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The biggest holiday price hikes (and falls) in 50 years

by Staff

Getting to London in the first place must be factored into the price of a break, and train fares have also remained stubbornly expensive. 

A return train from Edinburgh to London would have cost £12 in 1974. After allowing for inflation that’s around £108 in today’s money – comparable with the best advance price available today. The journey times have at least improved in many cases – with the train journey taking just under four and a half hours from London to Edinburgh today, rather than six hours in the 1970s.

Rail operators always argue that only a handful of people pay the highest prices for tickets today and, thanks to “dynamic pricing”, bargain-hunters can travel relatively inexpensively. But who wants to plan a weekend break in the Smoke a month in advance? 

Ferry tickets, too, have remained stagnant. In 1974, a family of four would have paid £12 return for a ferry crossing from Dover to Calais – around £108 in today’s money. Though the Channel Tunnel opening in 1994 ostensibly created more competition, prices haven’t fallen as much as might be expected. Instead, a crossing remains costly – with the cheapest crossing Which? researchers found in summer 2023 priced at £187 on special offer. Add a car to your ferry ticket and it might actually be cheaper to hire one when you arrive at your destination – though see below.

In the early to mid 1970s, flights were actually expensive, the magazine’s researchers claim, and prices could fluctuate quickly. Between late 1973 and March 1974, crude oil soared in price by 300 per cent, sending prices skyward, while inflation hit a peak of 23 per cent in 1975. 

At the time, shopping around wasn’t an option to secure a better price, as it was illegal for airlines to set their own fares, which were set by national governments.

Which? data shows that a flight to the Greek capital Athens in 1974 would have cost 313 per cent more in real terms than it does today. In 1974 the average price was £80 (£723 when adjusted for inflation) compared to just £175 in August 2023.

Similarly, a flight to Rome, Italy was 238 per cent more on average, costing £55 (£497 in today’s money) compared to £147 in August 2023.

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