The sad state of summer airfares to Europe

Onboard British Airways's new A380 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Onboard British Airways’s new A380 (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

If you are planning to buzz over the pond this summer, I hope you’ve already made your reservations. Whether you’re flying at the front or the back of the plane, it’s going to be painful. But there is some light at the end of the tunnel summer…and some bright spots when it comes to business class…

Let’s take a look at three key markets (New York, Atlanta and San Francisco) to get a picture of what’s going on nationally…

First stop: the hyper-competitive New York to London nonstop market. According to Google’s phenomenal ITA Software airfare search tool, the cheapest nonstop round trips for June and July are already at $1,600 and climbing. The good news is that fares start to tumble on around August 24, with roundtrip nonstops in the $1,100 range. Business class fares start out steep—around $6,000 in June, but tumble to just $3,500 in July and August when biz travelers are on vacation (and not on the company dime!)

It gets worse.

Atlanta to London is less competitive, and prices reflect that. June nonstops ATL-LHR are already at a rather shocking $2,100 round trip in economy. Ouch! But if you can travel after August 23 and into September, that coach fare comes down to a more manageable $1,300. Business class nonstops ATL-LHR are running at about $6,200 round trip all summer long. Flights to smaller European cities from ATL are a bit cheaper; for example, I found a few nonstops to Dublin or Barcelona in the $1,700 range. One of the better biz class bargains out of Atlanta this summer is on Lufthansa to Frankfurt, now selling for just $3,300 roundtrip throughout July and August. Delta’s matching fare is $3,700.

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A business class seat in full recline on an SAS A340 SFO-CPH (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

A $3,028 business class seat in full recline on an SAS A340 SFO-CPH. (Photo: Chris McGinnis)

Related: Tip: What exactly is “high tea?”

Moving west, there’s something interesting going on. San Francisco to London nonstops are just over $2,000 in mid-June, then decline to around $1,700 in early July. By August 25, they nosedive to $1,150, which is not bad. Business class roundtrips on SFO-London are a stiff $7,800+ through June but in July (when biz travelers tend to stay home) prices drop to about $4,500 round trip. Norwegian Air is offering sub $1,000 roundtrip fares on a handful of its new Oakland-Stockholm or Oslo nonstops. The best summer business class deal to Europe from SFO is on SAS— fares on its SFO-Copenhagen nonstops are currently running just $3,028 roundtrip all summer long, then pop back up to $4,700 when business travelers go back to work in September. (I flew SAS to from SFO to Copenhagen last winter. Here’s my trip report) United and Lufthansa have business class roundtrips SFO-FRA at about $3,700 throughout much of the summer.

Are you or someone you know hoping to head to Europe this summer? How much did you pay for your ticket? Or how many miles did you redeem?

(NOTE: Nonstop fares searched on Thursday June 5 and subject to change.)

Chris McGinnis

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