After another chaotic day at Westminster, Britain’s travel industry is surveying the damage to consumer confidence – and slashing prices to try to fill aircraft seats and hotel beds on and after “Brexit day”.
Senior travel industry executives surveyed by The Independent unanimously report an apparent reluctance to commit to short breaks and longer holidays over the next few weeks in the run up to 29 March and across the Easter school break.
They blame uncertainty over international travel in the event of a no-deal departure from the European Union (EU) – the present Brexit default.
The consequences would range from British driving licences and the passports of millions of UK travellers losing validity for the EU, to confusion over arrangements for medical treatment.
As a result, air fares and hotel rates are tumbling.
Research by The Independent has found thousands of airline tickets to EU destinations available for departures on 29 March itself for less than £13.
That figure is significant because it represents the Air Passenger Duty that the airline must pay – meaning a loss for the airline as soon as the passenger steps aboard the plane.
Ryanair is selling seats from Stansted to Toulouse on 29 March for £9.99. The same price applies from Luton to Cork. The train fare from London to either airport is far higher than the cost of the flight.
Thomas Cook has a week’s package holiday from Gatwick to Tenerife departing on 29 March for £209 per person. The price includes flights, transfers, baggage and self-catering accommodation at a three-star property in Puerto de la Cruz. It is less than the cost of parking a car for the week in the car park adjacent to Gatwick’s North Terminal.
Ironically, even if a no-deal Brexit happens, the UK will still be in the European Union at the time these flights touch down. Therefore British travellers with a valid passport will have the automatic right of entry regardless of the expiry date and will still be able to use fast-track lanes at border control.
Departures on April Fool’s Day, 1 April, are also being sold at distressed pricing levels. Ryanair, whose policy is to cut fares to whatever level is necessary to maintain full planes, is offering no fewer than five Spanish destinations at under £13 one-way from Stansted: Palma, Ibiza, Murcia, Girona and Reus.
Prices normally rise sharply when April begins, and soar over Easter. But Tui, the UK’s biggest travel firm, is selling a week’s package from Manchester to Malta on 2 April for only £180 per person, including bed-and-breakfast accommodation in a three-star hotel. And there are only five days in April when it is necessary to pay more than £12.99 one-way from Stansted to Toulouse with Ryanair.
Bargains abound for European visitors to the UK, too. Over “Brexit weekend” from 29 to 31 March, easyJet is selling Berlin-Manchester flights for €98 (£83) return.
A short-break package including easyJet flights from Paris to Luton and a hotel room in the centre of London are being sold by Expedia for €183 (£155) per person based on two sharing.
From Venice to London, British Airways has return fares of €128 (£109) on a range of flights over Brexit weekend.
Across the Channel, P&O Ferries is seeking to drum up business on its Dover-Calais crossing by offering a “Brexit Buffer” – free cancellations for sailings up to 30 September, for tickets sold up to the default day to leave the EU.
”If Brexit does impact on your travel plans you can simply cancel bookings made up to 29 March,” says the ferry line.