Fares and Charter Flights

Budget Fares on Standard Fare Carriers

It's not just low-cost carriers that offer cheap deals. Several standard fare old-school "flag-carrier" airlines regularly offer surprisingly good fares.

Most regular-fare European airlines have fare sales several times every year. Occasionally these fares turn up cheaper intra-European fares than those offered by average low-cost airlines fares. (Also note that there are some amazing transatlantic fares into Europe from North America on regular-fare airlines at particular times of year.)

KLM's "Take Off Fares" advertise the airline's cheapest fares. These fares include taxes and other charges and can be quite low. "Take Off Fares" are for worldwide travel, and they are exclusively meant for travel out of Amsterdam, Eindhoven, Maastricht, and Rotterdam. Note that the lowest fares offer only a fraction of the frequent flyer miles you would receive at a full fare; furthermore, they are not flexible.

Know Where—and When—To Go

Other "flag-carrier" airlines have areas of their sites where the low fares are advertised and sold.

British Airways devotes an area of their site to finding the “cheapest fares from London in economy.”

Air France publicizes their "special offers" at any given time.

Lufthansa offers cheap one-way fares within Germany (currently at €59) as well as an initiative called Lufthansa betterFly, which covers round-trip travel within Europe (currently for €99).

SAS publicizes its current low fares on a special page. The cheapest fare we've found: a €75 Milan-Copenhagen one-way.

Iberia publishes its lowest fares on its opening page and in its cheap flights section.

LOT, the Polish flag-carrier, puts its best deals on its homepage.

TAP Portugal, the Portuguese national airline, also singles out its lowest promotional fares on its front page.

Austrian Airlines operates a catch-all feature that lists a range of inexpensive fares, both within Europe and long-distance.

Charter Airlines

Charter airlines also offer a way to save big. Many charter package holiday outfits will sell some seats on their airplanes to independent actors—that is, travelers who are not taking part in a package vacation. These seats can be quite inexpensive. The downside is that charter airline routes are usually weekly versus daily, and tend to be inflexible when it comes to changing tickets.

The situation is made more complicated by the fact that at least one airline we profile (Transavia, the KLM-Air France low-cost airline) fills a huge proportion of its seats with people on one or another package holiday.

We include the following charter (or partial charter) airlines in our listings: Condor, Corendon, Monarch, SunExpress, Thomas Cook Belgium, Thomson Airways, and TUIfly.

Note also that while some of the charter airlines we profile (Condor and TUIfly provide the best examples) have among the most impressive route maps around, many of the routes they fly are limited to extremely tiny seasonal windows. If you see the "seasonal" icon next to a route flown by a charter airline, there's a very good chance that you'll come up empty for a specific week or month of travel.

Flights on charter airlines tend to be more expensive than those on low-cost carriers, though there are many great deals to be found. You may find that you need to do quite a bit more exploring to find the lowest charter airline fares.

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