Summer Airfare to Europe: Why It’s So Expensive and How to Save

Last year, early airfare shoppers could find an occasional super-deal to Europe for under $700 round-trip, but not this summer. In fact, as airfare analyst Rick Seaney notes, “This year, you’d be hard-pressed to find airfare to Europe for under $1,000,” and he added, “Non-stop flights for summer are even worse, ranging from $1,300 to $1,400 round-trip.”

Listen as airfare expert Rick Seaney dissects fares to Europe and offers money-saving tips:

5 Tips to Find Cheap Flights to Europe

Steep Fuel Surcharges Blamed for High Airfare

As Seaney explains, add-ons like taxes – and especially high fuel surcharges – are the real villains of current Europe airfare pricing. Higher oil prices and subsequent higher jet fuel prices have sent airfare prices soaring during the past year. In the past month alone, however, the price of oil has declined by about $10 per barrel, leading many to ask if airfares will see a related drop. Seaney says, forget it: “Will the airlines pass along these savings? In a word – no.” One big reason for this is the poor first-quarter earnings reported by so many carriers.

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Airline Ticket Price Components Revealed

Here is what makes a ticket to Europe so pricy, especially this summer:

  • Fuel surcharge, averaging about $450 round-trip
  • Taxes, averaging about $160 round-trip (closer to $200 for flights to London Heathrow)
  • Non-stop flight premium, about 20 percent  to 40 percent of the airfare

Take away the surcharges, taxes and premium and what’s left is the actual airfare – which is a relative pittance. So how to overcome all this and save on airfare to Europe?

How to Save on Europe Airfare

Seaney says it can be done with careful shopping and a knowledge of Europe’s airfare seasons. His saving tips include the following:

Avoid non-stops: Travelers who have the option of connecting flights can see substantial savings

Fly to cheaper airports: Taxes vary by airports and cities; London Heathrow is one of the more more expensive, while Dublin is one of the cheaper ones. Compare to save.

Fly midweek: For Europe flights, midweek is defined as Monday-Thursday, and such airfare can be $30-$50 cheaper each-way than weekend flights

Fly in fall or winter: Europe’s fall season typically begins in late August – winter begins from mid to late October

Cheap Flights to Europe: Know the Seasons and Save

Fall Forecast for Europe

Prices will drop by the end of August, but not as much as they have in the past. According to analyst Seaney, “I expect to see fall and winter round-trip pricing to Europe in the $800-$900 range – better than summer, certainly, but these are not historically great airfare prices.”


Updated: February 10, 2016