The price of plane tickets could rise as much as 20%, industry experts say, as the cost of petrol soars due to the conflict in Ukraine.
Marc Rochet, director of Air Caraïbes, told Le Monde: “Private companies have already increased their plane ticket prices by 8%.” This would equate to an extra €40 for a flight to the Antilles, or €60 for a return flight to Réunion island.
Mr Rochet said that extra fuel costs could lead to a rise in the cost of tickets of “15 to 20%”.
Airlines already struggling to recover from the impact of the Covid crisis are now facing a new crisis due to the Russian war in Ukraine.
Alain Battisti, president of national aviation group la Fédération nationale de l’aviation et de ses métiers (FNAM), which includes 95% of the French airline sector, said: “The energy price crisis has hit us hard. No-one in the airline sector saw it coming.”
The price of petrol has “risen from US$70 to 85 (€63-€77) per barrel, and then to $110, then $112 per barrel”, said Mr Rochet.
In practice, the fuel kerosene represents 35-45% of the costs of a long-haul flight, and 25-35% for a medium-haul journey.
Air France escapes impact so far
So far, Air France is the only airline company in France that has not increased its prices. This is because, it says, it has “good fuel coverage”.
The company explained to Le Monde that it negotiates its kerosene purchases in advance by several years, in a bid to avoid the worst peaks and troughs of changing prices.
It said: “Thanks to this, we are not yet seeing a correlation between the price of fuel and of tickets, but we are following the situation.”
Mr Rochet said that the season had started well for tourists and “affinity passengers”, meaning those who are flying to see family in the French overseas territories, but that there had not yet been a “return of business travellers”.
He said that the Ukrainian crisis had not yet “slowed the market” significantly, but that rising prices could have an impact in the coming weeks and months.
Post-Covid airline strategy
Airline companies are under pressure to recoup costs to repay loans from the state, which helped keep them operational during the Covid crisis.
Airports and the aviation sector accumulated “€3 billion in debt” over the period, said Laurent Timsit of the FNAM, as passenger numbers plummeted but existing costs remained.
The cost of paying back this debt, in addition to paying for deficits accumulated by airports, and the rise in the price of fuel will, the FNAM said, "inevitably lead to an increase in the price of air tickets".
In a letter to all the presidential candidates, the FNAM has called on the future president to "adopt a real strategy for air transport from the start of their term of office", and for the state to “take charge of the deficits accumulated” during the pandemic.
If this is not done, French companies will lose ground to foreign rivals, especially low-cost carriers, Mr Timsit said.
Similarly, regional airports in France managed to weather the crisis, but now face a struggle to make loan repayments and switch to costlier biofuel.
It comes as all Covid restrictions for travel from France to the UK are set to end on Friday for fully-vaccinated passengers.