You can still find affordable flights to Europe this summer

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Christina Saull and her husband have waited five years to take a 10-day cruise through the Norwegian fjords. The first time they planned the trip, it was postponed for a medical emergency. The second time, there was a family wedding. Now, finally, they were getting ready to go in July.

Only they needed plane tickets.

“It’s interesting to see how expensive fares have been and how they’ve fluctuated,” said Saull, a public relations executive who lives in Alexandria, Va.

The couple watched prices go from as little as $900 round trip to as much as $2,500 for flights from Washington to Edinburgh, Scotland, and back from Copenhagen. They finally settled on premium economy seats for $2,000 each on Delta Air Lines and its partner Air France.

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable for summer Europe travel,” Saull said of what they paid.

Not unreasonable is a good way to describe transatlantic air travel this summer. Even with strong travel demand, tickets are cheaper on average than they were last year.

“Airfare to Europe is less expensive than last year by 10 percent,” said Hayley Berg, the lead economist at flight-booking app Hopper. The average round trip ticket before any extra fees costs $882, according to the data.

The highest fares are in June, July and August, Berg added. Traveling in shoulder months — for example, September and October — could save travelers as much as 30 percent.

Schedule data from aviation analytics firm Cirium Diio shows airlines will offer 8 percent more seats on U.S.-Europe routes from May through September than last year.

Philadelphia is gaining new nonstops to Copenhagen, Naples, and Nice, France, on American Airlines. Phoenix gets its first nonstop to Paris on Air France. Washington, a new flight to Zurich on Swiss International Air Lines. And many other routes additional flights or options on larger planes.

“In the transatlantic, we are looking forward to another strong summer,” said Glen Hauenstein, president of Delta Air Lines, referring to bookings earlier in April. He added the airline sees “healthy demand” for seats to Europe.

Paris has flight deals, but hotels are pricey

The Paris 2024 Summer Olympics are a bump in the finely tuned machine that is summer air travel to Europe. The Games run from July 26 through Aug. 11, and the French capital is expected to host some 15 million visitors during the event and the following Paralympic Games. Last summer, the city saw more than 6.2 million visitors in July and August.

“Paris will be like an Olympic village in July and August,” said Christine Ourmières-Widener, CEO of the French airline French Bee. All those visitors still need a way to get to the city. French Bee, which caters to leisure travelers like those going to the Games, has added flights from Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco to meet the demand.

Flight deals to Paris can still be found. Booking website Expedia recommends travelers buy tickets at least 21 days before their trip and, for international travel, look at departing on a Monday to find the best airfares.

Finding an affordable hotel in Paris during the Games is another matter. Expedia said it has seen a “massive surge” in searches for accommodations there this summer and recommends travelers look at nearby cities for more reasonably priced options.

Consider Nice, Prague and Reykjavik

Finn Vigeland, a transit planner who lives in Washington, was “quite surprised” last month when he found a good deal on flights to Nice, France, in July.

Prices on American Airlines’ new nonstop to Nice from Philadelphia were only $700 to $800 round trip, he said. That was affordable enough to make a trip to France with friends possible, and he booked the flight (with points, not cash).

Average fares to Nice from the United States are down a quarter to $907 compared to last summer, Hopper’s data shows. The city also has the distinction of being one of the few European destinations with lower airfares this summer than in 2019, 11 percent lower to be exact. That drop is, in part, thanks to a plethora of new flights on American, Delta, and United.

Amsterdam, Brussels, Prague, and Reykjavik, Iceland, are other European cities where ticket prices from the United States are down more than 20 percent from last year, according to Hopper.

Airfares are not down double-digits in all markets though. Fares to cities like Berlin and Glasgow, Scotland, are on par with last year.

Traveler after traveler said they felt like they could find reasonably priced plane tickets for trips between the United States and Europe this summer. Those who said they could not often lacked flexibility to adjust their trips to when and where fares are the cheapest.

“I felt like this was doable. It made sense,” Alexander Giess said of his plan to take his 10-year-old daughter on a three-week trip to France this summer.

After a lengthy search, in March the marketing executive paid about $1,000 each for two round-trip tickets to Nice from San Francisco on his preferred airline, Delta.

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