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    Is now the time to take advantage of cut-price flights?

    18 June 2020

    With summer officially beginning on 20 June, most of us are longing to get away for some sun and relaxation.

    Airlines and travel companies are also desperate to tempt customers back and many are offering cut-price deals as a result. So what’s on offer and how can you take advantage?

    Travelling abroad

    Current advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) is that British nationals should not travel abroad unless it’s essential.

    However, this is under continual review – as is the ruling that those arriving into the UK from abroad (excluding those arriving from the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands or Isle of Man) must self-isolate for 14 days.

    According to Emma Coulthurst from holiday comparison site TravelSupermarket, the uncertainty around when non-essential travel will resume and whether Brits need to quarantine abroad, combined with natural consumer reticence is helping to squash holiday prices. So is now the time to snap up a deal?

    ‘With demand much lower than normal for this time of year, the travel market is providing low holiday prices to encourage people to book,’ she says. ‘We have seen search demand pick up in the last fortnight as the Med has signalled its desire for tourists to return to its cities and beaches. But there will need to be more clarity on the exact dates when British holidaymakers can return before the market really picks up.’

    Best flight deals

    If you’re happy to take a punt in the hope that travel restrictions will be lifted later this summer, the big question is where should you go?

    According to Tristan Sire from Jack’s Flight Club, Ryanair’s routes to Malaga in Spain are at rock bottom prices, while neighbouring Portugal is also looking cheap. Portugal has already opened up its borders to the UK (your temperature will be checked on arrival), while Spain will reopen its borders on 21 June.

    Top flight deals currently available include:

    • London Luton/Stansted to Malaga, Spain – £20 return in July to October with Ryanair
    • Manchester to Faro, Portugal – around £40 to £50 return in July to September with Ryanair
    • Manchester to Porto, Portugal – around £50 return in July to September with Ryanair
    • And, for those wanting to fly further afield, Gatwick to Antigua – £391 return in September 2020 to March 2021 with British Airways.

    British Airways is also promoting last-minute summer flights to Amsterdam from £31 each way, Orlando from £316 return and Los Angeles from £460 return.

    Etihad, meanwhile, is adding 50 per cent to the value of any travel voucher bought between 10 and 24 June – giving you more to spend when you book a flight with the airline.

    Cancellation policies

    If you’re tempted book a cheap flight, make sure you read the airline’s cancellation policy first. Fortunately, many are pretty flexible right now as airlines simply want to get customers back on board. Here’s a quick look at some of the main ones:

    British Airways

    If you book before the end of August for trips before 30 April 2021, the booking date can be changed online free of charge, although you will need to pay any difference in price. Alternatively, you can cancel the booking completely in exchange for a voucher which must be used by 30 April 2022 – this can also be used for a different destination.

    Ryanair

    The budget airline is planning to restore 40 per cent of scheduled flights (up to 1,000 flights daily) from 1 July and is waiving its flight change fee for all customers who book to travel in July or August and later need to change it. The destination cannot be altered, however, and trips must be completed by the end of 2020.

    EasyJet

    Flights with the airline started up again on 15 June from 22 airports across Europe, including eight in the UK. Customers who make a new booking can currently change their flight online up to 14 days before travel without paying a fee (you may have to pay any difference in price). If the airline itself has to cancel your flight, you can either change your flight or claim a voucher for the full value of your ticket.

    Virgin Atlantic

    From 20 and 21 July 2020, Virgin Atlantic will resume passenger services from London Heathrow to Orlando, Hong Kong, Shanghai, New York JFK and Los Angeles. If you book flights before the end of August for travel up until 30 April 2021, you can rebook  free of charge until 30 September 2022. You’ll need to give at least 21 days’ notice.

    Customers with an original travel date before the 30 September 2020 who have to cancel their trip can rebook travel before 30 November 2020 and any potential fare difference will be waived. Although you may have to pay the difference if you are travelling after 1 December 2020.

     

    How to protect yourself

    Before you head off on holiday, always check the latest FCO advice. If you travel abroad when the FCO advises not to, you are likely to invalidate your travel insurance policy – another essential when booking a holiday.

    Not only will this mean you won’t be able to make a claim if you fall ill due to coronavirus, you may not be able to claim for other reasons, such as if you lose your luggage.

    Even if travel restrictions are lifted, be aware that many new travel insurance policies won’t cover you for coronavirus-related claims. Those that do will often only cover you for emergency medical expenses and repatriation if you fall ill with the virus on holiday. Even then, they may not pay out if you had coronavirus symptoms before you set off or if you don’t stick to social distancing rules while you’re away.

    Finally, when booking a holiday it’s always safest to pay with a credit card as you’ll be protected under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act (providing the flight or holiday cost more than £100). This means you will be able to reclaim your money from your card provider if the airline or holiday firm went bust. You may also get a refund if your trip is cancelled and the airline or holiday company won’t pay up.