Escape to Africa from the UK deep freeze for £1.40 per hour: this is one of the tempting propositions over the next three weeks, as travel firms desperately try to shift unsold flights and holidays.
The Independent has found Tui, Europe’s biggest holiday company, is selling packages to Tunisia for departure tomorrow or on Friday 26 January for just £235 per person. It represents a 54 per cent discount on the full price of £506, which is being charged the following Friday, 2 February.
The deal includes flights (and 15kg of checked baggage) from London Gatwick to Enfidha airport and a transfer to the four-star Phenicia Hotel in Hammamet – where, as well as a room for a week, bargain-seekers get breakfast and dinner included.
Someone earning the national minimum wage could earn enough for the week’s package in just three days. BBC Weather predicts a high of 22C for Friday, with “sunny intervals and light winds”.
On Saturday 20 January, Jet2 Holidays is offering a week in Torremolinos on Spain’s Costa del Sol for £261, including flights from Birmingham (with baggage), transfers and self-catering accommodation.
The following day, Jet2 has a deal from East Midlands to Praia da Rocha on Portugal’s Algarve coast for £232 per person – again with self-catering accommodation. Clear skies are forecast for Sunday and all of next week.
Flight-only deals from budget airlines are selling at below cost. Flying out to Rome from London Stansted on Monday 22 January for a week, Ryanair has a deal for £26 return. The same price, on the same day, applies from Birmingham to Valencia.
For maximum sunshine within Europe, the destination of choice is Spain’s Canary Islands. From Prestwick in Scotland to Tenerife, flying out on Monday 22 January for 10 days, the Ryanair fare is £45 return.
Egypt for cheap
In Egypt, Red Sea destinations such as Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh are suffering because of travellers’ concerns about the Israel-Gaza conflict and attacks on shipping – even though these are taking place 1,000 miles away.
On 27 January, easyJet is offering flights from Belfast International to Hurghada for £109 return – a round-trip distance of over 5,500 miles, almost as far as from the Northern Ireland capital to Boston and back.
The day before, 26 January, Wizz Air is selling Gatwick-Sharm el-Sheikh flights for £126 return. The outbound fare of £72 is £15 less than the Air Passenger Duty payable by the airline when a passenger steps aboard the flight. The current rate for most destinations outside Europe from Britain is £87.
City breaks are on offer, too. From Edinburgh to Beauvais in northern France, which Ryanair calls “Paris” even though it is 75km from the capital, a Monday-to-Wednesday trip is £26 return next week.
This coming weekend, British Airways will fly travellers from London Heathrow to Milan, with two nights in a four-star hotel, for £166 per person – less than the airfare alone for a passenger checking in a bag, which is included in the package price.
Ski flights are also inexpensive: on easyJet, flying on the benchmark route from London Gatwick to Geneva on Saturday 27 January for a week, the cheapest flights are £79 return.
Once February half-term is underway, fares soar. Making exactly the same easyJet journey two weeks later costs almost five times as much, with some Gatwick-Geneva fares over those weekends exceeding £1,100.
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, says: “Some of these deals prove that you really can get some bargains at the 11th hour.
“If you have the flexibility to travel at the last minute, then some of these offers are in fact too good, and too true, to bypass.
“Tour operators, airlines and travel agents have had a really strong start to 2024 so the majority of their sales are at higher prices for later in the year. But these late deals prove that there are still a smattering of great offers for those desperate to escape the cold.”