(Update: March 20, 2015, 12 p.m. EST) Ryanair has retracted its statement that it will run transatlantic flights between the U.S. and Europe. On March 19, Ryanair released this statement: “In the light of recent press coverage, the board of Ryanair Holdings Pic wishes to clarify that it has not considered or approved any transatlantic project and does not intend to do so.”
For the likes of airlines including American, British Airways, and Virgin Atlantic, flights between the U.S. and Europe have been reliable cash cows, largely immune to the corrosive effects of competition from low-cost airlines.
It’s not that low-cost carriers haven’t tried. Famously, Sir Freddie Laker’s Skytrain began selling tickets between New York and London in 1977 for as little as 32.50 pounds each way.
The cheap flight party lasted until February 1982, when the one-two punch of a recession and competitors’ predatory pricing forced the airline out of business.
More recently, Norwegian Air, Europe’s third-largest budget carrier, has thrown its hat into the low-price Transatlantic ring, boasting New York-London fares for as low as $259.90 each way.
But it’s been dribs and drabs, fits and starts, and stops. None of the would-be budget Transatlantic carriers has reached critical mass and sustained it long enough to force the full-service airlines to lower their ticket prices. A change, however, may be in the air.
This week, Ryanair’s board gave the airline the go-ahead to launch flights between as many as 14 U.S. cities and a comparable number of cities in Europe. According to coverage of Ryanair’s plans by The Guardian, the airline envisions one-way fares beginning at a staggeringly low 10 pounds (about $15 at current exchange rates).
Related: Europe’s Cheapest Cities in 2015
Budget travelers will have to put their trip planning on hold for the time being. The new service could take as long as five years to materialize, depending on the availability of long-haul planes Ryanair will need to operate the new flights.
For $30 round-trip, plus whatever add-on fees Ryanair can squeeze from passengers, travelers can expect barely tolerable legroom and bare-bones service.
For some, the comfort trade-off will make Ryanair a non-starter. But even those who spurn Ryanair’s cramped flights will benefit from its presence in the market, as the incumbent carriers are forced to cut ticket prices to fill seats.
It’s been a long time coming, but Freddie Laker’s dream of reliably budget-priced flights between the U.S. and Europe may be just a few years away.
Reader Reality Check
How much comfort are you willing give up to enjoy rock-bottom ticket prices?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.
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