Ryanair strike fears push up last-minute booking fares by €100 a seat
Holidaymakers are facing hikes of around €100 a seat for last-minute getaways as airfares rocket due to Ryanair strikes.
Members of the travel industry claim airline prices have taken off due to a lack of competition as passengers shy away from Europe's biggest budget carrier.
Chief executive of the Irish Travel Agents Association Pat Dawson said the low fares carrier's woes have pushed up some prices to popular destinations including Malaga, Faro and Majorca by more than €50 each way. He said flights to Malaga were currently on sale for up to €600 with some airlines.
Ryanair's rivals are enjoying a boost in bookings as a campaign of industrial action that began among a minority of pilots in Ireland has spread across Europe.
More than 110,000 passengers have already been hit by flight cancellations due to stoppages, variously by certain pilots and cabin crew in Ireland, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Belgium. They are demanding better working conditions.
Pilots in Ireland are due to walk out this Friday along with pilots in Sweden and Belgium. Ryanair believes those in Germany and the Netherlands will follow suit.
Talks are due to take place in the Irish dispute, but are unlikely to happen until after this week's strike.
"There's no doubt about it, prices have gone up because people are afraid to fly with Ryanair," said Mr Dawson.
"Because of the uncertainty, other airlines are getting the bookings and if flights are in demand, the prices automatically go up.
"Families have three or four weeks left. They're doing the back-to-school planning and then heading off.
"There are a lot of them searching around and getting quotes compared to three or four weeks ago when the weather was really good."
He said Spain and Portugal were the two main routes and could cost €350 to €400 for a seat at the moment. Normally, it would be €250 to €300.
Mr Dawson said there was always a big late market, as 30pc of bookings were done in the final week before a flight. But travel agencies are reporting a surge in demand due to a break in the weather.
Although prices for August had jumped, he said September still seemed well priced.
Chief executive of Aer Lingus Stephen Kavanagh warned last week that anything that damages Ryanair's business was good for his - and vowed to capitalise. He said the airline's flights were heavily booked at the moment, so the opportunities due to Ryanair's problems were not significant.
However, he indicated that these difficulties could soon provide opportunities.
Aer Lingus used to face regular strikes but there has been a sharp fall in industrial action since staff and management agreed to set up a Registered Employment Agreement.
Meanwhile, policy and council adviser at the Consumers' Association of Ireland Dermot Jewell says passengers' mindsets are changing and they are starting to look for alternatives, even if they are more expensive.