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Are cheap flights too cheap?

For weeks, the airline industry has been facing serious staff shortage problems, mainly due to the layoffs made over the past two years to cope with the economic crisis caused by the pandemic. These are problems that affect all companies, from the largest to the smallest, but which in the coming months could affect in particular the so-called low cost, that is, those that offer very low tariffs without rather reduced services.

The main consequence of staff shortages is that airlines are having to cancel hundreds of flights every day, leaving thousands of travelers stranded, often without warning or notice. The already critical situation could worsen in the coming weeks if an increase in tourist flows is expected for the summer holidays.

The world’s main airlines do not seem to have found a solution for the time being: they are trying to speed up the processes of hiring new employees to compensate for the lack of staff, but it is not an easy thing and it is not clear whether the situation will end of the year stabilize.

To make matters worse, fuel and energy prices have been rising for several months and have accelerated since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair, Europe’s largest low-cost airline, recently spoke about this issue and what implications it may have in the future.

According to O’Leary, the crisis in the airline sector, combined with inflation and rising operating costs, will force all airlines to increase ticket prices. An increase that, according to O’Leary, will primarily affect low-cost airlines, which will no longer be able to offer extremely cheap and affordable airfares as they have in the past.

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“It just got too cheap. I find it absurd that every time I fly into Stansted[London airport where Ryanair is based, ed.]the train journey to central London is more expensive than the plane ticket,” O’Leary told the Financial Times.

O’Leary’s statements came as a surprise to many commentators, given that Ryanair was the low-cost airline that has always focused primarily on the cheapness of its fares.

If what O’Leary says happens, it will in some ways end an era in the airline industry when millions of people could travel by plane for tens of dollars. “It was my job [offrire viaggi aerei a buon mercato]. I made a lot of money doing this. But in the end I don’t think that trips for 40 euros are sustainable in the medium term. It’s too cheap,” O’Leary said, adding that average fares could rise to around 50 or 60 euros in the future.

O’Leary’s statements are all the more surprising given that Ryanair is not one of the companies to have made major layoffs during the pandemic and has therefore suffered less than others from the staff shortage crisis in recent weeks. However, O’Leary did not want to criticize the companies that have decided to cut staff during the pandemic, such as British Airways, easyJet and Lufthansa, and said he understands their decisions, made at such a difficult time.

– Also read: There are more and more canceled flights across Europe