Last minute flights to Europe sometimes come with low price tags. Airlines will cut prices to fill empty seats.
But waiting until the last minute to purchase European flights is not a consistently strong strategy. Many times, it will cost you more than buying at a conventional time -- many weeks before departure.
Once that is understood, it certainly doesn't hurt to look at special offer pages for European air carriers to survey the possible bargains. If you have a flexible schedule, take advantage of the best offers without delay. These deals tend to evaporate without warning.
Consider Budget Carriers
When searching for deals in Europe, you have at least two options: the major carriers and their special offers, or the budget carriers of Europe that offer connections at cheap prices.
Let's start with a link page to Europe's budget airlines. This is a growing list, and it's tough to keep current because many of these bold challengers fail to survive in a brutally competitive business environment. Nonetheless, a great starting point for this kind of search is a website called Euroflights.info. There you'll find a current list of budget airlines and the cities they serve within Europe and even beyond.
Special Offer Pages for Traditional Carriers
If the budget airline business model doesn't fit your needs, consider this list of traditional carriers. Note that many no longer push their special offers to a separate page. Many put them on the homepage.
- Aer Lingus offers sale fares from the home page and their base in Ireland.
- Air Berlin might not quite qualify as a "budget airline," but it offers some excellent deals between North America and Europe, as well as between European cities.
- Air France hosts a section on its website called "best offers." If you don't find anything you like, they invite you to enter your home airport for a menu of best deals.
- Alitalia offers its best deals within its homeland in Italy in one tab, and also a second tab with world deals.
- British Airways is pushed to compete with the United Kingdom's many budget carriers. They offer a variety of special offers and a "low price finder" that features the lowest fares for given destinations.
- CSA, also is known as Czech Airlines, is based in Prague. They offer deals sorted by country and by price.
- Iberia is based in Spain but serves Europe and about two-dozen American airports.
- Icelandair has long been a budget favorite of people traveling between Europe and North America. They post their sale offers on the home page.
- KLM is a Dutch airline that partners with Delta Airlines. KLM is among the airlines that have moved their best deals to the home page. Prices are quoted in euros. They also offer package deals.
- Lufthansa presents its sale fares on its homepage. Scroll through and scan for something appealing.
- Luxembourg Airlines is well-known by budget travelers and offers a variety of deals that get you to and from their location in the center of Western Europe.
- Swiss International Airlines will show "our best prices" for 10 U.S. destinations.
- Virgin Atlantic is based in the U.K. and usually links its best deals from the homepage.
Beyond Last-Minute Deals
Some of the special offer pages feature deals that are not last minute. In fact, some will urge you to book next summer's travel in fall or early winter. Airlines love to lock in business with non-refundable fares, even if they have to offer seats at low rates. The key, in both scenarios, is to fill seats.
Another important factor is Europe's abundance of budget carriers. Airlines that operate on a traditional business model are forced to compete with easyJet, Aer Lingus, and Ryanair. They might not always meet the budget carrier price points, but they'll go low enough to appeal to travelers who don't like the budget air model and are willing to pay slightly more for a ticket in exchange for traditional amenities such as printed boarding passes and beverage service.
The greatest point is that consumers have more choices than ever for travel in Europe. The big rewards go to travelers willing to consider something new and make plans carefully.