On every flight, in every cabin- there are people who paid a lot, and others who paid very little. Airline pricing is a system far too complex to examine, but how to beat the system is fortunately much easier. Here are a few tricks of the trade almost guaranteed to save you money on your next international ticket between the U.S. and Europe.
Rule number one: airlines love the word “sale”. Airline “sales” run all year round and when they are publicized, they’re rarely ones worth getting excited about. If they are- we’ll let you know. With this in mind, the key to a great deal is getting involved and regularly checking price- to know a good deal when you see it.
Get Yourself To A Major Hub City
Great fares rarely reach small regional airports. That’s because airlines and alliances like to attack each other where it hurts- at their big airports. You can generally save a tremendous amount of money by driving or training to your nearest major airport and searching for flights departing from there. There are occasionally ways to use just 3,200 points to fly to a nearby city.
Some European Cities Regularly Get The Best Deals
Stockholm, Paris, Dublin, Oslo, Frankfurt- you’ve probably seen these mentioned if you follow along with the deals on our site. Even if you want to visit London, it’s often cheaper to fly to a nearby city and take the train, use points or grab a cheap flight within Europe. These same cities are often the same story for departing Europe as well, so wherever your final destination is- shop around. It’s often fun to squeeze in a short visit to another city along the way.
We’re seeing absolutely incredible deals to Europe, some between $69-$99 one way. Since points are harder to come by than they once were- flying one way paying cash- and the other way using points can be a great strategy for flights with under $200 in cash out lay. This also opens up business class, since it’s more reasonable to fly business class using points when you’re only going one way.
For Big Savings, Go Carry On Only
Other than deals that last 24 hours or less on top carriers, many of the best regular deals are on carriers like TAP Portugal, Aer Lingus, Norwegian and WOW Air, which charge for a checked bag. If you can practice your ultimate carry on squeeze– you can take advantage of great prices, without having to pay the additional fees- which can really add up. This also opens up the possibility of hidden city ticketing, for the pros out there.
Take Advantage Of Shoulder Season, Off Peak
Summer airfares between the US and Europe regularly exceed $1200 round trip in economy. During flash sales- you can occasionally buy business class for the same price– so never be afraid to glance at the business class column. But if you want real savings, you should try to travel in the days leading up to or just after peak travel dates- or even better, during non official holidays during the winter. Less tourists, less crowds and the same amazing destinations.
British Airways serves tons of US and European cities, and if you’re departing the US you can take $65 off any economy ticket, $130 off any premium economy ticket and $200 off of any first or business class ticket by joining AARP (anyone can join, there’s no age requirement). This is an awesome way to shave money off of already competitive fares. British Airways has offered $350 deals this year, making the possibility of full service $290 fares to Europe a reality.
Book Last Minute Tickets Using Points
Last minute tickets are often brutally expensive- but using points, not so much. You can use Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, British airways and many other points programs to fly to Europe for just 10,000 points + $100 or so dollars one way. Singapore Airlines charges 20,000 points and $26 one way from JFK to Frankfurt, with excellent last minute availability.
Set Price Trackers, Follow Along For Deals
Price trackers really are unbeatable. You simply plug in dates when you’d like to travel, program in up to five cities you’d be willing to fly to and you get alerts whenever the prices change. If that sounds like too much effort, you can always add our deals page, The Flight Deal, Secret Flying, Fly4Free and other great sites to your daily download. You may even find error fares!