As British Airways makes wholesale cancellations to and from its main base at London Heathrow, The Independent has found the airline is effectively blocking sales on short-haul flights until Easter Monday.
While seats on a wide range of European and domestic flights from Heathrow are still showing as available on its website, the economy fares are set at levels designed to deter any rational traveller from buying them.
The lowest fare for the 151-mile hop from Heathrow to Manchester up to and including 17 April is £415 – a rate of £2.75 per mile.
Fares on other routes, including Paris and Amsterdam, top £2 per mile. From Heathrow to Dublin, the rate is “only” £1.50 per mile – but the one-way fare of £419 is completely out of line with the competition.
On 12 April, for example, Ryanair is selling London Stansted-Dublin tickets for under £8 – less than one-50th of a ticket with British Airways.
On a range of routes, including to Frankfurt, Geneva, Milan and Nice, the price-per-mile is even higher than the top fare on Concorde when it flew between London and New York.
The supersonic jet had one class only, and the inflight service included champagne, caviar and cigars (though smoking was banned by the time Concorde’s flying career ended in 2003).
The last known time an airline imposed “deterrent” fares was in 2017 on Monarch. As the carrier faced imminent collapse, prices were increased to many hundreds of pounds to prevent future bookings while last-ditch efforts continued to save the airline.
There is no suggestion that British Airways is in any financial trouble. But it seems unable to operate its planned schedule, and the pricing move appears aimed at reducing the potential number of passengers affected by cancellations – and leave space for travellers who need to be rebooked from grounded flights.
With many schools breaking up for the Easter holidays, this weekend is expected to see passenger demand at its highest since the coronavirus pandemic began.
But a combination of problems from high rates of staff sickness to retraining requirements means BA is making large-scale cancellations.
The number of cancelled short-haul flights on British Airways from Heathrow doubled overnight, with more than 100 departures grounded on Saturday.
More than 10,000 passengers, including travellers heading for Athens, Marrakech and Stockholm have been told their flights are cancelled, with limited options for rebooking.
But air passengers’ rights rules require BA to rebook passengers on the first available flight on any airline, as well as providing cash compensation.
The Independent has asked British Airways for a response.
Other airlines are making short-notice cancellations due to resourcing issues; at Manchester, easyJet cancelled morning flights to Copenhagen, Corfu and Mykonos at a few hours’ notice.
Premium pricing: lowest fares on British Airways from Heathrow for all flights until 18 April
- Amsterdam (213 miles): £516, £2.42 per mile.
- Dublin (280 miles): £419, £1.50 per mile.
- Frankfurt (408 miles): £622, £1.52 per mile.
- Geneva (470 miles): £613, £1.30 per mile.
- Manchester (151 miles): £415, £2.75 per mile.
- Milan (583 miles): £657, £1.13 per mile.
- Nice (647 miles): £735, £1.14 per mile
- Paris CDG (216 miles): £450, £2.08 per mile.