A traveler walks in the corridors of Terminal 2 of Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport with Air France planes in the background, in the northeastern suburbs of Paris, on September 16, 2022, amid an air traffic controllers’ strike.
Julien De Rosa | AFP | Getty Images
Flights to Europe will be plentiful this summer. Cheap plane ticket? Not so much.
Airlines scheduled a near-record 51,000 flights from the US to Europe from June through August, according to data company Cirium. The number of scheduled seats is the highest since 2018.
Despite that increase in capacity across the Atlantic, fares are rising sharply as airlines test travelers’ appetites for overseas travel. According to Hopper, round-trip flights between the US and Europe cost an average of $1,032, up 35% from last year and 24% from 2019. The average domestic airfare in the US, on the other hand, is down 15% from a year ago up to $286 for round-trip airfare, roughly in line with pre-pandemic levels.
Executives at legacy operators of European services such as Deltalike newcomers JetBlueand upstart budgets like Norse Atlantic Airways and Play are all betting that travelers will pay for more international travel with the worst of Covid – and associated travel restrictions – in the rearview mirror.
Airlines and airports are racing to fill jobs in hopes of avoiding last summer’s chaos.
“European travel was definitely still on the rise last summer,” JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said in an interview with CNBC in late March. “I think a lot of people just didn’t fly last year, and now they want to fly this year.”
JetBlue flies from New York and Boston to London’s two major airports and plans to fly from New York to Paris in June. It plans to add service to Amsterdam this summer.
Delta plans to offer a record number of seats from the US to Europe, a 20% increase from last summer. The carrier will serve 69 markets in Europe, a spokesman said.
Airlines summer flights to Europe
“If you’re traveling during those busy summer months, book now,” said Hayley Berg, Hopper’s chief economist.
To avoid the highest of the high fares, avoid national holidays and fly during the week, she recommended.
Some airline executives have recently noted that travelers are reverting to more traditional booking patterns, driving up fares on peak days. While airlines generally reduce capacity during less popular times of the week or year, there may still be a chance for some more palatable prices. Airlines’ schedules from the end of March to the end of October show they will offer a record number of seats for that period, data from OAG shows, a sign they can expect strong demand in the shoulder season.
Berg also recommends staying open-minded about connecting trips and cautions against filtering flights only for nonstop flights.
Icelandic low-cost airline Play’s flights stop at Reykjavik’s home airport, forcing travelers to other destinations to transfer. The airline has grown rapidly with its fleet of Airbus A320 and A320neos. It serves 39 destinations this month, up from 31 in December, the company said.
“We are extremely positive and optimistic about the year,” said CEO Birgir Jonsson. Nearly 36% of Play’s passengers transferred to other destinations via the Icelandic capital, the airline, last month said.
Other low-cost airlines are ramping up their flights between the US and Europe, including Norse Atlantic Airways, which operates Boeing 787 Dreamliners. The airline serves London Gatwick, Berlin, Paris and Oslo, Norway, and plans to launch flights to Rome from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport next month. It also plans to offer London Gatwick service from a variety of U.S. cities, including San Francisco, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Los Angeles and Washington, DC, in the coming weeks.
Philip Allport, Norse Atlantic’s senior vice president of communications, said fares for routes between the US and Europe are higher than normal, but the airline is still on “the cheaper side of our direct competitors”. A round-trip flight with Norse between New York and Paris cost nearly $1,300 for a trip departing July 1 and returning a week later, less than $1,804 with Delta each on standard economy tickets.
Here’s how traditional and non-traditional airlines differ in their services and prices for standard economy tickets: