In the market for a one-way ticket to Europe? Whether it’s part of a larger itinerary, or you plan on redeeming your award points to get back, you're sure to endure some sticker shock during your search. Contrary to common belief, no, a one-way ticket won't cost half the price of a roundtrip itinerary. In fact, it'll probably cost even more.
So how can the airlines get away with sometimes charging twice as much for half the service?
Fares to Europe Don’t Have to Cost a Fortune with These Carriers
Simple. Up until a few years ago, competition allowed them too, and consumers looking for flexible fares across the Atlantic felt the sting. Seen below, some traditional carriers still think a $3,000 fare is a suitable price on a one-way flight from New York-JFK to Paris-CDG. Again, that’s not even in business class!
By holding leisure and business passengers hostage with exorbitant prices on single-way tickets, customers have been forced to purchase roundtrip itineraries (which the airlines prefer) or suck it up and pay the premium for a one-way often to the tune of hundreds more.
But the times, they are a changing, and reasonable one-way fares to Europe are becoming a reality thanks to a handful of upstart budget carriers vying for a piece of the transatlantic puzzle.
Here’s a list of airlines that are continually offering outstanding one-way deals to Europe on a regular basis.
The market disruptor. Before Norwegian Air took its template across the Atlantic, finding a reasonable one-way fare to Europe was a nearly impossible feat. Nowadays, it’s commonplace in many markets. By selling cheap one-way itineraries, the European budget carrier has found its niche within the transatlantic scene and has one of the highest percentages on passenger loads by any foreign carrier.
While selling tickets is the airline's strong suit, its eagerness and rapid expansion has put stress on the company's financial situation. Now in sustainability mode, the future of low-cost one-way offerings to Europe relies heavily on Norwegian’s survival in the market. To keep the proliferation of $100ish one-way fare deals afloat, consumers will have to keep their fingers crossed that Norwegian steers clear through its current financial turbulence. If it does, expect the airline to continue as the top provider of outstanding one-way fares flying overseas.
To even out the transatlantic playing field, aviation giant IAG, the parent company to British Airways and Iberia, launched the new low-cost-carrier LEVEL in 2017. Established to take on rival budget long-haul carrier Norwegian in several markets, LEVEL has burst on the scene with deeply discounted fares to destinations like Barcelona (BCN) and Paris (ORY) for as low as $120 one-way. Still in its infancy, the carrier's network is pretty lean, but hopefully, it will expand to bring other outstanding single journey fare deals to U.S. airports beyond Boston (BOS), San Francisco (SFO), and the NYC area (JFK & EWR).
Not technically considered a low-cost-carrier, TAP Air Portugal has been putting on its best impersonation of one as of late. The flag carrier of Portugal has undergone a dramatic transformation since being semi-privatized in 2015 by switching up its business model and applying some of the competition’s tactics.
Most notably is the introduction of TAP’s phenomenal one-way fares for flights to/from its seven U.S. gateways. Tickets on routes to Europe that would typically fetch thousands are now pricing as low as $115 one-way on select routes like New York-JFK to Madrid (MAD). Not only are these fares the lowest we've seen by a "traditional" carrier, but they also include the ability to add in a free stopover in the carrier’s Lisbon (LIS) or Porto (OPO) hubs along the way, turning these already fantastic fares into one of the best 2-for-1 deals in the entire industry. For example, I was able to book a one-way ticket from Boston to Dublin with a three-day stopover to explore Lisbon on the way for $138 total. That’s some incredible value!
One of the better under the radar options is Air Tahiti Nui’s semi-Fifth Freedom route, connecting Los Angeles and Paris (CDG). As the only route in the carrier’s network linking up the U.S. and Europe, flyers will be limited to just Paris for a cheap one-way, but those savings could be substantial. At roughly $300 one-way, Air Tahiti Nui’s LAX to CDG service comes in slightly higher than competitor Norwegian Air offerings. But when factoring in the carrier’s superior baggage policy, complimentary meals, and overall better amenities, Air Tahiti Nui tends to come out as the best choice for most flyers.
Related: What Are Fifth Freedom Flights?
Low-cost-carrier French Bee is another airline hooking up West Coast flyers with outstanding one-way deals to Paris, but instead of LAX, you’ll find the Bee buzzing around the gates at San Francisco International Airport. Service between SFO and Paris-Orly (ORY) began in 2018, linking the two airports with their only nonstop option, and providing Bay Area travelers with flights to the City of Lights that regularly cost under $200 one-way.
Both in the business of ferrying European holidaymakers to leisure destinations in the States, charter airline TUI Airways and Condor carry inexpensive one-way tickets across the pond with them, too. Looking to fill up return flights over the Atlantic, these carriers often lists outstanding last-minute one-way fares from departure cities like Miami (MIA), Orlando (MCO), and Las Vegas (LAS) to several destinations across the UK and Europe. Most service is seasonal, and travel dates are a bit hit-and-miss, but if you’re in the market for a ticket leaving at the eleventh hour, they might have a flexible fare deal with your name on it.