As British Airways makes mass cancellations to and from its main base at London Heathrow, The Independent found that the airline was 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 shown as available on its website, economy fares are set at levels designed to deter any rational traveler from buying them.
The lowest fare for the 151-mile jump from Heathrow to Manchester until and including April 17 is £415 – a rate of £2.75 per mile.
Fares on other routes, including Paris and Amsterdam, are over £2 per mile. From Heathrow to Dublin the fare is “just” £1.50 per mile – but the one-way fare of £419 is completely out of step with the competition.
On April 12, for example, Ryanair is selling London Stansted-Dublin tickets for less than £8, less than a 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 highest fare on Concorde when flying between London and New York.
The supersonic jet had only one class, and in-flight service included champagne, caviar and cigars (although smoking was banned when Concorde’s flying career ended in 2003).
The last known time an airline imposed “disincentive” fares was in 2017 on Monarch. As the carrier faced imminent collapse, prices were raised to several hundred pounds to prevent future bookings while last-ditch efforts continued to save the airline.
There is no indication that British Airways is in financial difficulty. But it appears unable to meet its scheduled schedule, and the price change appears to be aimed at reducing the potential number of passengers affected by cancellations – and making room for travelers who need to be booked from ground flights.
With many schools closed for the Easter holidays, this weekend is expected to see passenger demand at its highest since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
But a combination of issues ranging from high rates of staff sickness to retraining needs means BA is making large-scale cancellations.
The number of canceled short-haul flights on British Airways from Heathrow doubled overnight, with more than 100 departures blocked on Saturday.
More than 10,000 passengers, including travelers to Athens, Marrakech and Stockholm, have been told their flights have been cancelled, with limited rebooking options.
But air passenger rights rules require BA to rebook passengers on the first available flight on any airline, as well as provide cash compensation.
The Independent asked British Airways for a response.
Other airlines are making short-notice cancellations due to resource issues; in Manchester, easyJet canceled morning flights to Copenhagen, Corfu and Mykonos with hours notice.
Premium fares: lowest fares on British Airways from Heathrow for all flights until April 18
- 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.