Cheap air travel in France
August 26, 2004 12:46 PM   Subscribe

We're going to the south of France in November, and have been investigating options between Paris and Provence. TGV train, Air France between Charles DeGaulle and Marseille etc. Then my wife discovers EasyJet. Orly to Marseille, Eight euros plus tax each way. How the hell does this work? Eight Euros? It costs more to take the train into town from the airport than that.

Someone want to give me the heads up on the EasyJet business model and why other forms of transport aren't obsolete. Why would anyone do anything other than this?

posted by Keith Talent to Travel & Transportation around France (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We took EasyJet from Milan to Orly. FWIW, it aorked just as advertised - *much* cheaper and faster than train or car. Since there's no preassigned seating, just a bit of panic in the rush to make sure we had seats together. And the airports used were the smaller ones, but it was really no big deal. Everything went smooth.

I have no idea how they do it, but it worked for us!
posted by jasper411 at 12:57 PM on August 26, 2004

with Easyjet you usually have to travel at inconvenient off-peak times to get the really cheap flights. If it's a new route they often run cheaper flights for the first month or so. The prices change all the time according to demand to it's worth checking back often. There's no catch, except that the airports can be more difficult to get to and further out - Paris Orly for example.

The other big cheapy is Ryan Air

Skyscanner can also be useful in comparing cheap flights in Europe
posted by gravelshoes at 12:59 PM on August 26, 2004

sorry - you asked how they do it. Basically they cut out all the frills and ultimately figure it's better to sell a seat for £10 than not sell the seat at all. You pay a premium for travelling at the most popular times. The Easy empire has extended exactly the same philosphy to car hire, internet cafes, cinemas, and I read recently they are planning EasyCruises.
posted by gravelshoes at 1:10 PM on August 26, 2004

The other thing with cut price air in Europe (and this certainly is the case for RyanAir but I don't know about EasyJet) is that the airlines are subsidised by the small local airports into which the airlines fly.

So you often end up in some backwoods which isn't the main city... and as a thank-you for tourists being dragged into these small towns, some of the cut-price airlines are being paid sweeteners by local government. Or at least that's what I heard.
posted by skylar at 1:23 PM on August 26, 2004

skylar - possibly, but I'm pretty sure that got knocked on the head (in England at least). I forget why. it broke a law or trade agreement or something.

My memory of these things differs slightly from other people's. My memory is that all the flights have a selection of seats (maybe 10 seats on a 200 seat flight) for £10. The next 100 are at £20 and the remainer are at £30. Book early and get a great price, fly on the day and get a slightly less great price. The tickets are still cheap as hell, but not what is advertised.

The other point is that if you are over five foot eleven, expect to have your knees engraved with the seatback of the chair in front...
posted by twine42 at 1:46 PM on August 26, 2004

Big savings are made by turning an incoming 'plane straight around into an outgoing flight. Works fine until the incoming is delayed, then the outgoing is and so on. I've been left waiting for a few hours because of this.

[I've also found it better to fly with a big carrier such as British Airways sometimes. If you book in advance on the web the filghts can be just as cheap as a low-cost, you can fly from a major airport, you get food and booze included and if you join the BA membership scheme you can check-in later (e.g. up to 20mins b4 takeoff with carry-on luggage).]

Some city councils will pay a 'marketing grant' to an airline to get them to fly there. Basically a subsidy which has come up against EU law recently.

I think they also get allocated gates on an ad hoc & last minute basis rather than using the same ones regularly which saves them airport charges.

Bear in mind that you'll have to pay taxes no matter how cheap the flights are. My friend is flying Southampton-Glasgow-Southampton for nothing next week but still has to pay 20 pounds in tax. And get to Southampton...

There are a lot of low-cost airlines in Europe. (Gotta love an airline called 'baboo'.)

Oh, and I've had more seat-room on EasyJet than Virgin Atlantic from NYC.
posted by i_cola at 1:53 PM on August 26, 2004

I took several longish flights on EasyJet last year (Paris -> Luton -> Athens, Athens -> Luton then Stansted -> Berlin [that was on Air Berlin]), and on every single such flight there was practically no one on the plane. I have no idea how they do it, since even if they stagger the prices the way twine42 suggests there were barely enough people on the flights I took to get into the upper tiers.

I'm just barely over 5'11" and the seats were no problem, but then since no one sitting in front of, behind or next to me I felt no compunction about sprawling about shamelessly.
posted by kenko at 2:04 PM on August 26, 2004

Does €8 included airport tax? That can bump it up quite a bit.
posted by Orange Goblin at 2:40 PM on August 26, 2004

Response by poster: No, it's going to end up somewhere around $100 Canadian return for two, not quite the deal advertised, but still a steal.
posted by Keith Talent at 3:24 PM on August 26, 2004

oh easyjet, how i love you. i recently took a trip from san francisco to bilbao & milan and saved hundreds of dollars by flying to/from gatwick and using a combination of easyjet & volare to go gatwick-bilbao-milan-gatwick.

the easyjet planes were clean, efficient and everyone was infinitely more cheerful than domestic travellers in the states, who are justifiably grumpy paying huge fares for short distances and huge delays on icky old planes.
posted by judith at 3:30 PM on August 26, 2004

Easy Jet is absolutely amazing! (Ryan Air too). To American eyes, their posters just don't compute. I was in Luton and saw a sign that said Cologne 12.95. I figured maybe it was 12.95 off or something. But no. That was the freaking fare! One of the reasons I want to move back to Europe is that now you can fly off for weekends to another country for less than taking a cab across town.

(just beware the hideous British hen parties that pollute every cheapo plane I've taken.)
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:06 PM on August 26, 2004

Also be aware that those low fares are only for the first few people booking a flight. After that the price goes up, lots of times above the big-airline fares. But if you are early enough these flights are a good deal.

With easyjet, if you want a nice seat be at the airport early. They give you a boarding number, so if you are early you get on the plane first and pick a nice seat. (There are no assigned seats)
posted by sebas at 1:04 AM on August 27, 2004

Twine's model is the correct one, they use the same one at EasyCinema, with tickets starting under a pound if you book early.

You should also be aware that the customer service can be of very low quality at these prices. You won't get a reply to complaints and the staff will not give much of a fuck about delays, baggage problems, etc.
posted by biffa at 2:48 AM on August 27, 2004

CL: Be aware that the fares teend to be a lot higher for the weekends. If you can get a Friday & Monday off then leaving Thur eve works. If you can fly in the middle of the day on a Tue or Weds you get the real dirt cheap stuff.

I'd say the Jet Blue in the US is comparable (e.g. Long Beach-JFK for just over 100 bucks) and you get snacks & TV. And Long Beach airport is as cute as a bag of buttons.
posted by i_cola at 4:06 AM on August 27, 2004

Oh yes - I have come to actually enjoy flying into the smaller airports and Long Beach is more like landing on a tropical island (airport is like a shack, baggage carousel outside under palm trees) than the soul destroying hell that is LAX. I now specifically try to fly into that airport when going to California.

Jet Blue is great, so I hear, but they will only rival the magic of Easy Jet when they start offering $9 flights between New York and Boston.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:46 AM on August 27, 2004

Easyjet is great. It's made my relationship with my spanish girlfriend, living in Bilbao, possible with their cheap and regular flights. I'll actually go one step further - If it wasn't for Easyjet, we wouldn't be together.

Like Judith and Sebas have suggested before - book midweek, it's cheaper. avoid peak times (christmas/new year/school holidays) and you can fly to many european destinations for £40 return (about $70). including tax.

This is done in a number of ways -

1) Cut the overheads - older planes are cheaper to buy. no meals. a trolley service where you buy things, rather than the obligatory single serving heated portion. pass the saving on in cheaper ticket prices.

2) Cut the time on stand - airplanes cost alot of money to stand still at the terminal, so, cut that, save money. pass it on. This also encourages the planes to depart on time more often than not, giving good punctuality with which to publicise.

3) Use less popular airports - easyjet fly from smaller, cheaper airports such as Luton and Stansted in England, passing the saving on through cheaper fares.

4) Use a revolutionary pricing model - this is Stelios' approach to everything, allow market forces to shape the cost by increasing ticket prices with demand. so, book 1st, get a cheap price. book 50th and you'll see it rise. thus, low prices encourage more customers and increase demand. this demand decreases as prices rise. calculate this mean to cover the cost of running the total flight plus profit and you can make it work.

I'm a huge fan of easyjet and reccomend them to everyone that i know. It's taken the frills and edge off flying in europe, whilst keeping the low fares and punctuality that customers need with the kind of competitive fares that will drive less efficient operators out of business.
posted by triv at 9:41 AM on August 27, 2004

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