Airlines are struggling to find enough planes to take holidaymakers to the Canary Islands during the half-term break, after the industry was caught short by the government’s decision to remove the islands from England’s quarantine list.
Prices for flights to the Canaries surged after the islands – along with the Maldives, Mykonos and Denmark – joined the list of “travel corridors”, meaning visitors do not have to self-isolate on their return.
On Friday afternoon, no-frills airline Ryanair was quoting a £690 “value fare” return trip to Lanzarote, leaving on Sunday and coming back a week later.
Other travel companies were unable to offer any flights at all.
Jet2, the UK’s second largest tour operator, said it would not resume flights to the Canaries until 30 October – the last day of the half-term holiday for most English schools.
Industry figures told of a mad dash to find planes as tour operators – including a reborn Thomas Cook – field a wave of inquiries for next week, when much of the UK will be subject to restrictions on socialising and recreation.
Airlines had reduced the number of available flights during the pandemic and are casting around for short-notice capacity to meet the unanticipated demand.
John Hays, who runs tour operator Hays Travel, said the return of the Canary Islands was “the first piece of good news we’ve had in ages”.
“We’ve done double the number of bookings across the group compared to the same time yesterday. But there’s virtually nobody flying. The reports we’re getting is that it’s only [tour operator] Tui with any availability because they hadn’t cancelled flights.
“The other guys, I’m told, are rushing to put capacity on, but the logistics at short notice of getting a plane crewed is not as easy as you might think.”
Hays said there was a risk of would-be holidaymakers being left disappointed if not enough planes could be found to meet demand.
The Guardian has approached easyJet and Ryanair for comment.
The flight price comparison site Skyscanner said traffic to its website doubled after the government added the Canary Islands to the travel corridor.
Thomas Cook, relaunched as a “Covid-ready” online-only brand by its Chinese owner Fosun after its 2019 collapse, said traffic on its website had tripled, with searches soaring for destinations such as Tenerife and Lanzarote.
A spokesperson said: “It looks like Brits are clamouring to flock south for the winter and demand for holidays in the sun-soaked Canaries has come at just the right time for people looking for a break.”