It’s not every day you spot a $439 fare from Newark to Amsterdam on United Airlines. Then again, it’s not every day that flights to Helsinki, Finland, from Seattle are priced at $523 on American Airlines. Are these hidden gems or are European airfares looking cheaper these days?
Rick Seaney, chief executive of FareCompare, an online search engine for flights and hotels, says it’s not our imagination. In fact, a number of factors are driving down airfare, and the trend will likely continue. Here’s why.
Oil Prices Are Dropping
With the price of oil barrels taking a nosedive, Seaney said, gasoline prices have dropped and so, too, have airfares. For a long time, he said, carriers baked fuel surcharges into the price of airfare, along with taxes, before they started charging for the fare itself. But now that oil producers have lowered their prices due to a range of factors, including instability in oil-producing countries like Venezuela and the U.S. nearly doubling its domestic production, the base airfare price has gotten much cheaper.
The Dollar Is Strong
The U.S. dollar is quite strong, said Matthew Ma, co-founder of the airfare deals site The Flight Deal, and that’s made it costlier for Europeans to come to the U.S. Carriers need to fill those seats somehow, so we’re seeing more affordable prices as a result, he said. “Fares to Europe are even cheaper than to the U.S.”
Travelers Have Terrorism Jitters
Unfortunately, this year’s deadly terror attacks in Europe put Americans on high alert, making many of them wary of visiting cities like Belgium, Paris and Tunisia. This has led to a remarkable shift in travel patterns, with Paris losing as many as half a million to a million visitors this year, Ma said. Speaking of Paris, Seaney said airfares from the U.S. to the City of Lights have noticeably dropped over the past three months.
New Carriers Are Serving the U.S.
With foreign carriers like Norwegian Air and WOW Air increasing their U.S. presence, travelers have even more options for flying to Europe cheaply, both sources said. Last month, Norwegian Air announced new routes to Barcelona and Copenhagen while the Iceland-based airline WOW said it will begin operating flights from Miami International Airport to several destinations in April next year. “That has a tremendous affect on pricing,” said Seaney. “If you looked at before Norwegian came to the U.S., fares to Scandinavia were pretty expensive. Now it’s not that hard to find nonstop deals.”
Simply put, fall and winter aren’t traditionally popular times to take trips to Europe, due to the weather, Ma said. “June, July and a little bit [of] early August” are typically the times when families decide to trek across the pond. So it’s no surprise we’re seeing cheaper airfares right now.
More Ways to Save on Flights
Scoring a cheap flight is a great way to save money, especially when you’re on a budget. But there are others ways to cut down the cost of airfare, especially with travel rewards credit cards. These helpful pieces of plastic can grant you free baggage and upgrades and more, not to mention airline miles that can then be redeemed for airfare. Just remember, your credit needs to be solid before you apply, as lenders like to see applicants who can manage their credit responsibly. If you’re not sure where you stand and want to find out, you can do so by viewing a free summary of your credit report on Credit.com.