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‘A ridiculous amount’: The foreigners in Denmark who can’t make it home for Christmas

Foreigners living in Denmark who had hoped to fly home for Christmas are being blocked by abnormally high airfares. What's to blame and can you do anything about it?

'A ridiculous amount': The foreigners in Denmark who can't make it home for Christmas
The rising cost of airfares is preventing international families in Denmark from travelling home this Christmas. Photo: Søren Bidstrup/Ritzau Scanpix

What’s the problem? 

The Covid-19 pandemic prevented many families from travelling back to their home countries for Christmas in both 2020 and 2021, meaning this year there is an enormous amount of pent-up demand. 

At the same time, many airlines are struggling to bring back staffing to pre-pandemic levels, making it difficult for them to increase the number of flights to meet demand. 

The current $90-a-barrel oil prices have also significantly increased airlines’ fuel costs.

Airlines are looking to make up for lost ground, pass on their costs and cash in on the demand, with customers feeling the brunt. As a result, it is almost impossible for the average family to travel.

“This is ridiculous”

Nicola Lal and her husband are from Wellington, New Zealand and have lived in Copenhagen for six and a half years with their two children.

They had hoped to get home to New Zealand for Christmas, to spend the holiday with parents, siblings and cousins but the prices have put a stop to it.

As a family of four, the flights cost around 100,000 Danish kroner and to book a good flight time, it is around 140,000 kroner. This is compared to the 28,000 kroner the family paid to fly back at Easter.

Personal photo of a family from New Zealand living in Denmark

Nicola Lal and her family, who live in Denmark, can’t get home to New Zealand this Christmas. Photo: private

“I feel so frustrated with these prices. We can normally expect a higher price at Christmas, but this is ridiculous. A 300 to 400 percent increase, it isn’t affordable for most, if not all, families. It’s a ridiculous amount, even if you take into consideration gas prices. It’s so unfair,” Nicola told The Local.

“We were so desperate to see family after Covid restrictions, fortunately we did travel in April, or we’d feel more upset right now,” Nicola said.

Debbie Burbury was planning a special Christmas in Australia for her daughter’s family, who have lived in Denmark for four years and haven’t managed to visit since having their two children, aged two and three and a half.

However when she looked at the flights to and from Brisbane, the prices ranged from 17,000 to 27,000 Australian dollars (81,000 – 129,000 Danish kroner).

“My daughter said it would be great for the boys to come over for a summer Christmas as well as meet their great grandfather who is 91 and might be the last chance to meet him. So I thought I would try and see what flights I could get them here for a special Australian Christmas. The prices were ridiculously high so at the moment it won’t happen,” Debbie told The Local.

“Since Covid everything has gone up in price as the cost of living makes it harder to travel for the everyday person, which affects families around the world that want to spend time with their loved ones,” she added.

Rearranged plans

Lisa is planning her third visit home to New Jersey, since moving to Copenhagen four and a half years ago. 

“I am flying home in the first week of November instead of later in the month for Thanksgiving, or in December because ticket prices were looking to go higher and higher,” she told The Local. 

Lisa was able to use her airline points to buy the return flight from Copenhagen to New York out of holiday season. 

“I feel grateful that I am able to see my family at all, so in that way it is ok to be traveling outside of the holidays. But my parents are in their 80s and not in great health. They are not able to travel to me anymore, and I wish I could be there at actual holiday times to celebrate with them. It is also my dad’s birthday on the 23rd December. So I am missing that as well,” Lisa said.

Rosie Serrano, who lives in Copenhagen and hasn’t been back home to South America in four years, had to adjust her route back to make the trip affordable. Despite this, it was still double the price of what the trip usually costs.
“I had to book separate tickets, meaning I would have a longer travel time with more connections. I also had to book it in early December when I usually travel the week before Christmas and thereby had to adjust my work around this date which is not ideal.

“I first booked a ticket to New York departing from Copenhagen with a connection in Zurich. Then I bought a separate ticket from New York to Cartagena with a connection in Bogota. The long haul ticket (New York to Copenhagen) is relatively cheaper than the last leg of the travel (New York to Cartagena) in this case.

“It will take 28 hours for me to arrive in Cartagena-Colombia when it is usually is a 17-hour trip including connections,” Rosie explained.

So what are your options?

Paying the price

Using Copenhagen to Sydney as an example, flights for two adults and two children for two weeks over Christmas will cost around 100,000 Danish kroner for a return flight with one layover.

Cheaper flights, with two layovers, can be found at around 70,000 kronor for a return flight.

Flying after Christmas

Booking after Christmas will definitely save you money with one-stop flights from Copenhagen to Sydney currently sitting at around 86,000 kronor for two adults and two children and two-stop flights currently going for around 65,000 kronor. 

Other routes

Sometimes flying from international hubs such as Stockholm, Amsterdam, or Rome can work out cheaper.

The cheapest option in Europe right now appears to be Rome Fiumicino airport to Sydney, where a one-stop flights for two adults and two children over Christmas can be 64,000 kroner.

Christmas 2023?

For many, the only option will probably be to put off your family Christmas again until 2023 in the hope that prices will level out. 

Global airlines have not released tickets for these dates yet. 

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Crisis-stricken airline SAS records heavy losses

Troubled Scandinavian airline SAS, which has filed for bankruptcy in the United States, reported deeper losses in the fourth quarter on Wednesday.

Crisis-stricken airline SAS records heavy losses

Net losses amounted to more than 1.2 billion Swedish kronor ($117 million) in the August-October period, compared to a loss of 744 million kronor a year earlier, the company said in a statement.

“As with previous quarters in 2022, the currencies (foreign exchange) and jet-fuel price have brought strong headwinds for our business,” said SAS chief executive Anko van der Werff.

The airline, however, saw the “highest number” of passengers since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, with healthy demand in the summer, van der
Werff said.

The airline, which cut 5,000 jobs in 2020, is preparing for “substantial recruitments and rehirings” to meet the expected increase in demand next
summer, he added.

SAS filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in the United States in July — a move allowing a company to restructure its debts under court

Van der Werff said the airline expected to complete the court-supervised process during the second half of 2023.

Earlier this year, The airline posted a net loss of 1.84 billion kronor ($170 million) for the May-July period, compared to a loss of 1.33 billion kronor a year earlier.

Earnings were “severely affected” by the 15-day pilot strike between July 4th-19th, which led to the cancellation of some 4,000 flights affecting more than 380,000 passengers, the company said in a statement.