Cruise fares are cheaper than ever, and there are more cabins available. But as Cruise Passenger reported two weeks ago, the soaring price of airfares has stopped many Australians from booking an overseas cruise holiday.

Flight prices to hotspots such as Europe are much higher than they were pre-pandemic, creating price obstacles for those who want to go and cruise overseas.

An escape to the European summer is clearly the desired move for many Australians, with Kayak sharing with Cruise Passenger that the most searched destinations between June and September are London, Paris, Athens, Rome, and Istanbul.

Kayak also shared that the average return economy for international flights across the globe is up more than 21% over last year.

Expedia told us that international flight capacity is still only 77% of pre-pandemic levels, contributing to soaring prices.

Expedia brands managing director Daniel Finch said: “With the rising cost of living an ongoing concern for many Australians, looking for ways to cut costs when travelling has never been more important. Expedia’s 2023 Air Travel Hacks Report found that while average ticket prices for international flights are higher than pre-pandemic levels, airfares will continue to level out as the travel industry recovers and demand grows.”

To help you find your best Europe flights, Cruise Passenger got in contact with the experts to get you all the information you need.

flight prices
How do you save on flights?

The best way to get to Europe

Belle Goldie, owner of iTravel Penrith says that she’s had clients becoming disillusioned with finding reasonable Europe flights. However, with a bit of finesse, she says you can save yourself thousands.

Clients have contacted me and said we’re looking online and we can’t find flight prices to Europe under $5,000 for June and July.

“My advice is if you are looking for a cheaper option, add an extra stop. Emirates have super cheap fares at the moment from Sydney to Bangkok, then Bangkok to Dubai and Dubai into Europe.”

Ms Goldie says that routes such as the aforementioned Emirates flight, meaning you will have to forgo a bit of comfort for savings.

Clients have been quoted $5,600 for Emirates. But by providing a bit of ingenuity and invention, by stopping in Bangkok, they saved $1,400 per person. If you fly with Lufthansa or Swiss Air, these routes get you to Europe and back for under $3000 in June and July this year.

It’s just where are you willing to go to get to where you need to go, and for what price.”

Another nifty route for Europe flights is to go through the US.

Airfares are still very reasonable as long as people are reasonable in the routing they’re going to take to get to their destinations. I’ve found some affordable airfares from Sydney to San Francisco, then San Francisco to London, from about $1999 per person. Again, think outside of the box with the routing.

Going through the United States can be beneficial as they’re not typically travelling to Europe in June and July, they’re more likely to be travelling within their own country or to Mexico or Canada. Meaning prices from America to Europe aren’t as steep.

Another route is getting a cheap return to Los Angeles or San Francisco, then internal flights to New York, then there are super cheap fares into New York with FinAir into Helsinki.”

Kayak Brand Director Nicola Carmichael adds that booking about six to 11 months in advance is the best way to keep prices down.

“Aussies looking to get great deals on flights to enjoy the European summer should think about starting their planning and budgeting process now, booking your flight 178 days in advance (half a year) could help you save up to about 55% on average of your international flight price.”

Ms Carmichael also shares some info on what cities are trending in price.

“There are great deals available for savvy travellers. Italy, for example, has seen an average return economy airfare increase of about 50% compared to 2022, the price increase for flights to Paris instead is only around 6% – and Paris is just a short two-hour flight away from Rome”

Skyscanner shared that rather than stressing over which airlines have the best prices, it’s better to prioritise flexibility.

“When it comes to getting more bang for your buck, the real difference in price comes from flexibility in booking rather than picking and choosing fares based on the airline itself. To get the best price for your trip, consider mixing and matching the airlines you fly with on different legs of the journey. You can also consider flying in and out of different airports, depending on which is cheapest.”

City-hop in Europe

Through using internal flights or the train, you can generally find huge flight savings by not necessarily flying into the city where your cruise is.

Ms Goldie says taking the rail in-between European cities or countries is a great option.

A lot of clients I’ve been booking have been saying ‘listen, Belle, we don’t care where we fly into’ because their destination will be for example, Paris, and then I’ll find them cheap flights into say Amsterdam, Rome or Venice, then I’ll just book them the internal train.

Utilising rail is something that people forget to do, it’s so easy to get around Europe via the rail system. Why not book a cheaper airfare into a different but close destination city, then add that as a destination on your city instead of flying directly into the city you’re going to for maybe $2,000 or $3,000 more.”

Ms Goldie has also been advising some clients to fly into an airport, then hire a car for the journey to their next destination.

A lot of clients are booking cruises out of Southampton at the moment, but they’re only looking at flights in and out of London, but rather you could look at Gatwick or Dublin, again different destinations and then city hop between where you’re flying into and the cruise destination. Or again, take the rail. Or I’ve had some clients flying into Gatwick instead of Heathrow, then hiring a car to drive to Southhampton, because flights in and out of Heathrow were $2000 more during that period of time.”

Open-jawing your flight is also another smart saver.

Also flying in and out of different airports can often save you thousands. For example, depending on availability, flying into Rome but out of Venice, could end up saving you thousands on your airfare.

The major airports are filling up fast and the airfares are not as great.”

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Ride the rail.

How much should you be paying?

While many people seem to be staring down the barrel of $5000 plus fares, Ms Goldie says you shouldn’t be paying this much for peak Europe this season.

You’re looking at around $2500 to $3500 is a good fare range, again, if you do research or find yourself a good agent, you can generally get in and out of Europe for those prices.”

Skyscanner shared the following prices for return travel as a guide, however, it is worth considering these are the cheapest possible for a certain day and may have involve lengthy stopovers.

:As of 24th February, the below prices can be secured from Sydney airport for return travel for the 3rd of July 2023 – 21st July 2023, found using Skyscanner’s “Search Everywhere” tool. ”

  • Rome from $2,153
  • Paris from $2,319
  • Frankfurt from $2,411
  • Dublin from $2,608
  • London from $2,662

What about next year?

If you’re wanting to travel much later in 2023 or next year, Ms Goldie says there isn’t much use in sticking around and waiting for flight prices to drop.

I think the revenge travel is still very much happening. People who waited two or three years during COVID are still booking in advance for that dream holiday they didn’t get to do. 

“Because availability ran out so quickly for this year, I’m now seeing people who come through the door who want to travel in June or July next year, and want to start planning as soon as possible so as soon as those airfares come out 11 months in advance, they’re booking. 

“I would not be waiting, I don’t think the airfares require heavy discounting their fares still, I don’t think we’re going to see those traditional Europe early bird fares.”

Should you fly directly with your cruise line?

Ms Goldie says while flights with your cruise line can be another good comparison tool to find the best fare, their real advantage lies not in price, but in increased flexibility versus directly through the airline.

Some of the things I saw, especially during Covid when clients booked directly through the cruise lines for air travel, was flexibility with cancellations, refunds, and rebooking.

“The downside is that it’s not always going to be the best price, so again compare it with what else you or your agent can find.”

However, many cruise lines at the moment are offering flight credit with certain deals and promotions, so if this is part of a cruise deal that interests you, it may be worth considering flying with your cruise line.

A lot of cruise lines at the moment are offering air credit, such as Seabourn, Holland America, Royal Caribbean, and MSC Cruises are offering up to $1,000 air credit, so it can also be worth weighing up the benefit of this credit versus booking your flights yourself. 

“But the biggest benefit is definitely the flexibility if something were to go wrong, but it may not be the cheapest route to go, you have to weigh up your options.”

europe flights
Seabourn is offering great value for flight credit.

How about business class?

Ms Goldie says a similar approach on business class flights can also lead to big savings, sharing the story of a recent client.

“I had clients who wanted business class into Europe, with basically any of the big carriers. There’s a trick fare which you can get very cheap. Business class flights with Etihad into Europe via Abu Dhabi, and then you just buy a cheap return from Sydney to Singapore, with Qantas or whoever else you want to fly with.

“I did a mixed class fare for them the other for just $5,200. Don’t just look at those easy hops and easy tops, think where else can we get to Europe from our destination.”

Extra tips

Expedia shared the following quick money-saving tips for air travel

  • Book on a Sunday to save up to 20% on average:
    • Travellers who booked on a Sunday. People can save around 20% on domestic flights and international flights. The best day to avoid has been Friday for the past four years.
  • Book six months before international flights to save 25% on average
    • Travellers that booked around six months in advance of international travel saved an average of 25% compared to those who waited until three months out or less to book.
  • The key to booking international airfares is to book as soon as possible, with prices traditionally cheapest 160 days and earlier.

Skyscanner shared their own set of tips for getting the best prices for your overseas travel

  • Be price smart: Setting up price alerts will ensure you’re the first to know as prices drop with any additional discounts or added supply. You can mark a flight you’re interested in and Skyscanner will email you whenever there’s a price drop.
  • Try a new destination: ‘Revenge travel’ will see growing demand, especially as countries and destinations re-open, the pent-up demand means that more travellers are looking for inspiration. Skyscanner offers travellers a unique ‘Everywhere’ search opportunity to ensure you can find the best available possibilities for your trip. Swapping your usual break in Bali for Fiji for example, could be an unexpected delight. So let the algorithm decide with a search to ‘Everywhere’, which will present a plethora of options based on your travel dates, all ranked by price.
  • “Be flexible with dates: Skyscanner’s ‘whole month’ search tool allows you to see cheap flights immediately and pick the right deal for you. Consider travelling a day before or a day after your original departure dates, flying on less popular days of the week is always cheaper.
  • Mix & Match to save $$$: Not just a summer fashion trend, mixing and matching the airlines and airports you choose to fly with can seriously cut costs. Fares don’t have to be booked as returns, look at flying out with one airline and back with another, or out of one airport and back into another.
  • The early bird catches the late flight: Check for a departure flight in the evening after work or overnight. Depending on how long the flight is, you could get an extra evening, morning or full day in your destination. You might even make it out for a meal or some sightseeing when you land in the evening. Skyscanner allows you to filter for flights by time of day to go even further towards the most hours spent out-of-office. Flying at slightly less popular times means you are likely to get them cheaper, too.”