6 'Unknown' Transatlantic Airlines You Should Consider in 2018

Next year will see the continuing expansion by low-fare airlines offering flights from the U.S. and Canada to Europe. Norwegian and WOW have been making most of the headlines recently, but a few other lines, more obscure, will either expand on existing services or start completely new service.

Three of the six are subsidiaries of either a giant line or a large tourist-based line. The rationale seems to be that by starting an independent subsidiary, a giant line can cut costs by hiring younger, low-seniority pilots and crew—a rationale that didn't work well domestically for the big three but might for intercontinental flights. Still, there's no guarantee that at least one of the new services will last past 2018.

Most new services will be seasonal, with varying spring start and fall end dates, and many will operate only two or three times a week rather than daily. You can expect to see some "insane" one-way fares, but pricing practices usually result in round-trip fares that are much higher than twice the featured one-way figure. All airlines are currently open to online booking. Unless noted, the sample fares we show are round-trip for a two-week trip, July 11-25; plus or minus a few days on services that do not operate on those dates. Fees shown are also round-trip.  

Condor

The German unit of Thomas Cook Airlines has been flying between Germany and North America for many years, initially as an affiliate of Lufthansa but now an operating division of Thomas Cook. Condor flies to Frankfurt or Munich from Anchorage, Austin, Baltimore, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Phoenix (new in 2018), Pittsburgh, Portland, and Seattle.

Flights generally use 767s with economy seats at 30-inch pitch, stretched economy seats at 36-inch pitch, and business class with angle-flat seats. A few flights may use A330s from other Thomas Cook airlines.

Sample Fares between Pittsburgh-Frankfurt:

Base Economy: $980 (includes checked bag and meals, seat assignment $80)

Stretched Economy: $1,200 (seat fee $240)

Business: $2,200

Edelweiss

The low-fare division of Swiss International flies to Zurich from Calgary, Denver, Las Vegas, Orlando, San Diego, Tampa, and Vancouver. Edelweiss flies A330s with economy class, 8 across at 31-inch pitch; stretch economy, 8 across at 36-inch pitch; and lie-flat business class.

Sample fares between Denver-Zurich (all fares include checked bag, meals):

Economy: $723 (seat assignments $60, exit row $182, stretch seat $400)

Business: $4,662

Eurowings

Lufthansa's expanding low-fare brand has taken over some former Air Berlin routes, and will fly this summer to Cologne-Bonn or Dusseldorf from Ft Myers, Miami, New York/JFK, Orlando, and Seattle. Eurowings flies A330s with economy seats, 8 across at 30-inch pitch, stretch economy at 32-inch pitch, and premium economy at seven across and 45-inch pitch. Press reports say that Eurowings will introduce a flat-bed business class sometime in 2018, probably starting with flights from New York.

Sample fares between Ft Myers-Dusseldorf:

Basic Economy: $1,276; (hand baggage only; meals $18, checked bag $54, assigned middle seat $18, assigned window/aisle seat $40, stretch seat $186)

Economy: $1,386 (includes checked bag, meals, seat assignment, stretch seat $88)

Premium Economy: $2,299 (no extras)

French Blue

This startup line, an offshoot of Guadeloupe-based Air Caraibes, will fly twice weekly from Paris/Orly to Papeete, Tahiti starting in May, with a stop at San Francisco (or maybe Oakland). Although it does not yet have government approvals, French Blue expects to sell San Francisco-Paris and San Francisco-Papeete segments separately. French Blue will fly A350s, with regular economy, premium economy, and business, but the regular economy, at 10-across, will be among the tightest seats in the air. Premium economy will be better, but not great, at 36-inch pitch; business will be lie-flat.

French Blue is obviously not yet posting fares from San Francisco to Paris or Papeete. But given the substandard seating, you should probably avoid its economy class unless the fares are really great.

Level

The latest low-fare initiative from the IAG group—British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia, Vueling—will fly from a new base at Paris/Orly to Montreal and Newark and from its older base at Barcelona to Boston, Los Angeles, and Oakland. Rather than start a new corporation, Level will take over the operating certificate of OpenSkies, a BA affiliate that will cease flying the summer of 2018. Level flies A330s with economy, at standard 8-across and 31-inch pitch, and premium economy, at 7-across and 37-inch pitch.

Sample fares between Boston-Barcelona:

Level:  $443 (hand baggage only; checked bag $88, meal package $82. Seat reservation $78 window or aisle, $40 middle, stretch $141)

Level Plus: $598 (includes checked bag and meals; seat reservations extra)

Premium: $1,255 (seat reservation extra)

Primera Air

This startup operates as Primera Nordic, with a home office in Riga, Latvia, and Primera Air Scandinavia, based in Copenhagen. It will start flying this spring from Boston and Newark to Birmingham, London/Stansted, and Paris/De Gaulle. Flights will be in A321neos offering regular economy at 30 inch pitch, stretch economy at 32-inch pitch, and a few exit row seats, and premium at four-across (no pitch information yet).

Sample fare between Boston-London

Basic: $579 (hand baggage only; checked bag $67, seat assignment $44, stretch seat $107, meal $81)

Comfort: $759 (includes checked bag, meals)

Premium:  $1,616 (inclusive)

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