Flying to Europe
How do you find the best airfare to Europe — on a flight that's cheap, convenient, and reliable? Rick and the ETBD team usually let their trusted travel agents do the work for them. But some people prefer to research fares online and and make the reservations themselves. What's your strategy and why?
If you have questions about flying, we suggest you talk to a travel agent. You can also check out Rick's advice on flying.
Read the Distillation: Best Tips for Flying Smart, 2005
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Flying to Europe
We prefer to fly to Europe just prior to the airfares raising seasonally. Spring fares come into effect 3/28/2014. We've been monitoring airfares on Matrix ITA for the last 60 days, and they've been averaging $1,050. A one-day sale was noted in the Atlanta newspaper and on ClarkHoward.com from select U.S. cities. The flights on our desired itinerary dropped to $728 for the one day. They're back up to about $1,000, but one day last week the fares dropped to $850. Keep watch on your airfares, and when they drop suddenly, be prepared to buy. FareBoom.com appears to beat any price online for flights.
Florence, AL USA 12/09/2013
Flying to Europe
Flying out of Minneapolis, Icelandair is a good option. No, they don't serve dinner, but since they take off at 7:30PM, it's easy to grab dinner earlier. You arrive in Keflavik Airport at 1:00AM Minneapolis time, about 6:00AM Iceland time, and the convenience store at the airport takes U.S. to pay for coffee and snacks. You go through immigration at Keflavik, which takes very little time, and then board your onward flight. I took advantage of the free Iceland stopover on the way back, which I highly recommend. Because the flight from Minneapolis to Iceland is only slighter less than six hours and most onward flights are two or three hours, with a break inbetween, I don't mind being in a narrow-body plane.
MINNEAPOLIS, MN USA 12/03/2013
Beware of Iberia flights operated by Veuiling
Beware of Veuling Airlines. I purchased tickets from Iberia Airlines six months ago for travel between Granada and Barcelona. Shortly before we left, I noticed that it would be "operated" by Veuling Airlines. We got to the Granada airport about an hour and a half before our trip and checked in with our luggage and were issued boarding passes. When we presented the boarding passes at the gate, I was told by the Iberian gate agent that Veuling had changed the plane at the last minute and only 140 people would be let on and I was number 149 on their "list" so would have to wait two and a half hours for the next flight. My husband, however, who was on the same reservation as me, was number 44 and could get on! I was put on a wait list for the flight I had paid for. There were approximately 20 other people who were told they couldn't board. After a very lengthy boarding process, they started calling names from the wait list. I was one of the last names to be called, but when I got on there weren't any seats left. A Spanish woman who said she didn't have a problem with taking a later flight was kind enough to give up her seat for me. I have no idea how I ended up so low on the list when I had purchased the tickets so far in advance or why my husband was higher on the list when we were under the same reservation. Once we got to Barcelona, it took over an hour and a half for our luggage to arrive. Avoid Iberia flights operated by Veuling at all costs.
Anchorage, AK USA 10/31/2013
Bad airline experience
We recently used Vueling Air (Spanish airline) to fly from Florence to Paris. I would discourage travelers from using Vueling. They have a very inconvenient carry-on arrangement. The requirements are very small and once you check a bag they charge 40 Euros per bag. On top of that, bags often do not arrive with your flight. We noticed this on travel adviser after our predicament. The whole process seemed contrived in order to charge an additional fee. Our carry-ons were accepted everywhere except Vueling!
Cincinnati, OH USA 09/21/2013
Global entry is wonderful. Cost is $100 for 5 years, online app. Bypass security for domestic and International flights if you register your GE number with your frequent flyer program. Coming home, bypass passport and customs lines. Jet lagged, after a long trip, it was so sweet!
Houston, texas USA 09/11/2013
I seriously have to wonder why ALL travel agents and writers recommend getting airfare about 2-3 months before traveling. Had I heeded this advice I would not have been able to take 4 people on two 3 week vacations! I get my tickets almost the day they are released, call the airline directly and both times got additional discounts off posted rates. And we go in summer high season! If I waited until the times suggested the price goes up hundreds per person: 1080 on release day, versus 1689 per person now. Call airline directly, be really polite, ask for military, teacher, whatever discounts and do it early.
Virginia beach, Va USA 06/18/2013
Kudos to Icelandair
Like many people, we've used the fare comparison sights like Kayak or Skyscanner to get a good deal. But if you live near a city served by Icelandair, consider flying with them for both good service and, especially in off-season, good prices. Their flights out of Seattle get you to Rekjavik in seven hours, and from there you can fly to most of Europe in another 3-4 hours. Because Iceland is part of the EU, you will clear immigration in Rekjavik and save yourself from the long lines at major European airports (like Paris CDG, a nightmare for many reasons). Another plus is that Icelandair offers you the option of a free stopover, i.e. no extra charge on your ticket. If you have the time, spend a couple days in Iceland to see the sights and start getting over jetlag. It will make the rest of your trip more enjoyable. Some travellers will not like the narrow body aircraft used by Icelandair's Boeing 757s but my husband and I have found them reasonably comfortable, and no chance that you'll be stuck in the middle of a five-person row.
Marysville, WA USA 06/15/2013
A Free Ticket on Alitalia Is Too Expensive!
My wife and I are veteran international travelers, and we booked fares on Alitalia for our recent vacation in Italy. Our decision was based on information we read on an internet blog that the service and food were excellent. In reality, exactly the opposite was true.
The cabin crew's attitude ranged from detached to downright surly. The aircraft itself was in bad need of a makeover. The seats were uncomfortable, worn, and had stains. This was the only flight we have ever taken where you could hear and smell what was going on in the lavatory. The televisions where passengers viewed in-flight entertainment were the old fashioned type with picture tubes. They [INVALID]ped down from the center overhead bins about eight rows apart, so they were hard to see. There was no printed program to tell passengers which audio service was on what channel. On the flight over, we gave up trying to watch a movie in Italian, then discovered later that the English soundtrack was on a different channel.
On the return trip, the pilot promised that we would leave Rome on time and arrive in Chicago on time, but then we were 30 minutes late pulling away from the gate. He promised to make up the delay, but he never did. We arrived in Chicago 30 minutes late, and had to scramble to claim our bags, go through passport control and customs, check in to our connecting flight, go through security again, and make it to the departure gate.
The worst feature about our Alitalia experience was the food. It was abominable! Out of Chicago, we were offered a chopped beef dish and a pasta meal. The chopped beef looked and smelled like dog food. The pasta was heavy and tasteless, and actually made me queasy. On the return flight, my wife had dried out roast chicken. I ate a crepe stuffed with vegetables and a sauce of some kind, which was the best of the four offerings.
Despite the bad experience, we give kudos to two cabin attendants. One made an extra effort to find a fresh fruit salad when he found out that my wife is gluten sensitive. The other let us deplane ahead of first class passengers when we told him that we had to make a connecting flight.
St. Louis, MO USA 06/01/2013
Timing / Price
We shop 6+ months before our trips and usually book when the price is under $1000 RT, and have not seen them go down. Our favorite is Icelandair which flies out of Minneapolis spring thru fall. Last year they stopped serving free meals, oh well, still love em.
Lakeville, MN USA 05/18/2013
With all the recent airport delays I found a good website that will display current delayed airports in both the US and Europe, it's called www.myairportstatus.com. It helps be able to see both when you are flying back and forth between US and Europe.
Dallas, TX USA 05/05/2013
Done with Delta Airline
I have flown three times with Delta to Europe (France 2001,Spain 2010 and France 2013) and in both trips, I was separated from my family on the flight home. Bought my tickets two months before travel. Had checked in the flights all the way back to LA only to be removed from my seat at boarding and placed in another section of the plane, while a stranger sat next to my niece and sisters. Planned and saved two years for each trip. I have complained, written letters, etc and Delta has had little response other than "operation necessities." 10 yrs as a frequent flyer.
Los Angeles, CA USA 04/28/2013
Flying from PDX to Europe
I started traveling to Europe early last year and my first flight had two layovers. It took 16 hours to get to Dublin. Later found out there are direct flights to AMS from PDX.
So now, its direct to AMS and use AMS as my hub. Sometimes I stay overnight there and then fly out the next day. Sometimes not. Depends on how I feel in my planning.
I used Skyscanner mostly, but with Kayaks "mulit-city" option, it's nice to use.
What I found out is that sometimes you have to try different days/times and places to go into to find the best price.
Portland, Oregon USA 04/11/2013
Flights from Pacific Northwest to Europe
I've been using Kayak recently to find a good price for the long distance from Oregon/Washington to a starting and ending destination in Europe. Once there, we can hop around with rail or Ryan Air, or other means; but getting there is the big one. Kayak has been very helpful, as you can use the site for flexible days (within 3 either way), and they even send you updates periodically on the cheapest and best deals. I'm currently using Ireland as a starting and stopping point, and the prices are down to around $835 for the best round trip. Obviously, it depends on what time of year you want, but I'm retired and can take anytime; but prefer early fall or late spring, before the big rush and high prices start in earnest.
Vancouver, Washin USA 04/02/2013
Iberia to Madrid
Iberia - great flight Chicago to Madrid. Business class (same as First) had seats that became flat so it was just like a bed. Service was very good.
san antonio, TX USA 02/14/2013
Finnair is good
My hometown is in Luzhou, a city at the southeastern part China's southwestern Sichuan Province. From May in 2012 when Finnair opened the new routes between Chongqing and Helsinki, I have developed a habit that 200-kilometer-away Chongqing is departure city to Europe for those in the Southwestern part of China, including citizens in Sichuan province, Guizhou province and Yunnan Province and even China's central Hubei and Hunan province. The Finnair price is acceptably cheap for you if you book your flight from Europe to Chongqing, and when you want to have vacation in Europe, Finnair is always your best choice. This is because the flight from Chongqing to Helsinki is landing frequently earlier than scheduled, sometimes it would be half an hour earlier than estimated landing time. As a majoy hub bridging Asia and Europe, Finnair, as well as Helsinki airport, grew and prospered, facing to more tourists and discovering larger Asia markets.
Luzhou, China 02/12/2013
Buy Plane Tickets Directly from the Airline
Another vote here for buying plane tickets directly from the airline. If you buy from Cheap Tickets, Expedia, Travelocity etc, you are usually buying a lower fare class and with that comes less rights and protection should something happen. For example, you can more easily get bumped from the seat(s) you selected, you may not be able to check in on-line, and you may have to check-in for every flight segment to get boarding passes and seats. Furthermore, I have found little or no difference in fares.
Lafayette, LA USA 02/02/2013
Never Fly United!
I will never fly United Airlines again! We saved for two years to take a cruise of the Eastern Mediterranean. We used frequent flyer miles but the airline forgot to process the transaction and cancelled the ticket without telling us. We didn't find out until we went to check in online the morning of our departure. After two hours on the phone, they agreed to rebook us, but by then the flights were full. When we called the Customer Service, we were bounced from person to person, department to department, and disconnected repeatedly. They refused to give us a letter so we could collect from our travel insurrance, so we're out all our money. I used my entire vacation time for the year on this trip and I never went anywhere! I will never fly this airline again!!!! I will be posting this review on every single online review site I can find.
West Boylston, MA USA 11/04/2012
Third Party Purchase of Airfare
As a frequent flyer and spouse of an airline employee who works in customer service, just know that buying air tickets from a third party (Expedia, Travelocity, ravel agent) is great until a problem occurs. Any problem will have to be worked out by the company that issued the ticket and standing at the airline ticket counter will, more often than not, get you nowhere. I always prefer to deal with the "horses-mouth."
Parker, CO USA 08/12/2012
Shopping for flights
I did a lengthy search for airline tickets to Rome back in February. I spent a lot of time using sites like Travelocity and Expedia. Over a few weeks I must have checked flights 100 times and the site that always came back with the best fares was TripAdvisor.com. They also have reviews on hotels, restaurants and sites worldwide.
Narragansett, RI USA 08/05/2012
Swiss International air
I just returned from E Europe on Swiss air. For less than $1000 rd trip from Callifornia. Maybe this will help others searching for lower fares.
Ca USA 05/28/2012
Sorry to say, while we got a direct flight and a good price, Briitish Air seats were terrible. Granted, we were in Economy, but the areas were unbelievably smaller than any other airlines we have flown. The seats in front of us reclined so far back we would not get out of our aisle seat without climbing over the armrest. We will never fly BA again!
Stockton, CA USA 04/25/2012
Travel to Spain
I have family in Madrid and wanted to go visit, but I knew the cost would be a bit much, but took the advice from an airline pilot I met once and looked at travelling on Tuesdays, and as early as I could book the flight.
In late October, I looked through Kayak, got directed to Vayama.com and found a flight from Tally to Madrid...in March. Roundtrip for only $709 (!), and I bought travel insurance through them for $39.
Spring is an amazing time to visit Spain as you beat the tourist crush of summer as well as the heat. It was quite cool and the trees still had no leaves on them, but no matter. It was wonderful.
The difference between Tuesday travel and other days was several hundred dollars.
I flew Iberia out there, and AA on the way back. No issues, except that the Miami terminal/ port of entry is a MAJOR pain, taking upwards of 2 hours to get through.
Tallahassee, FL USA 03/18/2012
Flying To Europe - Alitalia Airlines Is Horrible
We would like to add a belated second to the motion made by Marianne of Kirkland, WA on 07-21-11 that one should NEVER fly via Alitalia Airlines. On a 2010 flight from Chicago to Rome ( Booked via Gate 1 Travel ) on an Ilitalia plane we experienced the same things Marianne mentioned, plus the seats were worn out & horribly uncomfortable ; we would have been better off sitting on wooden crates. It was our worst flight ever. Fortunately for us, our return flight was on a Delta Airlines plane & it was a wonderful flight.
Leslie & Bill Nix
Palatine, IL USA 03/08/2012
Best European Travel Agent
I do allot of european travel. I allways look for the best travel deals. In the USA I use Tripadvisor. For Europe travel I've got to know a travel Agent in Holland that always gets me the best deals. Example cheap flights from Orlando Sanford to Amsterdam, or any othe locations in Europe. Also, finds vacation deal, hotels etc. Her Name is Lia Pordon Travel Agency Holland International Address: Passage 105, 3431 LN Nieuwegein, Netherlands Tel: 0031 306040801 FAX 0031 306032594 e mail: lia.pordon@email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
She has made train reservations for me, and discount air flights all around Europe. She can also set up tours, and vacations. I'm allways looking for the best deals at the lowest cost.
Auburndale, Florid USA 01/18/2012