✈️ How-To: Fly to Europe for Under $200
Here are the most affordable airlines to Europe for 2023 and beyond.
👨✈️ The Briefing Room:
Notes and open topics from the editor’s desk.
Welcome to Departures. The place to be for where to go and what to see. Hope everyone’s had a great start to the new year. Flights can often be most expensive part of a trip, but it doesn’t always have to be that way. As someone who depends on long haul flights to commute back and forth between jobs on a weekly basis, I am always looking for ways to save money. So in this edition of Departures I am highlighting some of the new carriers coming in to the low-cost-long-haul space with fresh routes and innovative products that can save you thousands for 2023 and beyond.
So now without further ado, let’s take it away!
📰 Best strategies to save on flights:
Tips and tricks to get the most out of your money when booking your next trip.
When bargain hunting, you will always run into compromises. With some carriers it will be more than others. From arriving at smaller airports outside the main city centers, limited inflight service and ancillary charges for certain amenities, it all comes with the territory. You must ultimately decide if the cost savings are worth it for you. Just make sure you read all the fine print and adjust your expectations accordingly. If in the end going the low cost carrier route is not for you, here are some best practices I highly recommend employing to save money when booking your next flight regardless how you decide to travel:
Subscribe to alerts. It is a common practice for carriers to price a limited number of seats in each flight very aggressively in order to kickstart the sale of the flight. These usually sell out pretty fast so take any advantage you can get in order to grab first dibs on the sale. Subscribe to price alerts directly from the airline and/or your favorite aggregator site.
Have flexible dates. Having a flexible calendar is probably the single most effective way to save the most on airfare. Whether you choose to go full service or low cost, all carriers follow fairly similar pricing models and prices will fluctuate around certain seasons. The more flexibility you have, the better you will position yourself to use the calendar to your financial advantage.
Have flexible destinations. Flying to/from local regional airports will usually increase the cost of flights exponentially. If you go through the carriers in this list you will notice that they all operate out of major international hubs and from airports that offer lower operating fees. Although this might not be the most convenient, it opens up the possibility for other options, specially on the European side where flights, trains and bus routes are so accessible.
Book in advance. At the very latest 6 weeks in advance. Although deals can still be occasionally found beyond the 6 week mark, the odds will usually not be in your favor. Booking in advance while having a flexible schedule is my main “left-jab-right-hook” strategy to always landing the best deals on airfare.
Pack light. Long gone are the days where you could pack carelessly and throw half your wardrobe into your multiple checked bags “just in case”. Even full service carriers these days want to nickel and dime each passenger as much as they can. So be aware of all the specific allowances of your carrier and be prepared to pack accordingly.
✈️ How to Fly to Europe for under $200:
These are the carriers to watch in 2023 for the most affordable flights from North America to Europe.
It is no secret the pandemic hit the airline industry particularly hard. Out of all the casualties that came from the aftermath, Norwegian’s transatlantic operations was the one that affected me personally the most. It was my preferred carrier for both Europe and Asia. So I was very happy to hear last year that Norse would be taking over Norwegian’s Boeing 787’s Dreamliners, part of their routes and more importantly their low fares + fees for everything business model.
For bargain hunters that means you can cross the Atlantic from Los Angeles, New York or Miami direct to Oslo for just over $100 each way. Flights to Los Angeles start at $179. Here’s a chart of their 3 economy products:
Additionally they also offer several premium products (not listed here) and the ability to upgrade only certain parts of the experience with add-ons for wifi, special luggage, seat selection and in-flight meal service.
Where Norse is taking over where Norwegian left off, Play is filling the shoes of Wow Air, the failed Icelandic carrier that ceased operations in 2019. Like its predecessor, Play connects Europe and North America via Reykjavík and it’s a great option for a long stopover if you fancy to witness some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world on your way to or from your final destination. Although unlike the country’s national carrier Iceland Air which has the stopover feature built in to the site, with Play you will need to book your itinerary point to point on your own with separate tickets each way.
A couple of things to note, Play flies the smaller Airbus A320/321neo aircraft which in my experience can feel a little cramped for a long haul flight. This might or might not be a deal breaker for you, but I always prefer the larger aircraft on anything over 4-5 hours. The other caveat that you might also want to consider if planning to fly in / out of New York is they only service Stewart International Airport, which is about 1.5 hours north of Manhattan.
Pricing wise, they are not as aggressive as Norse, but you can still find plenty of under $200 itineraries off season to most of the destinations they service in Europe. Different to Norse, Play offers only one “Economy” cabin class with no seat back entertainment or Wifi. Luggage beyond your personal item, food, drinks and seat selection are all ancillary.
French Bee (Honorable Mention)
Originally called “French Blue”, the Paris based carrier had to abruptly rebrand after objections from US based JetBlue. The carrier began its direct service between Paris Orly and Newark International on September 2019 only to temporarily suspend its US operations in light of all the Covid restrictions a few months later.
They offer non-stop flights to all my most frequented US cities including new seasonal service to Miami. They also operate a fleet of Airbus A350’s that offer a very similar flight experience to Norse Air’s Boeing 787’s.
With fares for Paris to New York regularly available for $139, they served as my goto carrier to commute back and forth to the US for the longest time. Mostly because they flew out of Orly which is always less congested than Charles de Gaulle and way more accessible than Beauvais airport. Because it is so early in the year, I am not ready to completely drop them from the list. But given that just like the rest of the carriers in the ultra low cost space the price only includes flight and an under seat bag, I will probably not be using them unless I find a good sale.
Fly Atlantic (Summer 2024)
Scheduled to make their maiden flight on June 2024, the airline is setting itself up to cover the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States and Canada through its hub in Belfast, Ireland. They will operate a fleet of bran new Airbus A321neos in what the their CEO Andrew Pyne says will be a “factory fresh opportunity to innovate and be creative with how we configure the cabin”. I will update this post as more information becomes available.
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