Christmas travel prices nightmare

Flying out of Cyprus for the Christmas period is proving difficult and expensive for many travellers, with prices changing from day to day and taxes costing more that tickets in some instances.

The problem is particularly prevalent on flights to the UK since the recent demise of low-cost carrier ajet but is also part of a wider issue that must be dealt with as soon as possible, industry bosses say.

The Association of Cyprus Travel Agents (ACTA) said airline pricing systems were so complex it was more or less pot luck if people managed to secure a cheap ticket at all.

A quick survey of airlines and ticket prices among the major airlines flying out of Cyprus showed the cheapest return ticket to Athens from December 20 for one week, varied from £98 including taxes with Cyprus Airways (CY), to £116 inclusive on Olympic to £172 with Aegean. In the case of Cyprus Airways the ticket was only £41 but the taxes were £57. In addition, the cheapest tickets were more likely to be night flights.

London Heathrow for December 20 was quoted by Cyprus Airways at £242 with taxes, while British Airways (BA) quoted the price at £274 inclusive of taxes. Taxes to the UK are around £60. By contrast, before it withdrew, an ajet ticket to London Luton was selling at only £142 including taxes.

One couple who become caught up in the ajet fiasco are not only waiting for a total of £284 to be refunded, but have now had to re-book flights with Cyprus Airways at a new cost of £484 for two tickets. “We had no other choice but to book with British Airways or Cyprus Airways,” said Anna Christoforou.

Christoforou said she was told by Cyprus Airways that if she travelled on December 21 a ticket would cost £242 including taxes but if she flew a day later it would be £275. British Airways quoted her £250 inclusive for the same date.

“I’m very annoyed, not just about ajet but because it’s just like it was in the past with no one to really choose from except those two airlines,” said Christoforou.

“We now have to pay nearly twice what we were going to pay. How do they think a family of four could afford to pay £1,000 to go to the UK for Christmas?”

Phaedra Kyriacou, the manager of Oras Travel said the general price for early bookers to London was around £190.

“Cyprus Airways had a special offer of £99 but no one can find any of those seats,” said Kyriacou. She said as of last Wednesday, tickets could be found for around £250, depending on the dates. She also said with the withdrawal of ajet, Manchester and Birmingham were totally inaccessible directly by air, either for those leaving the island or for those coming in.

“There is no one to bring people in from the UK to Cyprus. Sales were good on those routes,” she said. “And the tour operators in the UK, if they don’t find seats with the two airlines (CY and BA) they will look for new destinations,” she added.