Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Destinations > Europe > Europe
Reload this Page >

Why are intra-Europe flights so cheap?

Why are intra-Europe flights so cheap?

Old Feb 8, 19, 6:15 am
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2018
Posts: 103
Talking Why are intra-Europe flights so cheap?

We are booked into AMS and out of LHR for 10 days late April. We are looking to find a 3rd destination for the middle of the trip and had figured to just book a train to Belgium somewhere and then on to London, but I started checking airfares and you can fly to nearly any major EU city for less then $100 and then to London for the same. Some of the fares were "small" airlines like RyanAir and EasyJet but even British Airways or KLM have flights for like $50.

How are these incredible low fares possible? How do they make money?
JTE458 is offline  
Old Feb 8, 19, 6:34 am
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: K+K
Programs: *G
Posts: 4,306
The discount airlines have low fares but have extraordinarily petty charges. Charges to check-in online. Charges for a soda. Charges to carry suitcase onboard.

The traditional carriers, maybe they need to fill seats for those routes on those days (of course if you close the loop, pax carries the other direction needs to be transported back...)

Anyways, i wouldnt make a blanket assumption that intra-EU flights can be easily booked <100
STBCypriot likes this.
deniah is offline  
Old Feb 8, 19, 6:39 am
  #3  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: ORD
Programs: UA Silver, Marriott Titanium/LT Platinum, Hilton Gold, AA Platinum
Posts: 4,435
Not sure where you're from, but those seem like typical prices for cities that are a few hundred miles apart in most areas of the world. In the US, Southwest offers one way fares for $50 sometimes, and they tend to be one of the more expensive US airlines. I often find one ways out of Chicago for ~$100 on United and American as well.

How (and whether) airlines make money is a different story. Many of the discount carriers make it in ancillary fees, such as charging for a water on the plane (which surprised me once on Aer Lingus).
JBord is offline  
Old Feb 8, 19, 7:12 am
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: somewhere between Europe and Africa, from SFO
Programs: A3*G, EY Silver
Posts: 7,659
Originally Posted by JTE458 View Post
you can fly to nearly any major EU city for less then $100 and then to London for the same.
100€ is not that cheap. 25€ is cheap.
Some of the fares were "small" airlines like RyanAir and EasyJet.
Ryanair and Easyjet are bigger than BA.
farci and Ldnn1 like this.
Palal is offline  
Old Feb 8, 19, 7:19 am
  #5  
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: London, United Kingdom
Programs: British Airways Gold
Posts: 2,475
Overcapacity
ajeleonard is online now  
Old Feb 8, 19, 7:26 am
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Dec 2018
Posts: 103
Originally Posted by Palal View Post
100 is not that cheap. 25 is cheap.
Yes I was keeping it on the high end, but there's fares for $27, that's mind boggling to me coming from US. I was just surprised its cheaper to fly places then to take the train.
JTE458 is offline  
Old Feb 8, 19, 7:48 am
  #7  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: ORD
Programs: UA Silver, Marriott Titanium/LT Platinum, Hilton Gold, AA Platinum
Posts: 4,435
Originally Posted by JTE458 View Post
Yes I was keeping it on the high end, but there's fares for $27, that's mind boggling to me coming from US. I was just surprised its cheaper to fly places then to take the train.
Ok, that's a pretty good deal. Just remember, depending on the airline and your travel habits, you may rack up some hefty ancillary fees on top of that. But if you're a light packer and don't mind a certain amount of discomfort, those cheap fares can definitely be a good way to move around Europe.

Also, don't forget to factor in transportation fees. Trains will generally drop you off in the center of town, often allowing you to walk to your hotel. Airports will require you to take a taxi or train to get to your hotel. Either can be a good way to travel. My rule of thumb is for 3 hours or less, take the train. Over 3, fly intra-Europe.
farci likes this.
JBord is offline  
Old Feb 8, 19, 7:58 am
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2017
Posts: 76
Originally Posted by JTE458 View Post
We are booked into AMS and out of LHR for 10 days late April. We are looking to find a 3rd destination for the middle of the trip and had figured to just book a train to Belgium somewhere and then on to London, but I started checking airfares and you can fly to nearly any major EU city for less then $100 and then to London for the same. Some of the fares were "small" airlines like RyanAir and EasyJet but even British Airways or KLM have flights for like $50.

How are these incredible low fares possible? How do they make money?
I think among the factors that bring revenue from these cheap tickets are:
- there might be limited number of the very cheap (promotional) fares, if you want the last remaining seats those may cost more. Also the tickets for the busiest travel days (holidays etc.) may cost little more than on those days with less demand.
- the cheapest fares are not refundable and allow no changes or carry high change fees: if you can't take the flight you have booked, hope you have a travel insurance coverage or otherwise your money is usually lost. Name changes can cost the same as new flights etc. I recall reading about a case where a guy with a forthcoming Ryanair flight and misspelled name on the ticket decided to change his official name to be able to take that flight...
- the base ticket price includes just the bare minimum: seat somewhere on the plane and perhaps some hand luggage (LCCs are often strict on the size and weight of hand luggage, exceed the limit and your bag will be checked and that will cost extra)
- reserving specific seat costs extra, exit seats and possible other seats with extra legroom may also carry some premium.
- checked luggage costs extra
- want something to eat and drink while onboard? You most likely will have to pay something for everything on offer (some legacy airlines may still give something small for free, but then their cheapest fares are usually more expensive)
- the planes used on intra-Europe flights tend to be configured with dense seating to maximize capacity. The legacy carriers, which are offering also more expensive business class fares in addition to the economy fares, usually have short haul single-aisle airplanes with whole plane furnished as a single class cabin and then designate part of the cabin as business class where the usual 3-by-3 becomes 2-by-2 with middle seats blocked.
- LCCs prefer that you do everything online by yourself, the phone service can be via premium-rate telephone number and if you want to use the check-in desk at the airport then you may face some service charges.
- LCCs are selling tickets primarily with the point to point model: if you want a return ticket, you basicly buy two one-way tickets with no special discount.
- LCCs tend to pick airports with cheaper fees when available, eg. in London area LCCs are using mostly LTN, STN and LGW rather than LHR.
Hezu is offline  
Old Feb 8, 19, 8:41 am
  #9  
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: HPN
Programs: not anymore! I'm FREE!
Posts: 3,195
Competition. There are lots of LCCs in Europe. Compare the number in Europe vs the US. This means that even the legacy carriers have to compete on price.
GUWonder likes this.
snic is offline  
Old Feb 8, 19, 8:46 am
  #10  
A FlyerTalk Posting Legend
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: DCA
Programs: UA US CO AA DL FL
Posts: 42,826
Fares are dictated by the market, not costs. On the other hand, if competition is such that one cannot charge enough to make a profit, one eventually ceases operations.

The recent history of commercial aviation is littered with examples of fares which are likely too low for the circumstances coupled with insolvency.

The market is also limited. There are any number of people quite happy to pay BA's fares because they get a free drink in a lounge.
Often1 is online now  
Old Feb 19, 19, 2:29 pm
  #11  
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: Newcastle, UK
Programs: BA Silver, IHG Gold, Hilton Gold, Hertz 5*, Avis Preferred Plus, Amex Plat
Posts: 2,042
As others have said, there will be extra fees to pay with most airlines unless you live like a monk.

For the most part (though there are exceptions) you should expect these fares to include no checked luggage, no food or drink, no seat choice etc. Hand luggage may be just a *very* small 'personal item' or might include something larger, depending on the airline, but you in any case will probably be smaller than you're used to in the US. If you let us know which airlines, we can give a bit more specific advice.

But yes, it can be very cheap to travel around Europe. Not always as cheap as the headline prices make it seem, but still incredible value.
mad_rich is offline  
Old Feb 20, 19, 6:15 am
  #12  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: ORD
Programs: UA Silver, Marriott Titanium/LT Platinum, Hilton Gold, AA Platinum
Posts: 4,435
Frontier has $1 fares in the US right now. Of course, add on taxes and fees and you won't find a one way for much less than $40. Then you add on ancillary fees and you probably end up $75-100 on way. So what the OP is seeing in Europe with the LCC's is not out of line with the US. I've also seen fares that low on some of the Asian LCC's.
JBord is offline  
Old Feb 20, 19, 6:51 am
  #13  
Moderator: UK and Ireland & Europe
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Biggleswade
Programs: SK*G, Lots of Blue Elsewhere
Posts: 13,360
Originally Posted by JBord View Post
Frontier has $1 fares in the US right now. Of course, add on taxes and fees and you won't find a one way for much less than $40. Then you add on ancillary fees and you probably end up $75-100 on way. So what the OP is seeing in Europe with the LCC's is not out of line with the US. I've also seen fares that low on some of the Asian LCC's.
As a point of order, fares quoted in the EU have to include all mandatory taxes and fees. So if you see 10 advertised, you can fly for 10.

I have done this, incidentally, although this was before Ryanair introduced fees for full-size carry-on luggage. A couple of years ago was the last time, flying from Malmo to London Stansted. Decent flight, all told. (OK, it was SEK100, not 10, but let's not split hairs...) I did a flight to Bremen a couple of months ago for 40, including priority boarding, front row seats and two carry-ons. Not complaining about that.
stut is offline  
Old Feb 20, 19, 7:00 am
  #14  
 
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 7,508
Originally Posted by mad_rich View Post
As others have said, there will be extra fees to pay with most airlines unless you live like a monk.
Originally Posted by stut View Post
As a point of order, fares quoted in the EU have to include all mandatory taxes and fees. So if you see €10 advertised, you can fly for €10.
I would second stut's point. I certainly do not live like a monk, but my usual travel within Europe is on the basic fares as advertised, without paying a penny more on top. Of course I travel hand baggage only, but I prefer to do that anyway. There are also no fees for paying by credit or debit card now as these aren't allowed.

The point is, if you travel light and aren't bothered about extras, then the price you see is the price you pay.
Ldnn1 is offline  
Old Feb 20, 19, 8:05 am
  #15  
Moderator: UK and Ireland & Europe
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Biggleswade
Programs: SK*G, Lots of Blue Elsewhere
Posts: 13,360
The other thing to note is how the aggression of airlines like Ryanair and easyJet has led to a reduction of costs.

The 20-minute turnaround is now common, so aircraft utilisation is high. Let's take a random example - aircraft EI-DAG, on 18th Feb:

FR0314 SXF 0715 - OTP 1030
FR0315 OTP 1055 - SXF 1210
FR4943 SXF 1310 - PMO 1545
FR4905 PMO 1655 - FCO 1810
FR4906 FCO 1845 - PMO 1955
FR6786 PMO 2020 - MRS 2210
FR6785 MRS 2235 - PMO 0015+1

So, that's 7 legs in 4 countries, with no defined hub. Everything is optimised. The cabin crew will clear as much as they can on descent (no seat pockets or seat recline to worry about on these planes), and the seats-to-crew will be at the most favourable possible ratio.

Ryanair will have negotiated as hard as possible for the best rates at each airport, down to using airstairs rather than the airbridge or ground stairs to save money. If you look at this list, there's only one secondary airport in there: SXF (Berlin Schoenefeld). All the others are primary airports, who were so keen to grab LCC trade from the secondaries, some of them even built dedicated piers or even terminals (like Marseille MP2) to allow them to match landing fees.

At the airport, almost everybody will have checked in online (as there's a financial incentive to do so) and so check-in will be mostly for checked luggage, and will be a quick scan of a barcode, attach tags and off it pops. Some will fall foul of inflated at-airport fees, but this is hardly a secret these days. Some airlines are automating this process too - eliminating more staffing expense (not that the airport staff are directly employed).

Look at the destinations. These are business routes as much as leisure. The LCCs have attacked this market from all sides. No major is going to fly PMO-MRS direct. FR are going for AZ's jugular by serving PMO-FCO. And the gap left by LH concentrating on FRA and MUC is certainly being filled by airlines like FR serving Berlin. And they're clever with their fares. A bundled business fare (still a nice, cheap economy flight) will include all your ancillaries. So you often get more than flying with a legacy airline. There's some schedule padding in there, but the only delay was FR4943 arriving 23 minutes late. Their experience in quick turnarounds managed to get the next flight back on track.

And then look at their yielding. The LCCs have analysed everything, down to the time of day that people are likely to be most price-sensitive. So, if Ryanair are offering €10 fares, they will be thinking one or more of these:
  • I know the passengers on this route buy loads of ancillaries, so I'll recoup the difference.
  • I know I'll get a load of business bundle bookings and little in the way of leisure, so I may as well fill up the remaining seats.
  • It's summertime, and x% of passengers have checked luggage, so I've factored that in.
Of course, it could be a loss leader on a new/competitive route (although there's a limit as to what they're allowed to do) or it could be limited seats for a promotion (again, there's a limit). Subsidies from regional governments are no longer allowed.

And then there's the pay and conditions for employees...
stut is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread