Following the COVID-19 crisis, the cost of plane tickets has gone up by half, and those looking for cheaper airfare should be booking flights about six months in advance, a representative of Estonian travel agency Estravel said.
"When we most recently ran the numbers this spring, the price increase was approximately 20 percent in our sales," Mauri Saarend, director of global supplier relations at Estravel, told ERR on Thursday. "We haven't run new numbers yet, but my gut feeling is that tickets we're actually selling may even be up to 50 percent more expensive than this time last year."
As the majority of flights sold by Estravel are to European destinations, Saarend said that the price of European plane tickets, especially for the summer, have increased significantly.
"I'd say less in the case of North America," he continued. "In Asia's case, it depends again on when you're going; there have been some great deals to Asia as well. But some countries there are still keeping their borders closed, and that's having an impact too."
Different airlines, different pricing policies
According to Saarend, various airlines have different pricing policies as well.
"The Lufthansa Group — Lufthansa and Swiss — has announced themselves that they have closed down all of their cheaper price categories for the summer season, that only very expensive seats remain," he said. "AirBaltic has said no such thing, and you can indeed get somewhat cheaper tickets through them. The price increase has perhaps been a bit smaller in Finnair's case as well."
With Turkish Airlines, he continued, it very much depends on the flight — there are periods and destinations to which no tickets are available anymore, but there are also destinations and periods for which very cheap tickets are still available.
The travel agency rep noted a new trend in which airlines will employ decoy pricing by advertising one price that doesn't include baggage, in-flight service or seat selection fees.
"They want to sell you all of that for more, and then the final total may not be nearly as cheap as it seemed initially," he said. "They advertise these prices, but you need to buy these tickets very far in advance to get seats at their advertised prices."
Book now for winter, next spring
Saarend stressed that flights need to be booked further in advance if one wants to find cheaper airfare.
"Unfortunately, most people book their flights at relatively short notice, and then they're much more expensive — this year especially," he said.
"If you book far in advance — I'm talking half a year or more — then there may not be an increase in price at all," he continued. "The ship for this summer has absolutely sailed already. If you want to book flights now, then now is the right time to book for this winter, next spring. It's a bit late for this fall already too."
Demand exceeding supply
According to the travel agency rep, one of the initial factors impacting rising prices is the layoffs that hit airlines, airports and travel agencies during the COVID-19 crisis.
"And once they decided this past winter and spring that the pandemic would no longer restrict travel, it was no longer possible to get these employees back," Saarend said. "There's a massive labor shortage. And when supply is reduced but demand has increased, then a natural result is for prices to go up."
Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine has of course impacted the industry as well. "Airspace is closed over both Russia and Ukraine, and planes have to take longer detours," he explained. "Flight time increases, and costs increase as a result as well."
The number of flights out of Tallinn has decreased somewhat as well.
"We no longer have Nordica, which would fly direct from Estonia," Saarend said. "Aeroflot and Belavia aren't flying here anymore for political reasons. That's why there are fewer offers, possible flights out of Tallinn. This is also a factor impacting prices."
He also cited the tendency by some airlines to announce new routes from Tallinn, operate them for some time, and then abandon them.
"For example, Aegean Airlines and Turkey's Pegasus Airlines have both done that in the middle of a sweet high season," Saarend noted. "If supply is low, then it's logical for prices to be higher. But, well, I guess there's always the alternative of flying out of Finland or Latvia, where you have more options."
Editor: Aili Vahtla