Keep­ing an eye on trans-At­lantic costs

The op­er­a­tion of low-cost air­lines over the At­lantic is no longer a mi­nor travel de­vel­op­ment — it’s huge


As we re­main in the high sea­son for trans-At­lantic travel, the big news con­tin­ues to be the growth of the low-cost air­lines. What once was an ex­otic odd­ity has now be­come a ma­jor seg­ment of the avi­a­tion in­dus­try.

Nu­mer­ous air­lines are now charg­ing as lit­tle as $400-$600 per per­son round-trip be­tween var­i­ous U.S. cities and Euro­pean cap­i­tals.

The par­tic­i­pat­ing air­lines are Nor­we­gian (the big­gest of them), XL (fly­ing only to Paris), WOW (fly­ing via Reyk­javik, Ice­land, to Europe), and Level (fly­ing from Barcelona to Los An­ge­les, San Fran­cisco and the Do­mini­can Repub­lic only).

Th­ese air­lines’ con­tin­ued ex­is­tence has caused sev­eral of the stan­dard air­lines to oc­ca­sion­ally match their low prices. There­fore, the cost-con­scious trav­eler will need to spend an hour or so on the com­puter search­ing the avail­able fares not sim­ply on the low-cost car­ri­ers named above, but also on the stan­dard car­ri­ers.

A num­ber of me­dia out­lets have mis­tak­enly added the new Air France/KLM car­rier called Joon to the list of low-cost trans-At­lantic car­ri­ers.

How­ever, Joon will fly only from Europe to var­i­ous Asian cities, and it will not al­ways charge lower-than-usual prices for those Europe-to-Asia flights).

To take ad­van­tage of the amaz­ing $400-$600 rates, you’ll need to go with­out cer­tain ameni­ties. All of the low-cost car­ri­ers charge extra for check­ing lug­gage and for en­joy­ing meals pro­vided by the air­line, with the ex­cep­tion of XL. The air­lines also do not per­mit their pas­sen­gers to choose their lo­ca­tions on the plane, and some cost-con­scious types will find them­selves in a mid­dle seat.

But even when you spend an ad­di­tional $50 or so each way for check­ing a large suit­case with a bud­get air­line, you will still spend far less than most of the stan­dard air­lines are charg­ing.

And if you are able to limit your lug­gage to a small car­ryon stuffed into the over­head rack, you will re­joice in a roundtrip fare as low as $400 for the round-trip to, say, Lon­don.

Ex­ec­u­tives of the stan­dard air­lines have been quick to ridicule the new low-cost air­lines. They have been quoted as say­ing that low-cost car­ri­ers ul­ti­mately will learn that they can­not con­tinue to ex­ist on in­come as lit­tle as $400 per per­son for a round trip to Europe. They cite the well-known ear­lier low-cost air­lines, like the much-lamented Laker Air­ways and Peo­ple Ex­press, which both went out of busi­ness de­spite (or be­cause of) their low fares.

But the low-cost car­ri­ers re­spond by point­ing out that the re­cent sharp de­cline in the cost of avi­a­tion fuel (a prod­uct of low-cost oil) has more than en­abled them to op­er­ate at cheap prices.

We all can re­joice in their shouts of tri­umph. At least for the time be­ing, it is pos­si­ble to fly round-trip to Europe for as lit­tle as $400 to $600.

`Arthur Frommer is the pi­o­neer­ing founder of the Frommer’s Travel Guide book se­ries. He co-hosts the ra­dio pro­gram, “The Travel Show,” with his travel cor­re­spon­dent daugh­ter Pauline Frommer. Find more des­ti­na­tions on­line and read Arthur Frommer’s blog from­mers. com.


Nor­we­gian-based XL Air­lines is one of a crop of low-cost air­lines fly­ing over the At­lantic Ocean.

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