Rugby World Cup: Irish fans hit by ‘scandalous’ flight and accommodation prices

‘I’d love to head over but just can’t afford it,’ says one Dublin fan who speaks of friends saving money by flying out of London and then taking the bus

World Cup fever is building among Irish rugby fans as Andy Farrell’s side brace themselves for their tournament opener against Romania on Saturday afternoon.

An emphatic Grand Slam victory, off the back of a series win over the All Blacks last summer, sees Ireland head into the tournament with unprecedented levels of expectation, with tens of thousands of fans expected to make the journey to France over the coming weeks.

However, given the soaring success of this Irish team, and the very real possibility that they finally break their quarter-final hoodoo, the demand for tickets, flights and accommodation has seen many fans priced out of a late-summer sojourn.

Sean Maughan, a Connacht Rugby supporter from Tuam, Co Galway, told The Irish Times that he and a group of his friends had been priced out of attending the World Cup and that “proper fans” were being left viewing the tournament on a TV screen.

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Detailing the cost of a three-night trip to Paris for Ireland’s final group game against Scotland, Mr Maughan said a match ticket was close to €200, with accommodation working out at roughly €500 per person sharing for the three days.

Remarking on the inflated accommodation prices, he said: “The hosting of the majority of games in Paris seems poorly thought out. It is already an expensive city at the best of times, but to have thousands of fans from so many countries heading to the one city rather than properly spreading games out around France wasn’t well planned at all.”

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It was the cost of flights that left the Tuam RFC clubman the most incensed though, as return flights for the dates in question were priced more than €600. “I thought it was pretty bad on the airlines’ behalf to have flights priced so dearly. They’re robbing people because they know how badly fans want to go to a World Cup,” he said.

“I think that the Irish airlines like Ryanair and Aer Lingus should have made a bigger effort to make more flights available and at affordable prices. They knew years in advance that a World Cup was coming. They are making it extremely hard for real, everyday rugby fans to get to the tournament.”

The issues regarding direct flights to Paris in particular are borne out when using Ireland versus South Africa as a case study. Return flights with Aer Lingus, flying on the days either side of the game, start from €800, with just one flight operating between Paris and Dublin on the Sunday after the game. Meanwhile, Ryanair are completely sold out of return fares on the same dates.

Speaking to this difficulty of navigating the pricing of airfares, Eoin Feighan, a Leinster fan from Rathfarnham in south Dublin, said the “scandalous prices” were taking away from what is meant to be the biggest spectacle in world rugby.

“I’d love to head over but just can’t afford it. The prices are scandalous really. I have a Leinster season ticket and would attend most home Ireland fixtures, but I am then left priced out of the biggest set of games of them all,” Mr Feighan said.

“I have friends too who are taking all sorts of routes to get over because of the price of direct flights. They are heading to Bordeaux via a stopover in London, and then taking a six-hour bus to Paris, for no other reason than to try and save some money.”

For those hoping to avoid the eye-watering Parisian prices and escape for a last-minute trip to Nantes for Ireland’s second group game against Tonga, they too will be sorely disappointed.

Ryanair and Aer Lingus are both operating direct flights to the city from Dublin, however, return flights the days before and after the fixture would set fans back to the tune of €700 and €640 respectively. Two nights’ accommodation in a three-star hotel will cost an additional €400, according to listings on online hotel site Booking.com.

In a statement, Ryanair said it is seeing strong demand from customers travelling to and from France for the Rugby World Cup and has added more than 70 extra flights to support this. It said fares remain available for as little as €70. Aer Lingus has not responded to a request for comment.