Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Cheapest Flights to Europe: Avoid the usual suspects and instead try one of these five alternative airlines that fly under the radar

The Wall Street Journal
By Barbara Peterson
Oct. 10, 2017 1:00 p.m. ET

Anyone who’s been hunting for fares to Europe lately may have stumbled across a few strange new names in their searches. Inspired by the success of upstart Norwegian Air, the basic formula goes like this: small, ambitious airline buys big planes and launches flights across the pond with prices so low they look like typos. The newest one debuts next spring: Danish carrier Primera Air plans to launch flights from Newark and Boston to London Stansted, Birmingham and Paris; recently it was hawking one-way fares of $99. Too good to be true? Like Norwegian, Primera will charge for everything that isn’t nailed down—in this case, $45 each way for a checked bag, $40 for a meal and $45 for an advance seat assignment.

But not all of Europe’s alternative airlines follow this draconian model. Some, like Germany’s Condor, throw in a free meal and checked bag. Others offer a premium cabin at well below typical business-class prices. “Few of these carriers hew to the same rules about anything,” said Joe Brancatelli, who runs the business travel website joesentme.com. Here, some noteworthy players in this budget-airline bazaar:

1. Level
Call it an ersatz startup—it’s really owned by one of Europe’s largest airline companies, IAG, parent of British Airways , Iberia and Aer Lingus. Last June, it launched with flights from Los Angeles and Oakland, Calif. to Barcelona, on Airbus A330s whose premium-economy sections offer wider seats and more legroom.

The Hook Premium-economy offers free hot meals, movies and a checked bag.

The Hitch The cheapest fares don’t include seat selection.

Sample Economy Fare $462 round-trip for Oakland-Barcelona, flylevel.com

2. La Compagnie
The anti-upstart: La Compagnie is a budget all-business-class airline. And it further bucks the trend by sticking to a single route—flying twice daily from Newark to Paris, using a Boeing 757 with 74 seats. (After a merger last year, it’s now part of France’s XL Airways, a former charter line.)

The Hook Angled lie-flat seats (just shy of fully flat), French food and wines, and airport lounge access.

The Hitch Limited frequencies; one route.

Sample Business-Class Fare $1,500 round-trip for Newark-Paris, lacompagnie.com

3. Condor/ Thomas Cook
These brands might seem like new players, but they’re not: Condor was formerly a German charter line, and Thomas Cook is best known for leading group tours. Now they’re one airline company with a growing fleet of wide-body jets, adding flights to the U.S. from their bases in Germany and the U.K.

The Hook Free checked bag and hot meals, plus business-class sections.

The Hitch Cheapest fares don’t include seat selection.

Sample Economy Fare $619 round-trip for San Diego-Frankfurt, condor.com

4. WOW
This Icelandic line burst on the scene a few years ago with an extreme low-fare, no-frills strategy. It now flies to Reykjavik from 13 U.S. airports, connecting to dozens of European cities and beyond.

The Hook Hard-to-beat fares on long-haul flights like from the U.S. to Tel Aviv; a stopover program allows for a few extra days in Iceland.

The Hitch With an eye-popping $50 one-way bag check fee, Wow’s aggressive a la carte pricing can quickly raise the tab.

Sample Economy Fare $349 round-trip for Boston-Tel Aviv (via Reykjavik), wowair.us

5. Norwegian Air
The quintessential Northern invader keeps pumping out new routes that have little connection with its brand name (L.A. to Rome nonstops start next month). Fueling its rise: teaser fares, like a $65 one-way from Newburgh, New York to Dublin.

The Hook Most long-distance flights operate on new Boeing 787 Dreamliners, with a premium class that offers free meals.

The Hitch Many fees; some flights are on single-class, single-aisle 737s.

Sample Economy Fare $338 round-trip for Fort Lauderdale-Barcelona, norwegian.com

Original article can be found here ➤ https://www.wsj.com

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