Air fare rises are unavoidable, warns Air France-KLM

The cost of air travel is set to rise this year as airlines face soaring overheads, the UK boss of Air France-KLM has told the BBC.

Fahmi Mahjoub said his airline faced significantly higher fuel and airport costs, and as a result higher air fares were “quite unavoidable”.

The airline advised people in the UK to book early as travel rules were eased and demand picked up.

It said it was already seeing strong demand for Easter and summer.

Mr Mahjoub told the BBC’s Today programme: “The increase in cost of living is a very concrete issue for many households but also the airline industry.

“So I think there is an expectation that airline tickets could become more costly as we move forward and I think the advice we have for customers is simply to plan earlier to be able to avoid those prices increases.”

On Monday, oil prices hit their highest level since 2014 on fears that a possible invasion of Ukraine by Russia could drive up costs in an already tight market.

A barrel of benchmark Brent Crude reached $95.56 (£70.13) – up from under $65 a year ago.

The rising price of oil has affected everything from heating bills to petrol prices, and Mr Mahjoub said the cost of jet fuel was also going up sharply.

On top of this, Air France-KLM now has to pay 40% more to fly in and out of Heathrow airport, he said.

It is not the first travel firm to warn on prices. Last year, airline Ryanair and tour operator TUI both predicted holiday costs would be higher than in 2019 as the pandemic eased and demand rebounded.

Despite the challenges, Air France-KLM says bookings from the UK have jumped since pre-departure and Day 2 Covid tests were scrapped for vaccinated travellers.

Mr Mahjoub said bookings for winter sun destinations such as Dubai, the US and Thailand had been strong. Demand for half-term, Easter and summer flights was also healthy.

Air France acquired the Dutch airline KLM to create Air France-KLM Group in 2004, one of the largest air carriers in the world. The deal allows the two airlines to operate as separate companies.

On Sunday, KLM said it would stop services to Ukraine amid concerns Russia is preparing to invade. Germany’s Lufthansa is also considering suspending flights.(BBC)