Hitchhiking to Europe in 247 easy steps...
December 14, 2005 12:59 PM   Subscribe

Flying to Europe: How can I truly get cheap flights?

I want to fly from Salt Lake City (SLC) to Europe at the end of April (around the 27th) and stay for 2 weeks. I'd be happy to get to ANYWHERE in europe, because once there I can find cheap flights through EasyJet (or others, or trains, etc) to get to places I'd like to visit. My best searching tells me it will cost about $800 to get there, but I've got a gut feeling that it can be done cheaper. I'm willing to make 100 connections, fly through Australia, and possibly ride in the luggage section if necessary. My google-fu is weak before this challenge. I've tried the usual sites like Kayak, Expedia, Travelocity, but they all seem to want a specific destination, but it doesn't matter to me, other than "Europe" and my dates are flexible. Are there sites out there that don't mind me being that vague? Is there a secret number I can call, do I need to slip someone some money?

Showing up the day of the flight for a stand-by ticket is a bit too risky for me as my availability dates are fairly fixed.

Note: I've looked at Kayak.com's Buzz, but that doesn't let me specify date ranges. I've noticed deals like $500 to Zurich, then with a bit of creativity I could take a train to Geneva, and catch an EasyJet flight to england for $16, but I'd have to leave this month. What's a guy to do?
posted by blue_beetle to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The best flight deals are typically on the airlines' sites themselves. Sign up for as many travel deal newsletters as you can find, especially the ones from the airlines. Just go to their websites and sign up. You'll get better deals in the middle of the week, after holidays, right before your travel time, etc. I would aim for 500-600 but you can usually get London and some other cities for around 300 if you're lucky.
posted by kcm at 1:04 PM on December 14, 2005

www.airlineconsolidator.com <-- I got a flight to Paris through them for $600 r/t from SF last year during the high season. Hopped onto a cheap RyanAir flight to other European destinations from there.
posted by missmobtown at 1:15 PM on December 14, 2005

If you're a student, you can get cheaper tickets through STA Travel.
posted by Rothko at 2:36 PM on December 14, 2005

Priceline. I flew roundtrip between Boston and Helsinki for $300.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:39 PM on December 14, 2005

I haven't been to Europe, but when I went to Egypt I got tickets for half the lowest price I could find online by going to the Arabic neighborhood in Brooklyn and checking with the many travel agents I found there who specialized in the region. Is there a section of Salt Lake City with a lot of European immigrants? It won't hurt to try.
posted by leapingsheep at 2:40 PM on December 14, 2005

I second Rothko's suggestion for STA Travel. I also prefer just going to a travel agent for open ended travel needs like the one you describe; it's their job to know about deals like the one you're looking for. At STA, at least, their fees are minimal ($20 if I remember) and well worth the hours you'll save. YMMV, of course.
posted by istewart at 2:42 PM on December 14, 2005

If you're a student, you can get cheaper tickets through STA Travel.

And STA travel is usually willing to make anyone under 25 a student, and anyone under 35 or so some kind of student equivalent. Basically, STA should be able to help you whether or not you're actually attending any sort of school at the time.

AND, while you may find cheaper prices online, the STA travel agents usually kick some serious ass at getting you the best deals. If you want to save some time, definitely visit them. You usually don't commit to anything when you consult with their agents (at least in my prior experience -- though you may feel bad using up their time), so it's worth a try.

I scored r/t spring-time-ish ticket from SF to London for around $300 two or three years ago right around now through an airline website-only xmas special, so definitely keep your ear to the ground.
posted by fishfucker at 2:47 PM on December 14, 2005 [1 favorite]

etn, travelzoo
posted by blueyellow at 2:50 PM on December 14, 2005

IcelandAir! Way cheap if you get a connecting flight through Reykjavík to just about anything. Also: you really should stop over in Iceland for a day or two.

I'm required to say that by law. I married an Icelander.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:07 PM on December 14, 2005

You could fly as an air courier.
posted by tirebouchon at 3:08 PM on December 14, 2005

I've scored some decent deals through 1800flyeurope.com.
posted by starscream at 4:18 PM on December 14, 2005

Um, I'm sitting in the international terminal at LAX in Los Angeles right now (I found a rogue AP w/ no security - w00t!)waiting to fly to Frankfurt direct via Air India - $450 RT, and I booked it 2 weeks ago. Just keep looking.
posted by gregariousrecluse at 5:40 PM on December 14, 2005

Go to LAX first? I'd try AerLingus, BA, KLM etc. websites. They usually have killer deals through about March/ April.
posted by fshgrl at 6:03 PM on December 14, 2005

Keep checking the prices until the end of January. The airlines will likely have some sales for transatlantic travel in April, but it's still a tad early.
posted by blue mustard at 6:31 PM on December 14, 2005

Already mentioned, but if you have 12-24 hour flex on either end of your schedule you might want to try priceline. I have used it several times and been very satisfied. Also, I second aer lingus--be patient--you will find much cheaper tickets
posted by rmhsinc at 7:14 PM on December 14, 2005

posted by amberglow at 7:38 PM on December 14, 2005

You could fly as an air courier.

On the advice of someone who's flown as a courier before, i signed up for my "international courier's card" or whatever, which, for $30 or so, meant i was "certified" for courier flights, could access their "courier listings" on their website, and recieved their amateurish newsletter that featured articles written by other people who had flown as couriers (mostly folks 50 and over).

Maybe someone has some other experience they can share, but I felt the entire thing was total bullshit. The prices weren't much better than internet fares and there was no way to guarantee that you would get a particular fare* (although probably much cheaper than going through a travel agent, which might explain the prominence of old folks' in the newsletter**). Additionally, most flights only left from places where airfare was already pretty cheap, like NYC and LA. I haven't seen any of these "courier listings" freely available, but my guess is that they either exist somewhere on the darknet, or that you need to call freight/shipping airlines directly (which is basically what you're doing anyways with the courier license, except they provide the phone numbers).

* In fact, I'm not even sure i recall SEEING an actual fare, but just a) a list of fares OTHER people had paid and b) a list of destinations a particular freighting company travels to.

** the theory here being that old folks can't use the internet. take that, geezers.
posted by fishfucker at 8:50 PM on December 14, 2005

Iceland Air has an email list you can join that sends you mail monthyl announcing low fares. In the winter, those fares can get to be pretty low. I saw NYC/BOS/BAL to Reykjavik for $258, and $316 to Amsterdam/Frankfurt/Paris.

I'm not sure what cities they fly from, but I know there are often departures from Minneapolis often included in the above deals. There's also a great christmas special where you can get the offseason rates and then hold the tickets to fly with at a later date.
posted by kjell at 10:28 PM on December 14, 2005

and smartertravel.com
posted by amberglow at 6:22 PM on December 15, 2005

This is a little late, but I'm thinking you'll be checking back here. I just got back from a trip to Europe and flew Air Tahiti Nui from LA to Paris and a gaggle of European low-cost airlines. You are not crazy - take lots of time and feel more confident about your purchase. You can do this.

FlyerTalk is a community of people who'll fly to Singapore three times in a week for the miles. Check out some of their forums, especially "Mileage Runs"; even though I'm just a poor kid fresh outta college, I learned oodles about gaming Travelocity, etc, to find the best/cheapest flights. Very empowering. :)

Forget the major search engines and try out ITAsoftware - it's like Travelocity, Expedia, etc, but you can tweak the searches to fly on particular airlines, via certain airports, etc - it's produced lots of the same things like the Air India $450 LA-Frankfurt flight mentioned above. Uber-flexible, no ads - it even tells you how to contact the airline (usually a phone number) and what fare codes to ask for EXACTLY to get the deal you see on the screen. The "help" section's got all the details.

Finally - those EasyJet/Ryanair deals come with tradeoffs, like flying from random airports in the boondocks at five in the morning, when the cost of getting out there is higher than the cost of a flight from more desirable points. London Stansted, say, is less appealing when your flight there costs $5 but your train into central London costs $25.
posted by mdonley at 8:22 PM on December 28, 2005

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