Cheap Flights to Europe Take Off: Flights Under $500 Round Trip, Fees Included

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Travelers who recall the ’90s heyday of sub-$300 round trips to Europe (taxes included) haven’t been happy in recent years, when a $1,000 flight began looking like a decent price. Their moods may improve now that one of Europe’s largest low-cost carriers is expanding in a big way, with new routes and inexpensive prices that could upend the transatlantic flight market as a whole.

Earlier this year, Norwegian Air Shuttle launched service connecting New York’s JFK airport to Oslo and Stockholm, and flights from Fort Lauderdale to Oslo, Stockholm, and Copenhagen. This week, the carrier announced service between Europe and three more American cities (Orlando, Oakland, Los Angeles) starting next year. A JFK-Copenhagen route is also on tap starting in February 2014.

Low-cost airlines tend to avoid long-haul flights, preferring to focus on shorter (and generally more lucrative) routes in the regions they know best. But for Norwegian, the transatlantic market was just too juicy to pass up. “We believe that the U.S is low-hanging fruit,” Norwegian CEO Bjorn Kjos said at a news conference on Tuesday, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “People love to fly cheap and they love to fly far.”

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The airline will be using Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner planes, which Norwegian thinks it can operate at a cost of 30% less than the usual long-haul aircraft. And at least when it first introduces service to its new U.S. cities, Norwegian’s prices will reflect those lower operating costs. Introductory fares from Los Angeles, Orlando, and Oakland to Scandinavia start at just $237 each way, taxes and fees included.

How good a flight price is that? Well, browsing at the website of Scandinavia’s large SAS airline, a round trip flight from Orlando to Oslo comes to a total of $993 during the low season of November. Included in that total is $588 in taxes and fees ($496 for an “international surcharge” alone). In other words, Norwegian Air Shuttle is charging less for a total round trip than what the traditional airline flight tacks on just in fees.

While the new routes will appeal most to American travelers interested in seeing Scandinavia (or Scandinavians interested coming to the States), it’s also easy to use Oslo or Stockholm as a jumping-off point to somewhere else in Europe, or even Russia. All that’s required is the booking of another low-cost flight overseas. Likewise, Norwegian has been thinking about partnering with an American carrier so that passengers could book a single ticket that would connect its hubs in Europe with dozens of U.S. cities. “It might be that we will work with low-cost operators like Jet Blue in the U.S.,” Kjos told Bloomberg in May. “Our passengers could fly to New York with us and continue with Jet Blue to other places in U.S.”

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As with any low-cost carrier, however, there are downsides to booking with Norwegian Air Shuttle. Unlike the typical airline with transatlantic service, which offers flights at least on a once-daily basis, Norwegian will generally fly each U.S.-Scandinavia route only two or three times weekly. So if you miss a flight, it may be a few days—or perhaps more than a week—until there’s another one that’s departing and actually has space for you. Also, Norwegian keeps fares low by following the Ryanair and Spirit Airlines business model, in which the only amenities beyond a basic seat cost extra. Passengers must pay up for things like checked baggage and food, of course, and there’s even a fee for using a credit card.

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20 comments
NanaJeva
NanaJeva

Their moods may improve one more useful thing. Me, my relatives and friends are saving on roaming when abroad with Roamer app. It's great to call my mother and pay only 5-7 euro for a abt 1.5 h. It's awesome solution, because my battery on phone don't discharge like after Skype conversation and I can use my phone number comparing with travel sim.

KorneliaHartwig
KorneliaHartwig

I was just flying Phila - Frankfurt a few months ago for $1200 with LH. The flight was $509 and the remainder were taxes and landing fees. It's the "Carbon Emission Tax" in Frankfurt that's doing that. I could fly cheaper to Duesseldorf but then I'd have a 3 hour train  trip. As long as I'm a working stiff I have to bite the bullett when I visit family.

Leftcoastrocky
Leftcoastrocky

"a fee for using a credit carda fee for using a credit card" -- :-(

RamiroMorejon
RamiroMorejon

Can't wait to book my next trip to Stockholm on this airline! I can cope with few charges. It is still cheaper than the average $1200 round trip to the same destination!

tominthebv
tominthebv

I always thought that these "international surcharges" and other surcharges were mandatory surcharges imposed by the government but it looks like they purely the creation of each airline.  Norwegian doesn't seem to be adding them.  The surcharges have always added a significant amount to the cost of a ticket.  Is this correct?

mikehaggag
mikehaggag

"Passengers must pay up for things like checked baggage and food, of course, and there’s even a fee for using a credit card."
Air Hostess: What?/ You want to pee? $5 fee please, or pee in a cup and keep it covered until we land.

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

More interesting is BA offering direct London flights from Austin, where it's said that when you die you go through DFW or Houston to go to the afterlife.   BA service, Dreamliners, direct.  I hope it knocks American carriers in Dallas and Houston for a loop. 

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

Cheap flights to the most outrageously expensive region in Europe.  Those not familiar better check out what it will cost on the ground before punching the bucket list.  Also funny is the last line in the article...paying for baggage, food, other "amenities", like what's different from the American carriers?  

Long haul air travel is sooooooo miserable now that unless you can afford business class, the cheap seats can't get any worse than they are now.  At least I hope that.


gtg5017
gtg5017

I actually just booked a flight out of NYC to Stockholm on Norwegian next May, so I can give you guys the cost breakdown. They charge you $35 for the first checked bag each way. They'll charge you $7 to pay w/a credit card (don't think there's a charge for debit), and they charge $42 for a meal(s) each way, which include breakfast and dinner on the transatlantic flights. Given the low cost nature of the ticket, I'm completely ok with this because they're up front about it and not forcing you to check bags or buy the meals.

That being said, one of the other extras you can purchase is extra leg room, which ran me $35 each way. For a transatlantic flight, that is INCREDIBLY cheap. Typically you have to pay $150+ for extra leg room on other carriers per leg. In total, the ticket came out to about $570 round trip.

Contrary to @EvanNaides , I flew them last summer from Amsterdam to Stockholm and had a great experience. Flight was on time, aircraft was new and clean, they had free WiFi, and the flight crew was very helpful and friendly. Obviously that won't be the case for every flight, but I had a good enough experience that I wanted to give their new longhaul (and cheap) service a try, despite having over 200,000 reward miles to use with US-based airlines. Hope it's worth it.

EvanNaides
EvanNaides

I took this airline home to NYC from Barcelona and had the worst experience ever....the flight was delayed 10 hours when I landed in Stockholm for a layover and they did nothing to help you look for other flights or even look for a hotel. They just said because Obama was in town all hotels were booked. Thanks. But at least they gave me meal vouchers. Then the plane was so unbearably hot. Just an awful travel experience from Norwegian and the people were so unwilling to help. The main ticket office was booked with people so i walked further down to another one in Arlanda and the guy was unwilling to help me because his office " didnt deal with tickets or vouchers", ok so what does your office do then? It was a joke. Don't take this airline. You'l regret it. With travel, when it's cheap, there's a reason. 

vbscript2
vbscript2

I wonder how the cost compares once you add in the things that you'll most likely want on an international flight, though. While I don't have a problem eating before or after a domestic flight within the U.S., I'm probably going to get hungry at some point while crossing the Atlantic. Granted, it would be a lot easier to plan to eat before or after that flight than, say, a trans-Pacific flight.

Stavre
Stavre

This is a great price.  Now if ONLY there was a connection to Macedonia from Norway, it would be a sweeeet deal.

MaxStone
MaxStone

@formerlyjames BA will fly you to Houston and your luggage to LAX. Good luck to you if you want to try them.

gtg5017
gtg5017

@formerlyjames live in Austin. Can't wait. DFW is the worst. Houston only slightly better, which makes it still pretty terrible.

JohnLubeck
JohnLubeck

@EvanNaides I think sometimes the reason is that the airline is run more efficiently.  We fly almost exclusively on SWA in the US.  Yes I have my gripes, but they are certainly no worse than any domestic carrier and they are usually (not always) significantly cheaper.

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

@vbscript2 

The goat class food on American carriers international flights is inedible slop, not worth whatever they pay the caterer for it.  As far as I know, there are no rules against bringing your own food.  Carry on a bucket of KFC and tell the surly frumpy flight attendant she can have your complimentary slop.

jefnvk
jefnvk

@vbscript2 Even at $10 each way for a meal, I think you're still way ahead.  Granted, if you were REALLY budget conscious, I suppose you could always pack some PBJ sandwiches and chips....

ClydeBarrow
ClydeBarrow

@Stavre; Or Detroit to ? I wouldn't mind going to Norway but it's not my first choice. I am not really interested. The best price that I have found for a RT to London and nine days on the ground is around $1,200.00 HOWEVER, you need to sleep in a dorm room. lol. Being a single guy I would do it but it's not for a family. It's cheaper to fly into London and then if you wish to visit Paris, take the train and stay for a few days.