If you’ve been looking at flights to Europe this summer you have likely been completely shellshocked by the sky-high fares. Does $1400 for coach seats from the east coast to Paris sound ridiculous? Yes it does. It’s beyond anything I’ve ever seen before. But not all hope is lost. I wanted to pass along a few tips that may help you see Europe without having to pay $1500 in a cramped seat for the privilege.
- Iceland is part of Europe (close enough!), and it’s really beautiful, so you’ll be thrilled to hear that Delta has roundtrip flights to Reykjavik for $522 (tax included) during the summer months. Seriously. I know lots of people wondered why Delta would bother launching flights there, when both Icelandair and Iceland Express would seem to have the market covered. It doesn’t matter now, as they’re going through with it and seats are selling so well (?) that you can fly there for 1/3 the price of a ticket to Paris. This is the best deal going during the summer. I’m not sure how they haven’t completely sold out considering it’s high season and they’re charging January-type fares.
- The major US airlines are all running business class specials to Europe during the summer, with fares roughly between $2000 and $2500 depending on the city. If you’re already spending $1500 for a coach ticket, that extra few hundred dollars may not be a bad investment. The granddaddy of the business class deals, though, is from Open Skies, which is offering round trip fares to Paris (Orly) for $1700 during the summer from New York and Washington, about $150 more than a coach flight out of DC.
- Don’t give up on using miles, even during the busy summer season. A quick check shows lots of options available if you’re a little flexible with where your dates and cities. And if you are using miles, don’t forget that most airlines allow stopovers and open jaws (flying into one airport and returning from another) – you can really maximize your miles by using the stopover on these European trips, effectively giving yourself a free flight within Europe. You can fly New York to London, stay for 5 days, then get a flight to Prague, then back to NY and it’s one trip. You can even add a short one-day stay in there — as long as you stay in a city for less than 24 hours, it doesn’t count as a stopover. You can fly to Prague at 11am and leave the next day on a flight at 10am, and it doesn’t count as the stopover. In other words, you could fly New York to London, spend 5 days there, fly to Prague, spend 1 night, leave the next morning for Rome, spend 5 days, and fly back to New York all for the same miles as 1 roundtrip ticket to Europe. I do help people book award tickets, so if you’re having trouble finding the seats you want, fill out the form here.
- American, Continental and United allow one-way redemptions (though American does not allow stopovers, except at gateway cities). If you’re really unable to find a round-trip award ticket, you may be able to find a one-way that works. For between 25,000 and 30,000 miles (depending on the airline) you can fly on an award ticket in one direction, and just buy a return ticket home. Unfortunately, you’ll be a bit limited as many European one-way fares are extremely high. However, Icelandair sells its fares as one ways, allowing you to get a ticket for about $600. Thinking of it this way, you’d be getting a ticket for 30,000 miles plus a $600 co-pay. It could be worse…
- Check Icelandair for their Saga class (business class) fares if they fly to the city where you’re going. I’m seeing roundtrip business class fares to Oslo from New York for about $1700 in July, just a hair above coach fares. The Saga class seat is about the same as a domestic first class seat, but you’re paying less than $2,000, so stop complaining.
Like I said, it’s a rough summer for European travel, but it’s a great summer for European travel in business class. It’s also surprisingly OK for burning some of those miles you’ve been hoarding. With a little flexibility, you’ll be able to go wherever you want this summer. I promise.