Connecting the continents cheaply

These alternative airlines—intercontinental low-cost carriers—can make crossing the Atlantic or Pacific or other long-haul international flights less expensive

A no-frills airline germanwings plane taxis for take-off in Split, Croatia
No-frills airlines started off largely just shuttling Londoners to Ibiza and other holiday hotspots in the Mediterranean. Nowadays, no-frills have sprung up in Germany, Scandinavia, Italy, and elsewhere and their destinations are getting ever-more exotic and exciting. This germanwings plane, for example, just landed in Split, Croatia from Berlin and will soon take off for Cologne-Bonn.
Believe it or not, you can now fly between the U.S. and Europe, between Europe and Asia, and between Europe and Africa on a budget airline and on the cheap.

How cheap? How about £10 one-way from London to Marrakech, or £99 each way from London to Hong Kong? Not bad!

It's true. I have flown directly to Palermo, Italy from New York City on a brand-new jet operated by Eurofly. I had as roomy and comfy a seat as I have ever suffered in coach, I had my own seat back screen with a wide selection of fresh-to-DVD movies, and I had food that, well, was airline food.

And guess what? My ticket only cost $350. Roundtrip. In high season. That was literally half of what major airlines wanted to charge me, and they were going to route me on a stopover in Rome .

• Between North America and Europe
• Between North America and Asia
• Between Europe and Asia/Middle East
• Between Europe and Latin America
• Between Europe and Africa

Frankly, I am flabbergasted that most of the travel publishing industry isn't crowing from the mountaintops about this astounding development in low-cost/high-service air travel. I'm here to rectify that oversight.

Here are the low-cost players currently connecting the continents.

Flying Cheaply between Europe and North America:

Flying from the U.S./Canada to: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, the U.K.

You'd be forgiven for believing that the only way to fly across the Atlantic was on either (a) one of the major US carriers like American Airlines, Delta, United, and such, or (b) one of Europe's "flag carrier" airlines, the formerly national carriers (now technically privatized, but still largely state-supported) such as British Airways, Air France, Alitalia, Lufthansa, etc.

You'd be wrong, but you'd be forgiven.

That's because chances are no one's ever taken you aside and whispered in your ear names like Air Berlin, Jet Airways, Air Europa, and Eurofly.

Those are just a few of the alternative transatlantic carriers that often charge far less than the Big Boys to fly you from the USA or Canada to—in these particular cases—Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy respectively.

The best news is that roundtrip fares from the U.S. start at $348 to Germany, $399 to Spain, $576 to Ireland, and $649 to Italy—and that's during the summer high season!

So where did these alternative Transatlantic airlines come from? Some of these guys—like Norway's Norwegian Air Shuttle or Germany's Condor—are former charter or regional feeder airlines that are now striking out on their own with regularly scheduled services sold directly to the public (rather than via a tour company or branded under a major carrier).

Flying from the U.S./Canada to: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, the U.K.

Then there are those that blur the line between traditional carrier and budget alternative. Virgin Atlantic ( was started expressly to compete against a major airline (British Airways) on its own turf by plying the transatlantic routes as a full-fledged rival. Aer Lingus arrived in this category from the other direction by reinventing itself as an inexpensive hybrid airline somewhere between a traditional carrier and a no-frills airline.

OK, here are the airlines:

Flights to Austria

Air Berlin ( - Also flies Los Angeles, Miami and Ft. Myers to Vienna via Germany.

Flights to Belgium

Jet Airways ( - This is a low-cost Indian airline, but it gets you to India via Brussels, so you can always just book New York–Newark, or Toronto to Brussels. (Or, you know, go all the way to Chennai, Delhi, or Mumbai in India—fun!) Also, they fly the other way 'round from San Francisco to Mumbai via Shanghai...also fun.

Flights to the Czech Republic

Air Berlin ( - Also flies Miami and Ft. Myers to Prague via Germany.

Flights to Denmark

Air Berlin ( - Also flies Miami and Ft. Myers to Copenhagen via Germany.

Flights to France

Air Berlin ( - Despite its Teutonic name, also flies Miami and Ft. Myers to Paris via Germany.

Flights to Germany

Condor ( - A member of the Thomas Cook group, offering year-round direct flights to Frankfurt from Baltimore, Ft. Lauderdale, Las Vegas, Anchorage, and Fairbanks (and connecting service from San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle) in the U.S., and Toronto, Vancouver, Halifax, Calgary, and Whitehorse in Canada.

Air Berlin ( - Air Berlin is fairly new, but one of its subsidiaries, LTU, has been around since 1955 and flying from the U.S. since 1990. Main German hubs are Düsseldorf and Berlin, but connecting to Dresden, Hamburg, Munich, Nuremberg, and Stuttgart. U.S. departure cities are New York, Los Angeles, Miami, and Fort Myers (as well as Vancouver in Canada).

TUIfly ( - The former Hapag-Lloyd Express flies from New York, Las Vegas, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Anchorage, and Fairbanks (plus Halifax, Calgary, Vancouver, and Whitehorse in Canada) to various airports in Germany.

Flights to Ireland

Aer Lingus ( - Direct flights to Shannon and Dublin from NYC, Boston, Chicago, and Orlando—they also now offer many connections via jetBlue to other U.S. cities. Over the past few years, Aer Lingus has successfully transformed itself from Ireland's old (and over-priced) flag carrier into a far less expensive hybrid airline, operating a full complement of connections and long-haul routes but hewing much more closely on the no-frills mentality—including slashing ticket prices.

It's telling that, alone among Europe's old guard airlines, Aer Lingus is the only one now consistently turning a profit without its government having to unload dump trucks full of money into its coffers just to keep it solvent. This represents, perhaps, the only future for any major airline that wants to survive the ongoing wave of bankruptcies and mergers.

Flights to Italy

Meridiana ( - Former charter branch of Alitalia (flying from Italy to popular vacation destinations), spun off in 2003 and, as of winter 2012, offering scheduled transatlantic flights in the summer and fall from New York City (JFK) to Palermo and Naples (in the past, they've sometimes added Rome, Milan, Bologna, and other Italian cities).

Flights to Portugal

Air Europa ( - New York to Lisbon via Madrid (as of January 2010).

Flights to Spain

Air Europa ( - New York Miami to Madrid and Miami to Madrid and Tenerife (as of 2010).

Flights to Switzerland

Air Berlin ( - Also flies Los Angeles, Miami and Ft. Myers to Zurich via Dusseldorf.

Flights to the U.K.

Virgin Atlantic ( - Flights to London from New York, Newark, Washington, DC, Boston, Chicago, Miami, Orlando, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and a half-dozen Caribbean islands. (Also: Orlando to Glasgow, Manchester.) Virgin Atlantic has been such a success that it has not only helped drive the price of flying to London down to affordable levels—an example of the benefits of free market competition at its best—but has also deservedly taken its rightful place as a major carrier itself, even if its arch-nemesis British Airways is still nominally Britain's "flag carrier." However, since Virgin is also still a legitimate alternative airline (though, far from no-frills, it has a history of being the first to introduce such economy-class luxuries as small grooming kits and personal seat back entertainment screens), it gets counted on this page as well.

Flights between North America and Asia

Jet Airways ( - Not always low-cost—but sometimes—This Indian airline flies from New York-Newark and Toronto to Chennai, Mumbai, and Delhi (via Brussels—probably the cheapest ticket direct to Brussels you'll find).

Eva Air ( - Roundtrip fares as low as $880 from L.A., San Francisco, Seattle, and New York to China (Hong Kong, Macau), Thailand (Bangkok), Taiwan (Taipei), and the Phillippines (Manila), and Indonesia (Jakarta).

Flights between Europe and Asia/the Middle East/Australia

Condor ( - Germany to India (Goa), the Indian Ocean (the Seychelles, Mauritius, the Maldives, Sri Lanka), Thailand (Phuket), Dubai, and Egypt (Sharm el Sheik, Hurghada, Luxor, Marsa Alam).

Meridiana ( - Italy to Male/the Maldives, and Tel Aviv.

Air Berlin
( - Consolidated with LTU in 2007; Germany (mostly Dusseldorf, with connections on from many other cities) to Thailand (Bangkok, Phuket), India (Goa), Sri Lanka, Maldives.

Virgin Atlantic ( - Flights from London to Dubai, Delhi, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai. Also (though I realize this is not in Asia) London to Sydney.

Jet Airways ( - Indian airline flying from London to Delhi and Mumbai; from Brussels to Mumbai (Bombay), Delhi, Chennai, and Bengaluru; and from Milan to Delhi.

Flights between Europe and Latin America

Condor ( - Germany to Costa Rica, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, and the Caribbean (Antigua, Barbados, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago).

Air Comet ( - Though it also flies from Madrid to London, Paris, and Rome, as of 2007 it's also focusing on the Spain-to-Latin America market: offering flights from Madrid to Buenos Aires, Argentina; Santiago, Chile; Bogotá, Colombia; San José, Costa Rica; Havana, Cuba; Quito and Guayaquil, Ecuador; the Dominican Republic; and Lima, Peru.

Virgin Atlantic ( - Flights from London to the Caribbean/Atlantic islands (Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Tobago).

Air Berlin ( - Germany and Vienna to the Caribbean (Cuba, Dominican Republic, Jamaica), Mexico (Cancun).

Flights between Europe and Africa

Meridiana ( - Italy to Kenya (Mombassa), Senegal (Dakar), Mauritius, the Canaries; in the past, also service to Egypt (Cairo, Sharm el Sheik) and Tanzania (Zanzibar).

Condor ( - Germany to Kenya, Tanzania, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, the Canaries, and the Indian Ocean (the Seychelles, Mauritius, the Maldives).

TUIfly ( - The former Hapag-Lloyd Express flies from Germany to Egypt, Morocco, the Canaries, and Cape Verde islands.

Air Berlin ( - Consolidated with LTU in 2007, and despite its name connecting many other places than just Germany. Flies from major German cities to Egypt, Kenya, South Africa (Cape Town), Namibia, Morocco.

EasyJet ( - England, Spain, France, Italy, and Switzerland to Morocco plus London to Egypt (Sharm el Sheik and Hurghada).

Ryanair ( - England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Belgium to Morocco; also Germany, England, Scotland, and Ireland to the Canary Islands.

Thomsonfly ( - England and Scotland to Egypt, Morocco, and the Canaries.

Virgin Atlantic ( - Flights from London to South Africa (Cape Town and Johannesburg), Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana.

Aer Lingus ( - Direct flights to Dublin to Agadir, Morocco.

Tours Under $995 G Adventures

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This article was by Reid Bramblett and last updated in June 2012.
All information was accurate at the time.

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