a similar story: prices are currently down 33% for Palma de Mallorca, 26% for Barcelona, and 19% for Lisbon. In contrast, Athens has seen a small rise of 5.5%.
Flight prices expected to ‘explode’
But experts are warning that this may not last.
Fréderic Pilloud, Digital Director at MisterFly, said that only 20% of flights have been bought for the summer period so far, as people wait to see what restrictions may be in place due to Covid.
David Coutelle, co-founder of AlgoFly, said: “I think costs will explode within days [once the health rules are established]. People are waiting to be sure about the health situation before they buy.”
Airlines are anticipating demand; Transavia has announced it will increase flight capacity to Portugal by 15% from July, while Air France has said that it will increase the number of flights to French DOM-TOM.
Air France is still offering 100% refunds and changes for tickets without requiring a reason until December 2021, however low-cost airlines such as EasyJet, Ryanair, and Transavia are only offering flight changes, not refunds, for cancellations by the passenger.
Destinations opening up
It comes as some destinations are preparing to open up to visitors from France. The full list of rules for 186 destinations can be found on the French government website here.
Yet, the Foreign Affairs Ministry has warned that “all international travel - from France to abroad or to France from abroad - is strictly controlled until further notice”.
At present some places are still barring travellers; some are simply not giving out tourist visas; and some are allowing travel but still imposing quarantine and other restrictions.
Most countries that are open require a negative PCR test upon arrival from within the past 36 hours, and some require another test upon departure, paid for by the traveller.
Only four countries are open to people from France without condition: Albania, North Macedonia, Andorra and Luxemburg.
Airports warn of Europe Covid ‘chaos’
The European branch of the professional association of airport operators Airports Council International (ACI) Europe has this week warned of “summer chaos” in airports across Europe due to increased Covid-19 checks.
In a statement, it estimated that “passenger traffic is set to increase nearly threefold from 47 million passengers this month to 125 million passengers in August”, and that while “this will still be well below pre-pandemic (2019) traffic levels, managing such an increase will amount to an unprecedented operational challenge”.
It said that this will be caused by a lack of space and increased passenger processing times due to enforced physical distancing; more peaks in air traffic due to reduced capacity; and “multiple and diverse” Covid-19 checks, such as test certificates, passenger locator forms, and quarantine documentation.
Olivier Jankovec, Director General of ACI Europe said: “Airports are desperate to see their facilities coming back to life, reconnecting their communities, and supporting the much-needed recovery of Europe.
“But the level of both uncertainty and complexity in planning for the restart is just mind-blowing for now. With each passing day, the prospect of travellers enduring widespread chaos at airports this summer is becoming more real.
“We absolutely and urgently need governments to step up advance planning on the full range of issues involved - and work more closely with airports and airlines.”
The group is calling on European governments to work together to impose uniform travel rules within the EU; ensure that common Covid-19 certificates will be in use within the EU and neighbouring third countries by July 1; ensure that Covid checks are not duplicated throughout the journey; and deploy extra staff to manage the extra checks.
It also said that airports could review the need for excess physical distancing, due to “the fact that an increasing proportion of travellers will be fully vaccinated”.