So you are planning to fly to Ireland? Generally speaking, finding a flight to Ireland, be it from Boston, Berlin, or Beijing, should not be a major problem. While there may not always be a direct way to fly to Ireland, most airlines offer routes that will take you to a final Irish destination (usually Belfast International, Dublin, or Shannon).
The most difficult choice will be sorting through all of the options you have to fly to Ireland.
Plane tickets to Ireland have never been cheaper, but the price differences between different companies can be enormous. What's more, the prices that you find through online travel websites do not always reflect the level of service you get. In fact, some flights advertised as "budget" options with a no-frills airline will leave you more out of pocket than a regular economy flight. And that is even before you take the first sip of onboard coffee. To help you plane the best flight, here is a look at the world of air travel from an Irish point of view.
Long-Haul Flights to Ireland
If you are flying into Ireland from the USA or Canada, your choice of direct routes to Ireland is very limited. This is also definitely the case if you are hoping to fly directly to Ireland from anywhere else in the world (except the United Arab Emirates). From these destinations, you can only fly to Ireland with at least one layover.
This is because Ireland does not have a major air travel hub on a truly international scale, and the closest major airports are around London or in continental Europe. This limits the choice of direct long-haul flights to Ireland, and most travelers (except those starting at a few airports in the United States, Canada, or the Emirates) will have to change planes to reach the Emerald Isle.
In the end, Ireland's small selection of international long-haul flights might be a blessing in disguise because it gives travelers the chance to plan a stopover somewhere else by including one of Europe's major cities in your itinerary. Travelers from South America might head for Ireland via Spain and spend a short break exploring Madrid. From all other continents, the hubs of Paris, Frankfurt, Rome, Amsterdam, and London cry out for a day or two of additional travel experiences. So why not choose a flight to Ireland connecting from a major European hub? Very often you may even get freebies thrown in. Turkish Airlines, for example, offers free city tours of Istanbul on longer stop-overs.
Short-Haul Flights to Ireland
Changes to the rules that regulate flights in Europe, as well as a growing European Community (EU), has led to a trend of ever-decreasing prices. Airplane tickets purchased for €20 are becoming the norm, with some flights across Europe being charged as low as € 0.01 (yes, one Eurocent). It has never been easier to travel around Europe.
However, in order to find these amazing deals, you will have to know which airlines actually fly to Ireland at the time you want to travel.
Routes tend to change quite often as airlines prioritize more profitable routes, and many of the most discounted flights never show up in conventional booking engines. This is because budget airlines keep prices low by aiming to cut out the middleman, i.e. the travel agent.
Myths and Misconceptions - The Truth About "Budget Airlines"
Speaking of budget airlines, never assume that what you see is always going to be what you get. The fact that airlines do offer budget flights at extremely low prices does not mean that all flights are actually cheap. It all depends on when you book, which route you are flying and if there are any specific sales and promotions. Irish airlines Ryanair and Aer Lingus are a good example - while generally you may get a cheaper flight with Ryanair, it may not be as convenient.
And if you mess up your booking (or leave it too late) you may end up paying more to fly than on Aer Lingus.
Rather than assuming a flight is cheap, it is better to think of these other airlines as "no frills". This better reflects the motto "You get the service you pay for". No-frills airlines strip down their planes to maximize passenger capacity and minimize weight. At the same time, while tickets may be cheap, the airlines probably have hidden charges for things many air travelers take for granted. You may have to pay extra to check luggage or even to enjoy your cup of in-flight coffee. See a list of those "hidden extras" below.
Ads and Bargains on Irish Flights - What to Believe
Though they may be boldly advertised as "Free Flights!" - there generally is no such thing. Unfortunately, you might only realize this after you have been charged quite a lot more to fly to Ireland than you ever expected from a bargain airline.
You have to be aware that most airlines do not quote the price you actually pay for your flight until you are about to hit "Purchase" on their website. The ads may be tempting you with prices before taxes and fees. Plus, there are nearly always hidden extras ...
Those Hidden Extras - Adding up the Whole Price
The low prices shown in airline ads are exactly the price you pay to the airline for flying you from A to B, but this is actually much less than your flight will cost you. Confused?
In addition to that technically low price for the flight, you are also responsible for taxes that are set by the government. Then the airport itself will add a charge to the ticket to help pay for their overhead costs. All this easily works out to an additional € 20 (minimum) per flight. As you can see, these extra fees start to add up quickly.
But the airlines themselves also like to dig into your pocket. Do you have luggage that does not fit into the overhead bin the cabin? Do you really need "Priority Boarding", now that seats are allocated? Using a credit card? Direct debit? Want in-flight meals or drinks? All this will cost you extra! And then they try to sell you costly travel insurance you might already have ...
The only advice:
Check and double-check the final price including all extras before committing yourself!
DIY or Full Service - Where to Book Your Flight to Ireland
Luckily, it has gotten much easier to book online and to cut out travel agents and their fees and/or preferences. Before logging on, be prepared to put in some work and do a bit of math. It might even be worthwhile to open a spreadsheet that includes all the things you have to factor in (from the basic flight price, plus luggage, to the cost of in-flight meals and/or drinks, if needed).
Easy Money - Take Time to Shop Around
It is generally true that you can save money when you fly to Ireland by booking early - a few months in advance is good. If you wait too long for a special bargain to surface then you risk that prices might actually go up and you will end up paying more.
Once you have picked your preferred time of travel, hit the web and start searching. It can be helpful to enter all possible dates and prices (including all extras you need) into a spreadsheet and then weigh the pros and cons of the offers. It also helps to define a financial threshold for yourself in order to rule out flights that are simply too expensive to begin with. Then simply pick the offer with maximum convenience at minimum price ...
Finally - Avoid the "It Could Have Been Cheaper"-Blues
Once you have booked your flight, sit back, relax and don't think about it anymore until it is time to depart. There is no use in crying over spilled milk - and even less use in worrying that if you had just waited another eight days you would have saved another € 10. It might be true, but why torture yourself? Cancelling one flight and booking another one will almost certainly work out more expensive than keeping the original flight. And remember: You were OK with the price, weren't you? Now, enjoy that flight to Ireland!