Are Flights in Europe Really Less Expensive Than Flights in the United States?

Last week the NY Times wrote an article entitled “European Airfares Look Inviting Next to U.S. Prices,” which suggested that airfares in Europe were cheaper than those in the U.S. when comparing flights between cities of comparable distances. Once you get into the meat of the article, however, that assertion falls apart.

The piece begins by saying that a flight between Edinburgh and Dublin costs $40 one-way while a flight between New York and Washington (a similar distance) costs $65. OK. But a flight between Frankfurt and Amsterdam – also a similar distance – costs $593 dollars one way.

Then the hedging begins, with the next section starting with, “While it is tough to do a statistically rigorous comparison…” which suggests the whole premise may be a bunch of hooey. They quote an analyst who says that flights between European cities costs 14 cents a mile, while flights within the U.S. cost 23 cents a mile – a significant difference.

Except that in the next paragraph, they say that the Air Transport Association says that it actually costs 16 cents a mile in the U.S., a 2 cents per mile difference over Europe.

Plus, with European low fare airlines charging for even more ancillary services than U.S. airlines, it’s extremely difficult to get an accurate reading on whether the cost of a similar trip is, on average, more or less expensive in the Europe than in the United States.

Which is a perfectly fine conclusion, except it’s not at all what the article is suggesting.

Perhaps the one conclusion here is that, save for Spirit Airlines, low fare airlines in Europe are willing to offer lower promotional fares than low fare airlines in the United States. Ryanair and EasyJet have lowered the bar on the low end below where airlines like, say, AirTran have been willing to go in the States. But they have offset that with significant fees.

So, to sum up, sometimes flights are more expensive in Europe, and sometimes they are less expensive. If you want really cheap fares in Europe you will still end up paying the airline for bags, boarding passes or whatever. Not exactly earth shattering news…

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  1. i would love this idiot to explain my weekly 40 minute flight from zurich to brussels for 1300 Euros…

  2. WOW, i can’t believe it. A trip from Frankfurt to Amsterdam costs around 90 euros, around 118$, where did you find 593$? There are some flights chepaer then the other. For example if you plan to leave the next day, it could be more expensive, if you plan your trip for the next week it will be very cheap. Everyone should check that, you must fly in Europe before you talk.

    • A 1-way ticket nonstop is is $608 right now for a ticket 6 weeks out. Roundtrip are cheaper, but they were looking at average 1-way fares in the article.

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