For a few days now, subscribers to airline newsletters have been receiving more promotions from carriers. One discount campaign chases the other and the price level for airline tickets seems to be falling again. There is a very good reason for this, because for many providers the advance booking figures for winter 2023/24 and summer 2024 are not looking so good yet.
In the summer of 2023, many carriers were able to impose ticket prices, some of which were exorbitantly high. Many passengers really wanted to fly on vacation and/or take a city trip, because in previous years quite a few people were frightened by the propaganda that some governments spread about coronavirus and stayed at home. Many people also no longer saw through the constantly changing entry and quarantine regulations. The result: This year, a particularly large number of people really wanted to go on holiday again and the costs only played second fiddle. Unfortunately, some people also financed this on credit, because everyday inflation is now also affecting large parts of the middle class.
Additional costs plus good basket money were earned
The airlines have succeeded in not only passing on the additional costs, but also being able to add a lot more to the service that is hardly included. In most cases, bookings were made and supply and demand found a solution. However, things are no longer looking so rosy for many airlines after the autumn holidays in 2023, because the booking numbers are not exactly great.
The causes for this are manifold. On the one hand, there are many people who are not entirely sure whether something will happen again in winter due to the recent “scaremongering” surrounding the coronavirus and, on the other hand, many people simply don't have the money. It also plays a role that you were prepared to pay a lot of money for a beach holiday or your first city trip in a few years, but for subsequent trips you look more closely at the money again. Why should you now pay 100 euros or even more for flights that were available in previous years for around 600 euros return (excluding luggage)? On routes where there is little to no competition, this has not been the exception so far this year, but rather the rule.
Some airlines have really annoyed their passengers
Another circumstance, which affects more classic network carriers, is completely homemade. Not everything went smoothly in the summer of 2023 and many providers are avoiding compensation and/or reimbursement of expenses. Some advertising also suggested a premium product, but then there was the bitter disappointment that there were no significant differences to the despised low-cost airline and even with delays and cancellations you were left out in the cold. But it's not just network carriers who have earned the anger of their passengers, but also a German holiday airline in particular that claims to be particularly popular. It wasn't even you, but a sister company from Estonia and their subcontractors, for whom you acted as a ticket seller. Being in the headlines for weeks doesn't go away so quickly from the minds of potential customers, especially if you have booked with the German carrier and are rebooked to the sister company from Estonia a few months later. Even more annoying: In general, many travelers who want to travel in autumn and winter said that they had to book quickly because it wouldn't be any cheaper. Depending on the date, that was exactly a shot in the oven, because the particularly large number of remaining places were gradually wasted. The holiday and low-cost airlines have reopened the price war. Of course, if you have to travel on fixed dates, you can't rely on bargain offers later.
But what was it like a few months ago? There will never be tickets under 20 euros (promotional price, excluding luggage etc.) again? A random look at Ryanair's price finder shows that the famous 9,99 euro tickets from Vienna, for example, are back. For less than 20 euros you can go back to Palma de Mallorca, which is in high demand. The competitor Wizz Air shows an absolutely comparable picture.
The competitor Eurowings sends out newsletters almost every day with new savings campaigns for departures from Germany and a look at Austrian Airlines' reservation system now shows that they are offering cheaper tickets again on one route or another. The picture is very similar with Easyjet.
High price levels are crumbling
Demand outside of the summer holidays is significantly lower than during the peak travel season. It has now become clear to one or two carriers that many passengers are not prepared to pay 1.000 euros for a return economy class ticket for a trip to London over the weekend. Well, not really anymore, because this year there were certainly times when you could sell such overpriced tickets - and quite a few of them.
In the short term, you can get one or two bargains with some airlines, but on many routes - and especially with the low-cost airlines - it becomes really expensive around the autumn holidays of 2023 and sometimes downright dirt cheap afterwards. Of course: This always depends on the route and the date. Around Christmas and New Year, prices are higher again and then it becomes cheaper. There are also promotions, discount codes and much more that are intended to encourage passengers to book.
The simple answer: Many airlines still have a particularly large number of empty seats that need to be marketed. Perhaps some managers popped the champagne corks too early, because if many people were to believe what they said, then ticket prices would remain permanently at the high level of summer 2023. But supply and demand regulate the price. Passengers cannot and do not want to pay that much and this means that prices have to be reduced, otherwise you will have enormous overcapacity, which costs a lot of money. Passengers also have it in their own hands how the airlines set their prices, because when many people think they have to book their tickets in a panic, the clever systems react and demand more. If there is a lull, passengers simply let their airlines fiddle for a few weeks, ticket prices go down and lots of newsletters with promotions follow.
Winter could be frosty
The winter of 2023/24 will be frosty for many airlines, because the high demand from summer 2023 can only be “taken with you” if the passengers also book. But potential customers are not willing to travel at whatever price is asked. It will be exciting to see how this develops in the summer of 2024, because at the moment it is not foreseeable that there will be an end to the everyday price increases in everyday life. If some people are still struggling with credit for their vacation in the summer of 2023, it may be that some can no longer afford or want to afford a trip “at any price”. The industry will most likely not be able to maintain the recently high price level - with mostly zero included service - and will have to react through the price.
However, “minimum prices for airline tickets” are not to be expected any time soon. In 2020, this was boldly announced by Austria's Transport Minister Leonore Gewessler (Greens) and it was supposed to happen in September 2020. Nothing at all has happened since then. Perhaps the “Ministry of Climate Protection” also noticed that such a requirement fails under EU law and would de facto only affect Austrian carriers, since they only have supervision over them...