You might think that travel agents like me encourage higher prices. This could not be further from the truth.
Firstly it means that many more families will have to sacrifice their summer holiday. Since the government have first of all increased APD year after year to put long haul destinations out of reach, even short haul destinations are now out of reach for the average family.
Above is an actual example of over inflated flight prices to Greece. The £1060 line at the top is per person to Crete without meals, luggage or prebook seats. It is for 25th May, two days later this goes down by £810 to a more realistic £250. This is an extreme but very real example Even more shocking is that we as agents do not earn a single penny on this flight. We have to mark it up.
Another thing I saw recently, actually from the same company was a full board supplement for £1. What an unbelievable deal. You would think so wouldn’t you? I thought so too until I realised that this was the full board price with every other company, so what they were actually offering was half board at the full board price with full board almost free. Of course everybody will accept the offer thinking they are getting a bargain. Who would book half board when full board is the same price? Very clever.
Ironically parents who can afford to send their children to private schools also benefit from breaking up a week or two earlier than state school children so they benefit from lower school holiday prices too meaning they can save an average of £2k for a family of four even on a European holiday.
An all inclusive holiday for a family of four in a decent hotel for two weeks is around £5-£6k which is more than most families can afford. Last year clients in the Midlands broke up a week earlier than children in London but unfortunately flights from Birmingham and East Midlands hiked up accordingly.
Secondly the misconception that we earn more money from the higher prices. This isn’t so. Flights are almost always at nett cost and we put a small mark up on them. Percentage wise this is considerably less on a higher priced flight. It is also true that most families are so squeezed and the competition so cut throat it often means having to work on stupidly low margins just to achieve the aim of getting a family away for the summer holiday.
So why do the holiday companies charge such high prices in the school holidays? Why can’t they spread them evenly. Well the reason is that generally they lose money for the rest of the year as they don’t fill the aircraft or the hotels, at least with British guests. European guests are able to take advantage of a longer school holiday so it is much more evenly spread over 3 months but also their prices tend to be higher in the low season than ours are.
Another point that has been raised is that factories close down for two weeks and this doesn’t always coincide with school holidays. Other companies have peaks and troughs that may not permit two weeks in August but might be OK in October. Even in my old agency at Thomas Cook, many of us were parents and we couldn’t all have our holidays at the busiest time of year.
As a mother as well, I always took my children out of school. I believe that travel broadens the mind and their lives have been enriched by experiences I would never have been able to afford in the school holidays and that was long before these fines were put in place. I always made sure that I got homework for them. I used to make them write a diary and we always did something educational during the holiday. The schools knew this and since my children were up to date with their schoolwork they always gave permission.
To be honest with a difference of paying a fine of £200 or paying £2k extra which I can’t afford I would still go with the fine.
Families deserve a holiday once or twice a year, quality time to spend together, enjoying experiences together away from work, homework and stress.