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Fly Europe on the Cheap
by Rudy Maxa for Marketplace

It used to cost a pretty penny to fly around Europe. But if you're headed overseas this summer, you can save money by flying many airlines you may not have heard of. Even the "big boys" have a special deal for Americans. Our Savvy Traveler, Rudy Maxa, fills us in.

When the European Union deregulated the skies over Europe about 5 years ago, a handful of entrepreneurs began studying Southwest Airline's business model -- then they set out to copy it. Now, nearly a dozen airlines that most Americans don't know about are making it drastically cheaper to zip from, say, London to Rome. But if you live in the U.S., the trick is finding those airlines, learning where they fly, and buying a ticket. You won't find them on U.S.-based travel Web sites, and travel agents won't be of much help, either.

But they're worth looking for because you can fly between London and Paris for about $50 each way, or between London and Barcelona for $70. If there's a sale on, as there was when I was in London recently, you might be able to fly from London to Dublin for $13 one way. That's less than it costs to take a train from downtown London to the airport!

The largest discount airlines are Ryanair, easyJet, go, Virgin Express and buzz. A couple of them are stepchildren of larger, better-known airlines, such as British Airways or KLM. But you won't find them on the big airlines' Web sites.

Meanwhile, here's what you should know: most of these airlines are no frills -- you may even have to pay for a can of soda on board; most offer e-tickets only and open seating; most do not have baggage agreements with other airlines, so if you're connecting flights, you're going to have to claim your bags and re-check them; and, most depart from smaller airports, such as Luton or Stansted near London.

Is there a European Web site that compares the fares of all European airlines? I'll list two, but neither is really comprehensive. One called easyvalue.com compares prices on discount flights from the United Kingdom to the rest of Europe. But that doesn't help you if you want to fly from, say, Milan to Barcelona. It's best to know which airlines serve which cities, and then visit their Web site or call. And, no, none of the airlines have U.S.-based toll-free numbers. Again, I'll post those overseas numbers, along with the Web addresses below. Phone reservation agents generally speak English, but some discount airlines don't man their phone lines around the clock.

Now, there's a second way to fly around Europe for less, but only if you're flying from the U.S. with a major foreign airline. Several offer intra-Europe deals to passengers as long as they buy tickets before -- and only before -- they leave North America. Air France, for example, sells a minimum of three flight segments anywhere within Europe for $120 each. British Airways prices its by distance. But you must call the airlines -- I could find no mention of the deals on those airlines' Web sites. Again, you must fly the foreign carrier across the Atlantic and book your intra-Europe flight coupons before beginning your trip overseas.

Cheap European flights -- they're a bargain if you know where to look. From The Savvy Traveler, I'm Rudy Maxa for Marketplace.

To Read More of The Savvy Traveler On Marketplace


There are several general European Web sites that display information on flights around the Continent, but I haven't found one that includes a thorough listing of discounts flights and also offer a ticket-booking capability.

www.Odopo.com is the Orbitz of Europe. Orbitz is the Web site financed by a consortium of major U.S. airlines that promises to feature the Web-only discounts that U.S.-based airlines usually only post on their own Web sites. But you won't find a discount airline like Southwest there. Likewise, Odopo is a new Web site owned by Aer Lingus, Air France, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Finnair, Iberia, KLM and Lufthansa. You won't find Europe's el-cheapo airlines on Odopo.

www.easyValue.com is the offspring of easyJet, which, of course, has its own Web site. And while easyValue says it is the first site to compare, in real time, fares from 180 traditional and low-cost airlines, as well as charter airlines and online travel agencies to 230 destinations in 40 countries, it's aimed at a British audience. So as long as you're flying out of the United Kingdom, this is a handy site.

www.europebyair.com allows you to plug in your dates, and the site searches 21 airlines for flights and rates. Although it promises to "guarantee the lowest airfare," many discount airlines are not mentioned. But its strength is a "Europebyair FlightPass" valid for 120 days that lets you country-hop all over Europe for just $99 per flight, with no minimum purchase. (Formerly, you had to buy at least three passes.) These "open" passes let you fly one-way, non-stop to cities all over Europe with no blackout dates, no fare zones, and no advance reservations required. Just click on "FlightPass map." When you put your cursor on a city, it automatically shows you connecting flights.

•Check out www.darraghsmyth.net for routes served by European discount airlines. This site appears to be an individual effort, and it's handy for finding out what discount airlines offer direct service between what cities. But you can't book tickets here, and if you're planning a trip that may involve a change of airlines along the way, this site can't "build" your trip for you.

Here is my list of the major discount carriers, how to contact them, and the areas they serve. Please keep in mind, routes are constantly added or dropped by airlines, so my listing may not, at any given time, be definitive:
•Aero Lloyd, (011) 49-6171-625-200; www.aerolloyd.de; From 10 cities in Germany as well as Vienna and Salzburg, this German airline flies as far afield as Cairo, but often only on a seasonal basis.

•Air Europa, (011) 902-401-501; www.aireuropa.com; From Madrid, Air Europa flies to Cuba, Caracas, New York, all around Spain, and to London, Milan, Paris and Rome.

•Basiq Air, (011) 31-20-406-0-406; www.basiqair.com; From Amsterdam, and elsewhere in The Netherlands, this KLM-owned airline flies to Barcelona, Marseilles, Nice, Madrid and Malaga, with more cities to come.

•buzz, (011) 44-870-240-7070; www.buzzaway.com; From London, buzz uses 50 aircraft to wing its way to Helsinki, Geneva and many cities in France, and several in Germany, Italy and Spain.

•EasyJet, (011) 44-870-600-0000; www.easyjet.com; From London, cities served include many in the UK, as well as Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Palma, Madrid, Malaga, Nice, Geneva and Zurich. Paris will be added in May.

•Go, (011) 44-127-966-6388; www.go-fly.com; Out of London, go serves major cities in the UK, Spain, France, Italy, as well as Munich, Copenhagen, Faro and Prague.

•Ryanair, (-11) 353-1-609-7800; www.ryanair.com; From Dublin, fly Ryanair to many cities in the UK, France, Ireland, Italy, Scandinavia, as well as Salzburg and Brussels. With more than 300 flights per day, Ryanair is the largest of the low-fare carriers.

•Spanair, 888-545-5757; www.spanair.com; Flies within Spain and the Canary Islands with six flights to other major European cities.

•Virgin Express, (011) 32-2-752-0505; www.virgin-express.com; From Brussels, Richard Branson's airline flies to cities in Spain, Italy, Scandinavia, as well as to Faro, London, Nice, Geneva and Zurich.

»Check out Rudy Maxa's newsletter Web site, www.rudymaxa.com

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