Olympic factor drives airfares down. Huh?

Olympic factor drives airfares down. Huh?

At least for Japan, that is. Flight prices to London plummet by almost half as seats go unsold
Flights to London Olympics
A London Olympics staffer adjusts the price tag on the next inbound flight.

Question: who’s heard that old saw about the London Olympics making summer flights to the United Kingdom prohibitively expensive?

We have -- thousands of times. Problem is, though, it turns out to be completely untrue. At least if you’re flying from Japan, we can report.

According to research by the ever-on-the-ball Nikkei newspaper, flights to London from Tokyo are 40 percent cheaper [subscription link] than they were last year, in spite of the imminent Lycra-fest.

Admittedly, the strong yen plays a large part in that, but the anticipated traffic to London hasn’t transpired, with potential fliers unable to get tickets to Olympics events, it seems.

The result? Plenty of empty seats on Narita-Heathrow flights and much, much lower prices this summer.

Rock-bottom

The Nikkei found a round-trip seat price of ¥38,800 (US$490) during early August, when London will be in the middle of hosting its first Olympic Games since 1948.

That compares with ¥64,000 at the same time last year. Both prices will rise after fuel surcharges factor in, but the drop is substantial nonetheless.

Fights to other parts of the world are cheaper too.

Narita-to-New-York tickets are currently selling for as little as ¥41,000, down 54 percent on the year, while Haneda departures to the Big Apple can be had for a mere ¥8,900 before surcharges -- almost three-quarters off 2011 prices.

Greater options

Factors cited as influencing those tumbles include greater capacity being brought online by the likes of Delta and American Airlines, as well as the increasing usage of Haneda Airport on flights to North America.

Getting back to London, if you’re considering a last-minute hop to the world’s temporary sporting capital this summer, plan carefully -- the tales of hotel price-gouging and lack of availability appear to be one piece of travel gossip that’s coming true.

More on CNNGo: The best ways to get around London during the Olympics

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