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Traveler's Aid: Big Discounts on Small Airlines in Europe (5/31/02)

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(Be sure to check out Rudy's "Traveler's Aid: Big Discounts on Small Airlines in the U.S." too...)

Discounts from the Big Guys

Europe's major airlines have deals on intra-European air travel to passengers from North America, but the offers are hardly advertised and almost impossible to find even on the airlines' own web sites. And you must generally purchase them before departing the US or Canada. Often you must use the foreign carrier to reach Europe, as well, in order to qualify for the cheap deals.

For example, if you fly Air France (800-237-2747) to and from Europe, the airline will fly you to a minimum of three (and a maximum of nine) other destinations within Europe for only $120 per flight segment. (The price is $21 cheaper during off season.) Air France calls this its Euroflyer deal. British Airways (800-452-1201) has a similar program called the Visit Europe Pass. You must buy a minimum of two segments that are priced according to distance, beginning at $65. Again, to take advantage of these offerings, you must use British Airways as your airline to and from Europe.

Spanair, the Spanish airline, has an airpass for $79 per coupon within Spain and the Canary Islands. In this case, you don't have to fly Spanair overseas because you can't--the airline ended its one flight to North America (to Washington, DC) shortly after the events of September 11. From Spain, Spanair also serves Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Lisbon, Stockholm and Vienna. You'll pay slightly more to buy an airpass for those longer flights-such as $109 between Barcelona and Copenhagen.

What's an Opodo?

Call it the Orbitz of Europe. Just as several major US airlines began Orbitz.com to capture on-line buyers and offer a "preferred" avenue for selling last-minute, discount tickets, so, too, did a handful of Europe's major airlines begin www.opodo.com. The new web site is owned by Aer Lingus, Air France, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Finnair, Iberia, KLM, and Lufthansa.

Like it's North American brethren, Opodo displays a lot of flights, but not all of them. And that's where the buyer-beware part comes in--don't count on Opodo to display many low-fare airlines' flights or prices, despite the fact the web site advertises, "350,000 special offers, 10,000 destinations, 480 airlines, one helluva time."

For example, I recently requested flights between Edinburgh and London, and Opodo came up with offerings on British Airways and British Midland only, not a helluva great selection. No mention of the low-fare airlines easyJet, Go, or Ryanair who fly that route and price most seats much, much lower than their bigger rivals. (US-based web sites like Orbitz don't list flights of the country's largest, low-fare airline, Southwest, because Southwest forbids it.)

Opodo is mostly useful for last-minute deals (displayed daily on the home page) and for learning which cities major European airlines serve.. A recent check turned up $100 round-trip flights between London and Paris aboard British Airways, for example. There were also two Edinburgh-New York round trips for less than $400 via British Airways or Lufthansa.

Copyright "Rudy Maxa's Traveler" newsletter, 2002.

Savvy Resources:

Who's Flying Cheaply?

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 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, Paris, Geneva and Zurich. In mid-March, EasyJet acquired Go, making EasyJet the largest discount air carrier in Europe. When the operations of the two airlines are merged, EasyJet will increase its reach into Italy and Spain. EasyJet also has an option until July 2003 to acquire Deutsche BA, Germany's second-largest airline founded, like Go, by British Airways.

At www.europebyair.com, you plug in your travel dates, and the site searches 21 arilines for flights and rates for intra-European flights. Although it supposedly "guarantees the lowest airfare," the site does not include many low-fare European carriers. However, it does offer a nifty "Europebyair FlightPass" valid for 120 days that lets you country-hop for just $99 per flight with no minimum purchase. (Once, you had to buy at least three segments to qualify.) These "open" passes let you fly one-way, nonstop to cities all over Europe with no blackout dates, no fare zones, and no advance reservations required. Just lick on "Flightpass" map on the web site, put your cursor on a destination, and up pop your flight options. An important footnote: You must by your passes BEFORE departing the US.

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. It's not clear when it will cease to operate under its own name following its purchase in mid-May by EasyJet.

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 second largest of Europe's 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.

If you'd like us to address your travel questions or concerns, send us an email. Or call us at 888-SAV-TRAV.

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