Now is one of the most exciting times to be a budget traveler headed to Europe. A handful of low-cost European airlines have started flying from the U.S. in recent years, with deals like $69 one-way from Miami to Iceland and $139 one-way from the West Coast to Sweden. And more are on the way: Last month, Iceland-based Primera Air started selling $99 transatlantic flights that will take off this spring.
These fares are no farce, and travel experts call them some of the cheapest the industry has ever seen. Of course, there are drawbacks; often, booking with a low-cost airline means you won’t be allowed to bring carry-on bags, have an in-flight meal or choose your seat without paying an extra fee.
Low-cost airlines make sense for the frugal traveler who can fit his or her life into a backpack, but those who prefer in-flight perks should be aware that costs can pile up, Zach Honig, editor-in-chief of The Points Guy, told HuffPost.
“Is it really possible to fly to Iceland for $200? Sure, if you carry only a backpack, don’t select a seat in advance and skip the meals,” he said. “If you fly like the majority of leisure travelers do, though, the add-on costs can quickly add up.”
When deciding whether to fly a low-cost airline to Europe, it’s all about weighing your options. Compare costs with mainstream carriers on a site like Google Flights to make sure you’re getting a deal, then check the budget carrier’s site to find out if they’ll tack on fees for the extras you desire (i.e. a checked bag, a meal or a bigger seat). Research the aircraft’s seat size and amenities if comfort is a concern, and note that while those sparkly flash sales feature super-cheap one-way flights, the trip back could cost you.
Don’t fear, though. These airlines can be a real win, as long as you know what you’re getting into. Here are some low-cost airlines to consider for your next trip to Europe.
This Icelandic airline is one of the most prominent low-cost carriers flying from the U.S. to Europe right now, according to Honig. Wow currently flies from 13 U.S. cities to many around Europe, and its website regularly features eye-popping fares like $99 from Boston to London one-way. However, all of Wow’s flights have layovers in Reykjavik, Iceland, and your ticket price won’t include seat selection or carry-on bags beyond a backpack. (Baggage fees vary by route.)
Norwegian Air Shuttle
Wow’s closest competition is this Norwegian airline, which also flies from 13 U.S. cities to ones throughout Europe. Honig says Norwegian is preferable because it offers nonstop flights and often flies brand-new Dreamliner planes. Their website homepage displays deals like $99 from New York to Ireland one-way. (A return flight for that trip in mid-January is $180, but it’s the cheapest you’ll find right now: Google Flights says the next-cheapest option is $469, with an extra stop to boot.) Norwegian’s ticket prices include a personal item and carry-on bag, though there’s a luggage weight limit.
This Scandinavian carrier announced it would start flying from Boston and NYC to London, Paris and Birmingham, England starting in spring 2018. They celebrated the news with $99 one-way flights, which are still available on select dates. You’ll need to be based in Boston or NYC to take advantage of these low fares.
This new Spanish carrier currently flies from Los Angeles and the San Francisco area to Barcelona. We found round-trip flights from the Oakland airport to Barcelona for $442 in mid-January, while Google Flights priced the next-cheapest round-trip at $719 for the same dates. Though routes are limited and the airline only offers flights on select days of the week, there’s potential they will expand in the future.
Based in Germany, Eurowings currently flies from five U.S. cities to Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The airline is one of many offering increasingly cheap flights within Europe, but deals from the U.S. to Europe look slim right now: The cheapest Miami to Berlin flight we found was $474 one-way, which was more expensive than Google Flights’s best option. Still, this airline is worth watching, as it may beef up its U.S. service in the future.