National Geographic Traveller (UK)



Along with strikes, the number of planes taking to the skies last year was curtailed by airlines going bust. “There’s been a significan­t reduction in flight numbers and routes which has negatively impacted the smooth running of air travel,” says The Points Guy’s Nicky Kelvin. “Virgin Australia, Flybe and Alitalia are just a few of the many airlines which filed for bankruptcy following the financial constraint­s of the pandemic passenger decline.”

And many of the airlines that soldiered on did so with reduced schedules due to staff shortages, having laid off staff during the pandemic. Last July, an understaff­ed Heathrow airport made the decision to limit departing passengers to 100,000 per day — 4,000 fewer than originally expected. British Airways, Heathrow’s dominant carrier, placed a sales freeze on short-haul flights from the airport, cutting over 10,000 flights over the wintertime alone. “This is not going to be a quick fix,” said the airport’s CEO John Holland-Kaye last July, adding, “It’s absolutely possible that we could have another summer with a cap still in place.”

The rising cost of fuel looks set to push up airfares this winter. Along with the cost of living crisis, this will “likely stymie passenger demand,” says The Times’ Ben Clatworthy. “In theory, this will take the pressure off airlines and airports... But it will be vital aviation doesn’t make the same mistake again and emerge this summer with too few staff.”

How to deal with it: For now, last-minute flight deals are largely a thing of the past. So, your mantra for air travel in 2023 is: book as far in advance as you can. Most airlines release tickets around a year ahead of departure, with the exception of some budget airlines including Ryanair, which sells up to six months ahead.

Smooth sailing To beat the crowds, sail to and from the UK MondayThur­sday, and avoid travel on bank holidays or school holidays if you can

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