If you’re planning on taking a European river cruise next year, now is the time to book your flights and lock in a great deal. All the major airlines have just released their early bird fares for 2016 and return economy fares start from less than $1,600.

helloworld.com.au chief executive Jeremy Reitman told the Australian Financial Review last week that “research shows that for every month you wait to book after the early bird sales period, the cost of an airfare to Europe climbs three per cent. Early bird deals are a great way to lock in incredible savings and stretch your travel dollar even further. The average savings on an economy class ticket during early bird ranges from $200 to $350.”

Fares have remained at around the same level they were last year, despite fluctuations in the Australian dollar and fuel taxes. The cheapest fare Cruise Passenger could find is $1,492 from Perth to Madrid with Cathay Pacific, with flights from the east coast starting at just a few dollars more. Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Thai Airways and Etihad are offering fares from around $1,600-1,700 return. Mr Reitman told the AFR that the cheapest travel time is in March, with April and June the most expensive.

It’s also a great time to grab a deal up the pointy end, with return business class fares starting from around $7,000.