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Airfares to Europe Yield Some Pleasant Surprises

Airfare prices don’t surprise me all that often, but in researching an upcoming story about affordability in Europe right now, I was thrown for few loops, most of them pleasant.

Here are the things I think of as generally true of Europe airfare: Prices spike in the summer. Major cities in Western Europe tend to offer the best airfares. The farther east you go or the more off-the-beaten path you stray, the higher you can expect airfare prices to be. 

And while mostly these ideas held true as I was comparing prices, there were some serious exceptions to the rules. These delightful outliers (I’ll give you some examples in a minute) underscored just how important it is to be flexible and creative in your airfare searches if what you’re looking for is the best price. Comparing fares is something we here at SmarterTravel are constantly advising travelers to do, but it’s nice every once in a while to be reminded exactly why it matters.

Here are some of the most surprising fares I found (I was using the handy Farecompare Getaway Map, which displays round-trip economy prices found in the four hours previous to your search):

Cheaper in Summer: The lowest New York JFK-Budapest airfare in spring was $758, but the fare for the route in summer dripped to $617. I found a similar spring-to-summer price drop for New York to Paris flights. This isn’t probably a trend, but if I were looking to book right now I’d take this as a sign to grab that deal.

Farther Doesn’t Always Mean More: Seems like you’d need to pay a premium to fly to Kiev, Ukraine, given how far east it is in Europe, and how expensive comparable flights are. But when I checked, spring and summer low prices from JFK held steady at $620. For context, the April fare to London from JFK was $697.

Western European Hubs Vary Greatly: Fares into major Western European hubs like Paris, London, Madrid, and Frankfurt were far more varied than I expected. For instance, San Francisco to Madrid in April was an enticing $676, but London around the same time was $902.

Cheaper from the U.S. West Coast: In another example of distance not always correlating to price, the spring and summer lowest fares to Lisbon from San Francisco were actually less than the fares I found from New York JFK.

Are you on the lookout for Europe airfare? What have you been seeing?

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