TRAVEL CLINIC

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - TRAVEL -

Ques­tion:

Re­cently, I wanted to go to Madrid for the day, de­part­ing from any Lon­don air­port on any day from Mon­day to Fri­day. Al­though I found rel­a­tively cheap flights with easyJet, Bri­tish Air­ways and Ibe­ria in the morn­ing, the flights that left Madrid in the evening were ex­pen­sive. Also, I no­ticed that flights grad­u­ally in­crease in price the nearer the de­par­ture date and time is. Is there any rea­son for this? I would have thought that if air­lines can’t sell seats, they would re­duce the price in or­der to at­tract cus­tomers. But this does not seem to be the case. Name with­held

An­swer:

First, let me tackle the ques­tion of whether fares should rise or fall as de­par­ture ap­proaches.

The firm view of most air­lines is that prices in­crease over time. The think­ing is that close to de­par­ture, trav­ellers will be less price-sen­si­tive — whether that is be­cause they are busi­ness trav­ellers whose com­pa­nies are pay­ing, or be­cause they have ur­gent per­sonal rea­sons for want­ing to travel.

This ap­plied to me from Palma to Gatwick a few weeks ago when I paid easyJet £240 for a two-hour flight a few hours be­fore de­par­ture. Oc­ca­sion­ally you can find last-minute bar­gains. Ear­lier in Oc­to­ber I found a Bri­tish Air­ways flight from Venice (left) to Gatwick Air­port for just €38 (£34) the night be­fore de­par­ture, but this is rare on any air­line.

Re­gard­ing the fare dif­fer­en­tial be­tween morn­ing and evening flights, yes, Madrid fares do be­have strangely.

Look­ing at early Jan­uary, it is easy to find cheap early morn­ing out­bound flights. I can see £20 on Ryanair from Stansted, £34 on Nor­we­gian from Gatwick and £35 on easyJet from Lu­ton.

Com­ing back, though, the only sub£100 de­par­ture is easyJet’s late-evening de­par­ture to Gatwick, at £97.

I can only spec­u­late that there are rel­a­tively few de­par­tures in the evening, so air­lines can keep fares high.

In such cir­cum­stances, I would fall back on the TAP Por­tu­gal op­tion.

The car­rier al­ways has good fares from Barcelona and Madrid via Lis­bon to Lon­don, which al­lows you to visit the beau­ti­ful Por­tuguese cap­i­tal as well as Spain’s cap­i­tal.

It’s my favourite way of get­ting back from these cities to Bri­tain.

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