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Planning to travel? Be prepared to pay more as airfares soar

CNA – After two-and-a-half years of border closures and travel curbs, Mavis Tan is raring to go on a holiday.

Tan said some of her friends have gone abroad last year via vaccinated travel lanes but she decided to sit out due to concerns about evolving travel and COVID-19 testing rules.

Last month as Singapore removed the need for pre-departure and on-arrival tests, as well as quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated people, the 34-year-old decided it was time. Top on her list is the Netherlands, a country she visited in 2019 and left with fond memories.

But a quick search online soon dampened her enthusiasm.

A round-trip economy class flight to Amsterdam via Dutch airline KLM for end-May was priced at SGD2,200, much higher than the SGD1,800 she paid in 2019. Thinking it could be a price surge due to the school holidays, Tan searched for dates in July but airfares turned out to be even higher at nearly SGD2,500.

The other option for a direct flight is Singapore Airlines.

“SIA tickets are more than SGD3,000,” said Tan. “I am very eager to go on a holiday but I am not sure I want to pay that much.”

Travellers at the Changi Airport Terminal 3 departure hall in Singapore. PHOTO: CNA

For others looking at destinations near home, airfares have also gone up. Rebecca Low travelled to Bali in end-April and paid SGD420 for her round trip via Singapore Airlines. Her air tickets were the cheapest available for her travelling dates, with other flight timings costing at least SGD150 to SGD200 more, she said.

The 30-year-old is headed to Bangkok via the national carrier this month. For that, a two-way economy class ticket costs SGD380.

Low said her air tickets for both trips were “slightly higher” than what she and her travel companions used to pay before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We all know oil prices went up and there’s bound to be spillover effects on airfares. But since it’s just an increase by a few tens of dollars, my friends and I are ok with it.”

With border restrictions in Singapore and the region being eased, the travel industry is picking up after a prolonged downturn, with airfares taking to the skies and rising even beyond pre-pandemic levels.

Travel platform Expedia said its data showed air ticket prices being “generally higher” than in pre-pandemic days, with the average price for Singaporeans’ top five destinations up 20 per cent from 2019.

These destinations are Bangkok, Bali, Kuala Lumpur, Phuket and Seoul, said Expedia’s Asia head of public relations Lavinia Rajaram.

Likewise, lifestyle app Traveloka said it has seen “an even uptick across the board” in airfares.

“Our top three destinations, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, have been seeing an uptick in bookings despite an average increase of 20 per cent in ticket prices,” said its president Caesar Indra.

Another holidaymaker, El Lee, paid SGD253 for his holiday to Phuket in March via Singapore Airlines.

While the airfares were 20 to 30 per cent more than what he paid in 2019, the start-up entrepreneur felt that they were “reasonable” given the additional care and procedures that the national carrier had put in place.

“For me, it is more than getting from point A to B. It is about the in-flight comfort and safety, as well as showing our support for the crews that take care of the passengers,” Lee told CNA.

It is not just full-fledged carriers that have raised their fares, prices on budget airlines have also seemingly gone up.