According to an industry expert, the cost of plane tickets could double once lockdown has been lifted, making air travel unaffordable for many UK families.
Although non-essential air travel is currently banned, once this has been lifted, airlines are expected to have to adhere to social distancing guidelines, resulting in aircraft carriers being barred from completely filling their planes.
An industry source has predicted: “After lockdown, there will be a mad rush and a price surge for airline fares. It would be no surprise to see social distancing on planes, and we will probably see some set guidance on how planes should do this.”
Speaking about the current airfare situation where travellers can find some fantastic bargains for future flights, they said: “There are currently cheap flights available, but this pricing is based on a full plane. The profit margin on a single seat is around £5 on average, so it is inevitable that ticket prices will have to go up to maintain this if only a proportion of seats are allowed to be sold.”
If the government does decide that airlines are only allowed to sell half of their tickets on any given flight, it stands to reason that the airline will look to doubling the price of their tickets in order to ensure that they can still make a profit.
It is thought that these inflated prices could last for months as airlines fight to recoup some of the losses they have experienced since the lockdown, with most major airlines having had to furlough their staff on 80% of their usual pay.
UK airlines are currently petitioning the government for help and support to avoid bankruptcy, as well as requesting a change in refund policies that will allow them to keep passengers’ money until the coronavirus crisis is over.
In a letter sent to the government from Airline UK, the trade association for UK-registered airlines, of which British Airways, EasyJet and Ryanair are members, it said:
“Carriers should also be permitted to issue vouchers instead of refunds and, should refunds be required, carriers should be permitted to defer payment until the crisis is over and as defined by air traffic volumes, rather than time period.”
The Foreign Office extended its advisory against non-essential travel anywhere outside of the UK indefinitely earlier this month due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
However, this does not mean that travellers should cancel trips booked in the future as it is currently unclear when this advisory will be lifted, and people still may be able to go abroad on their planned journeys.
Plans are already being made by the DGCA, the Indian governmental regulatory body for civil aviation, to ensure that social distancing can be adhered to by their airlines with precautions including keeping the middle seat of every row empty and leaving the last three rows of every flight unoccupied to isolate a passenger should they start developing symptoms mid-flight. Indian airlines will also be asked to minimise onboard services to prevent close contact between cabin crew and passengers.
An official spokesman from DGCA said: “It is easy to maintain social distancing in open spaces. But in confined spaces like an aircraft, it’s important to take some measures to allow a degree of separation.”