Is the golden era of cheap travel over?

cheap holidays
By Linsey McNeill
Home » Is the golden era of cheap travel over?

Research has shown that package holiday prices are much more expensive than they were decades ago and while air fares are massively cheaper than in the ‘70s, they’ve risen sharply since the ‘90s.

Consumer magazine Which? Travel said that in 1991 the cost of a two-week half-board holiday in ‘an average’ hotel in Spain was £450 per person, or £986 when adjusted for inflation, but this August customers will typically pay the same amount for just one week.

Two weeks’ half-board in Greece would have cost the equivalent of £1,132 in 1991 compared to £1,257 for just one week this summer, and a two-week package to Italy would have cost £1,110 in today’s money, £10 less than the typical cost of a one-week package this summer.

Which? Travel found that flights were still much cheaper now than when it launched in 1974, but they’re not as cheap as during the noughties.

Its data shows that a flight to Athens in 1974 cost £80, which is £723 when adjusted for inflation. In August 2023, passengers would have paid an average of £175.

Similarly, a flight to Rome cost £55 (£497 in today’s money) in 1974, compared to £147 in August last year.

Which? pointed out that 50 years ago air fares were fixed by governments, so customers didn’t have the option of shopping around for better deals. 

Fares began to plummet in the 1990s with the arrival of low-cost airlines, which the travel publication described as ‘the golden era of cheap flights’.

Which? Travel said that data from the Office for National Statistics shows that era might be over, with the average fare for a flight between the UK and Europe in summer 2023 costing £322, 78% more than in 2010.

Editor Rory Boland said: “For decade after decade travel and holidays became cheaper and therefore accessible to more people, so it’s worrying to uncover a recent trend of prices increasing, often significantly so. A golden age of affordable flights witnessed in the 90s and early 2000s looks like it may now be a thing of the past.”

However, the magazine found that car hire is still cheaper than in previous decades, with a week’s rental in Spain costing £339 in Alicante last summer compared to the equivalent of £438 in 1978, taking inflation into account.

The magazine pointed out that since 2023, average car hire prices have fallen, with rates typically down 34% in Alicante.

Share this article

Latest News