Europe's Cheap Airfares
For many years, the idea of flying between major cities on your European itinerary was unthinkable. One reason for this was because it was very hard to find cheap airfares in Europe.
In the past anyone trying to fly between the major European cities was told that Europeans do not travel like Americans or Canadians. They used the world's best rail system to avoid Europe's sky-high airline ticket prices. And they rented cars to enjoy the marvelous countryside. It was good advice at the time, and it's still pretty sound in many situations.
“…rise of Europe’s Discount Airline Tickets..”
But the rise of Europe's discount airline tickets must now be figured into your travel plans.
For example, I am considering how to get my family of four from western Europe across eastern sections of the continent to Riga, Latvia. Overland travel between, say, Berlin and Riga is not all that convenient.
When I started looking for Europe airline tickets, my casual interest in flying within Europe took a very serious turn.
An expensive and uncomfortable rail trip also would extract precious time from our European visit. I was not looking forward to entertaining my eight-year-old on a nine-hour motorcoach ride, either.
Flights from Berlin to Riga take about an hour, and the cost I found on a random search was astounding. Let’s see how airfares within Europe have changed for the better:
My first search was on Air Baltic, an airline that serve's Latvia's capital of Riga. What popped up was amazing.
My daughter's airfare between Berlin and Riga was to be 6.03 Lats (LVL). The adults in our party would pay nine Lats each. At the time of the search, a Lat was equal to about $1.85 USD.
Did this mean my daughter could fly that distance for the sum total of $11.15 USD?
Yes and no.
When you go beyond the initial search to actually book these cheap airline tickets, the family total of 33.06 LVL became 110.20 LVL! Taxes and fees double or triple each adult, youth and child fare.
Still, the one-way airfare between Berlin and Riga for four people at peak season (July) now costs about $208 USD.
Not bad, considering a train or motorcoach trip would cost at least that much and require two days of travel.
Renting a car to drive the 1700 kilometer round trip to Riga would cost more than 200 euro because many companies charge per kilometer once you pass 750 kilometers. That's before any of Europe's expensive gasoline and an overnight room is purchased.
Don't misunderstand: Cars, trains, and motorcoaches have distinct advantages, too. You should see more than cities and airports on your trip to Europe.
But on a few legs of your planned journey, a well-placed flight will save precious hours for that extra museum visit, or that village you want to explore.
Do you think Air Baltic's reasonable airfare was the cheapest option?
Well let’s take a look at some even lower European airfares.
Ryanair offers a one-way airfare between London and Riga starting at £3.99 GBP, about $7.38 USD. Keep in mind this is a three-hour flight for just more than a hamburger, fries and milkshake would cost at a fast-food burger joint.
It could be worth restructuring my trip so that I arrive from London. Trans-atlantic airefares to London often are cheaper than other European destinations because of traffic volume.
When I tried to book that really cheap airline ticket online, it came up as "unavailable." There was no explanation. I am left to guess whether the flight is full, the airfare is a lost-leader, or if I'm trying to book too early.
Ryanair offers similar cheap airfares in Europe from London to more touristy places like Oslo for £1.98 ($3.66 USD) or Salzburg for £0.25 ($.46).
Perhaps there is a more expensive return trip to buy, or maybe the travel dates are highly restricted. As we've shown, the tax on these flights is almost always more than the fare itself.
Something else to remember about intra-European flights: you do not shop for these flights the way Americans look for options in North America. For example, there are few connecting flights on these European routes. Most discount fares involve straight, city-to-city itineraries, and sometimes secondary airports in remote locations.
But if you want to save money--and valuable time--on your next European trip, take a look at the discount airlines of Europe. Check the Google Listings Above and in the right hand panel for the best places to find cheap Europe airfares and international airline tickets.