Budget airlines are cutting some air fares to absurdly low levels in a bid to fill seats in the run-up to Christmas. A three-day winter warmer break to the Canary Islands, and many other flights, are available for under £50 return.
The Independent has researched a series of bargain flights – with one outstanding deal for each of the seven days leading up to 25 December.
Highlights include a 4,000-mile round trip from Prestwick in Scotland to the Spanish island of Tenerife for £46 return, and a Christmas Eve-to-Boxing Day escape from Belfast to Malaga and back for £43.
Other bargains include a round-trip from Bournemouth to Faro on Portugal’s Algarve coast for £38, London Gatwick to Venice for £70 return and a break from Manchester to Dublin and back for £35.
All the flights are for three-day/two-night return trips departing from UK airports to European Union destinations.
Most are on Ryanair, though the deals to Italy are with Wizz Air to and from London Gatwick. They include £66 to Milan and back, returning on Christmas Day – when more short-haul flights will be operating to and from the UK than ever before.
The airline schedule analyst Sean Moulton said carriers are having to cut fares to almost any price in a bid to fill empty seats.
“With the warm weather in the UK and a surge in capacity to core markets, demand is not keeping up with supply – leading to price drops for last-minute getaways,” he said.
Mr Moulton was speaking after returning from his own £43 four-day round-trip from Manchester to the Albanian capital, Tirana, flying on Ryanair.
Other airlines are selling some routes at surprisingly low fares. For returning British expatriates, the last easyJet flight from Alicante to Bristol before Christmas, on the evening of 24 December, is just €19 (£16) one way.
Even to the highly popular Swiss destination of Geneva, gateway to ski resorts in the French Alps, easyJet is selling a weekend trip from London Gatwick over 22-24 December for £109.
The fares are in stark contrast to some soaring ticket prices for the busiest week of the winter. Newcastle to Paris CDG on Monday for three days on Air France is selling for €500 (£431) return. The cheapest British Airways round-trip from London Heathrow to Rome over Christmas is £411.
Even Ryanair is pricing some flights highly: on the same day as the Scotland-Canary Islands flight for £46 return, the much shorter link between London Stansted and Palma de Mallorca costs a minimum of £319.
With the highest number of festive trips since before the pandemic predicted, airports are braced for large crowds. Most are expecting their busiest days to be Friday 22 and Saturday 23 December.
Cheapest Christmas getaway return fares
- 18-20 December: Bournemouth-Faro £38 on Ryanair
- 19-21 December: Edinburgh-Beauvais (Paris) £38 on Ryanair
- 20-22 December: London Gatwick-Venice £70 on Wizz Air
- 21-23 December: Manchester-Dublin £35 on Ryanair
- 22-24 December: Prestwick-Tenerife £46 on Ryanair
- 23-25 December: London Gatwick-Milan Malpensa £66 on Wizz Air
- 24-26 December: Belfast-Malaga £43 on Ryanair
All fares researched on the individual airlines’ websites on Thursday 14 December 2023 and rounded to the nearest pound. Prices include only one small piece of cabin baggage.