Cleaning Belfast Articles

Flight operators taking us to the cleaners

These days holidays are a luxury. The poor state of the economy, job insecurity and mass unemployment mean that most us have to forego the things we were used to five years ago. Many people still work are too worried  to take a holiday in case their colleagues don't, and they may be seen as less committed. The financial and emotional pressure on most families is greater now than we have seen in our lifetimes. I was talking to an old friend of mine the other day who has been in the same job for fifteen years. His job requires him to travel around the country, sometimes over a thousand miles a week. He is very hard working and committed to his firm, hasn't taken a holiday in seven years and often works 6 days a week, whilst his firm is currently making some redundancies.

He and his family desperately need a break and so finally decided on a weeks holiday abroad. September is the first time he can go, but that's when the school term starts. We're constantly hearing about not being able to take your kids out of school during term time anymore, and there is some point to that argument, so he planned to go in half term.

On looking at flight prices ( which he hasn't done for a long time ) he was shocked to see how expensive they were, in fact so expensive they were out of his price range. Out of interest he checked prices for the week before and discovered they were far cheaper. I couldn't believe the numbers he was talking about so made my own checks in the hope of finding something cheaper for him. Unfortunately he was right, and i checked three or four flight operators. I find that the half term week flights are on average double, and sometimes treble that of the same flights the week before, let alone the accommodation.

I expect to pay a small premium for travelling during school holidays, but this is simply a disgrace, opportunistic and profiteering. They will say demand justifies the price hike, but this is just a contrived rip off, and I would add it's not just the flight operators, but hotels and accommodation providers are also guilty.

In the last couple of years the flight operators have already had their wrists slapped for hidden costs. A € 30 flight to Mallorca suddenly turns into € 150 if you want to bring a case ( who doesn't? ), name a seat, and do a speedy boarding - of which I've never seen any difference between doing a speedy boarding and not doing one ... Then if you pay by credit card, add a massive charge on top of that. It's about time the tourist industry was investigated for this kind of behaviour, it's just wrong and we all know it. Yet another example of " We're all in this together. "

So, the family all knows about the holiday, needs the holiday and is looking forward to the holiday, but the half term week prices are beyond them. What's to be done? Not go or go the previous week meaning the kids will be off school for a week. In my view, bearing in mind the kids have excellent attendance records and the family hasn't had a holiday for seven years, I would go. A few days off school won't hurt them that much, they could even bring some homework, and of course a little experience of foreign culture is highly educational as well.

Until the tourist industry addresses these price hikes, hard up and high pressured families will have to continue to make these tough choices.  Why not make the off peak prices a bit more expensive and the peak prices less expensive - this way the flight prices would be the same throughout the year, and even more people would and could go during the school holidays.