The price of flights out of Malta has risen more than usual at this time of year on the back of surging demand for travel and reduced availability of flights and seats.

Malta International Airport confirmed the number of routes has dropped 22 per cent from pre-pandemic levels and airline seat capacity for the summer is at 80 per cent of 2019, taking Malta back to 2015 and 2016 figures.

The airport is set to offer 98 routes this summer as opposed to 125 in 2019.

By the time the island had eased its COVID travel restrictions in spring, most airlines had already secured their summer schedules and the result is a loss of 66 connections “completely”, as well as lost frequencies on 46 connections, the airport said.

The national carrier, Air Malta, has attributed higher prices to demand due to post-COVID, peak-season travel.

Travel agents too point to the drop in availability and frequency for high seat prices.

Travel agent Georges Bonello DuPuis confirmed flights were “very expensive” at the moment.

He put it down to their “minimal availability and frequency” coupled with the end of school, the start of summer and a post-pandemic rush to travel after such a long hiatus for many.

While it was normal for prices to spike at this time of the year – as they did during mid-term holidays, for example – Bonello DuPuis maintained airfares were slightly more expensive than usual this summer due to scheduled flights being fewer.

The cheap fares were “all gone today” – and anyone wanting to fly out could have to pay anything in the region of €500 and more. The economical flights to the popular destinations throughout the summer are now “few and far between”.

Seats are currently not even available in full-fare business class to popular destinations like Germany, the UK and Paris, Bonello DuPuis said.

However, the situation will soon stabilise, he added.

“There is a massive demand and fewer seats as fewer planes are flying in and out and more people are travelling,” the seasoned travel agent said.

Destinations like Italy, and in particular Rome, was not as impacted by availability as it was being serviced by three carriers daily, he added.

There is a massive demand and fewer seats as fewer planes are flying in and out and more people are travelling

But Emirates, for example, was down to twice weekly flights and was only now starting to increase frequency, going up to five times a week in July and August.

Flights to London have decreased in frequency, with no more daily planes to Gatwick on Air Malta. Anyone wanting to travel on the national carrier to the UK’s capital on June 23, for example, would have found one seat left to Heathrow and one to Gatwick – at a staggering €409.53 one way – and without luggage.

On June 29, there were “zero” seats available to London apart from €409 one way. On July 3, two seats to Gatwick were left at the time of writing – and these go down to €189.53 one way.

Random checks showed that on July 24, for example, cheaper seats are available as things starts to stablise in the middle of summer when some sort of “normality” resumes, Bonello DuPuis said.

At €99.53, you can get to Gatwick – but not back home – on Air Malta, but you would have to add another €20 if you want to take any belongings with you.

Air Malta last week said it was leasing an extra plane to cope with demand for travel, although it gave no details of destinations.

Bonello DuPuis pointed out that places like Bari and Brindisi could still be reached without breaking the bank, but it was another story for popular destinations like Marseille for a trip to the south of France.

“Only the other day, I tried to book a flight to Bergamo on Ryanair for a family of two adults and two children, with only two suitcases, for the end of June. The ‘low-cost’ flight added up to €1,300.

“But if they go two weeks later, you could find a flight at €24,” Bonello DuPuis continued.

High prices explained

He explained that high prices – in the €400 to €600 range – have always existed and that it depended on when tickets were purchased.

“If you try to book a flight that no one is thinking of in, say, February, it could be as cheap as €60, but you could also pay €600 for a full-fare, fully refundable business class ticket on the scheduled air carrier.

“Low-cost flights always start low but increase each time you look again. It is a different price every day,” he said.

“You need to shop around, and a date can make all the difference in travel prices,” Bonello DuPuis advised, reminding travellers of the trends that dictate prices and about thinking ahead.

Having said that, the return airfare from London bought a month ago for a trip as far away as October cost €560 return on British Airways, he said pointing his finger at the mid-term holidays. In November, the same trip could cost half the price.

Explaining its flight pricing, Air Malta said it constantly reviewed this according to demand, supply, competition and other factors, saying this could lead to fares either being increased or decreased.

“There, equally, is no set equation for applying the same levels of fare decreases or increases across all routes at the same time as, again, market circumstances often differ across markets,” the airline said.

“In the immediate months ahead, coming out of COVID-19 and being the peak travel period of July and August, when demand often outstrips supply, it would be expected that prices are higher than in the later off-peak quieter months of the year when demand for travel is less and air fares are naturally lower.”

Low-cost airline Ryanair said a number of yield and pricing factors dictated its airfares, with those for the most “imminent” flights – with the highest demand and during peak summer holiday season – being higher for these reasons.

Insisting it offered “consistently low fares and great choice on its Maltese routes across Europe”, with over 700,000 flights – 130 million seats – on sale at any one time, it cited examples of travel from Malta to Rome and London Stansted this summer, available for €19.99 and €62.99 respectively.

Ryanair said it had kept its teams “current” throughout COVID-19, allowing it to respond to pent-up customer demand.


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