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Tips and Caveats for Flying around in Europe

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koilife

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF w/ son #1 (2013); Logrono-Leon/Salvador/Primitivo w/ son #2 (2016)
Instead of flying from the US to Madrid next summer on one airline, I'm contemplating lower-cost long-haul options to get to/from Europe, and then use independently booked airfare in Europe to get from my long-haul city to my Camino start point and then back to my long-haul city after the Camino and any other excursions. A similar approach might be useful in maximizing use of airline points for long-haul.

My questions are about hopping around in Europe:
  1. How far ahead do I need to book before prices start to climb materially?
  2. What do I need to watch out for if flying budget lines (Ryan, TAP, etc.)?
  3. After adding up all the extra fees from the budget lines, am I still saving very much compared to the major airlines, such as Iberia?
  4. Which airlines tend to be more unreliable (delays, baggage issues, over booking, cancellations, etc.)?
  5. Are there long-haul cities that are more prone to disruption (strikes, etc.)?
  6. Are there other tips, gotchas, or good experiences to share that I didn't ask?
Thanks in advance!

P.S. I'm being deliberately vague about my particular cities and routes, because I'm really looking to surface the underlying principles/patterns that can be applied for wherever a person is coming from and for whatever Camino route they're considering.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-Finisterre X 2 - 2016 & 2017, El Norte - Irun to Vilalba 2018
The most important thing when flying on separate tickets is to have a lot of time between flights, preferably over night. If you miss a flight because of a delay in the first flight or schedule change of either flight you are looking at buying new tickets at the (usually much higher) walk up price.

Airlines can and do change their schedules so you could find that your two separate flights that had a long enough layover no longer do if the schedule of one or both changes. The farther ahead you book the higher the likelihood is that this will happen.
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
I'll follow this thread with much interest because I (as EU citizen) mostly fly within Europe and just can't answer the OP. Or the answer would be: it depends, it depends, it depends, it depends, it depends etc. etc. etc. :D
 

koilife

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF w/ son #1 (2013); Logrono-Leon/Salvador/Primitivo w/ son #2 (2016)
The most important thing when flying on separate tickets is to have a lot of time between flights
Yep. I always allow for extra transfer time, even here in the States between my location and the "gateway" east coast city for delays in transfer. Even if the airline will put me on the next flight due to a delay of their making, I could lose a day.

Also, I'm already assuming extra time to go through customs and immigration once on European soil.

Airlines can and do change their schedules . . . The farther ahead you book the higher the likelihood is that this will happen.
Exactly what was behind my question of lead time before prices go up. Depending on the long-haul destination, I might take an extra day to explore.
 

koilife

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF w/ son #1 (2013); Logrono-Leon/Salvador/Primitivo w/ son #2 (2016)
I'll follow this thread with much interest because I (as EU citizen) mostly fly within Europe and just can't answer the OP. Or the answer would be: it depends, it depends, it depends, it depends, it depends etc. etc. etc. :D
Exactly why I'm looking to see what principles can be flushed out so I can better navigate the "depends" aisle.

Which makes me laugh as Depend is a brand of disposable adult bladder leakage underwear in the US, which might come in handy if Ryan Air starts charging for bathroom usage during flights.
 

LiltingBanshee

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2020)
You have to go through customs & immigration at your first European port of entry, regardless of whether your connecting flight is with the same carrier. So you aren’t adding extra time by booking with a second European airline, for that reason anyway.

The budget European airlines do tend to fly out of smaller domestic airports, have stricter luggage policies, and if you don’t check in by the cutoff time (which is usually pretty early), you are out of luck. We always include an overnight stay between these flights.
 

koilife

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF w/ son #1 (2013); Logrono-Leon/Salvador/Primitivo w/ son #2 (2016)
You have to go through customs & immigration at your first European port of entry, regardless of whether your connecting flight is with the same carrier. So you aren’t adding extra time by booking with a second European airline, for that reason anyway.
In my case, I've always flown directly into Madrid from the States, so my first stop on European soil has always been my last stop. But you would have no way to know that since I didn't give my particulars . . . ;)
The budget European airlines do tend to fly out of smaller domestic airports, have stricter luggage policies, and if you don’t check in by the cutoff time (which is usually pretty early), you are out of luck. We always include an overnight stay between these flights.
That seems like a nod towards the non-budget airlines that would fly from the major airports. Less fuss and less time lost (the convenience v cost balancing act), unless I'm already planning stay over an extra day just to see the place.
 

jdpiguet

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Past? Not enough.
Future? Sure!
As Barbara just said: the train should be considered as well. For short haul trips, it is often faster because you don't have to wait for check-in/security/boarding...
My experience with EasyJet so far:
  • Avoid some week days
  • Don't book more than month in advance
  • Don't book less than one week in advance
  • Keep an eye on non budget airlines, they can offer special conditions
  • Europe is not equal to Schengen and not equal to EU...
Buen Camino, Jacques-D.
 

koilife

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF w/ son #1 (2013); Logrono-Leon/Salvador/Primitivo w/ son #2 (2016)
We do have rather a good train network.
I love travelling by train (I've used Renfe extensively to get to/from Madrid, etc.). Depending on what city I fly into, where my route is, and how much time I have, that makes a lot of sense. I tend to prefer a sleeper or premier class seat with deep recline for the longer trips, and especially after a long transatlantic flight.

I imagine it to be somewhat impractical for northern Europe given the much longer transport time, or places like Dublin.
 

koilife

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF w/ son #1 (2013); Logrono-Leon/Salvador/Primitivo w/ son #2 (2016)
Europe is not equal to Schengen and not equal to EU...
That's a really good point, as it could affect use of local currency, how long one can stay, additional trips through immigration/customs, and differing visa requirements. Is there a good "at a glance" website for the different countries in Europe that show the different boundaries and where these issues might crop up?

As a for instance, there are good rates right now into Dublin, which uses the Euro but isn't part of Schengen. I would imagine having to pass through immigration if flying into Lisbon from Dublin, but perhaps not.
 

TMcA

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pamplona to Santiago (2013)
Le Puy to Pamplona in segments (2013 - 2016)
Pamplona to León
My wife and I always fly from Montreal and we always fly on one carrier plus maybe its affiliate (i.e., KLM and Air France). We often do an open-jaw itinerary...for example, we have flown to Paris for a few days visit, then a train at additional cost to Hendaye, bus to Pamplona, and then a hike on the CF before returning to Montreal from Barcelona or Madrid. Here's why I like this approach:
  • the carrier bears responsibility for delays and rescheduling
  • a stopover to ease jet lag/visit friends/see the world cost costs almost nothing in additional charges - we did this enroute to Nairobi on KLM - flew from Montreal, stopped for three days in Amsterdam, then continued to Nairobi - all on KLM/Air France
  • more benefits from frequent flyer affiliation
  • no shuttles between airports - i.e., CDG to Paris Orly
  • more relaxed luggage requirements- free checked (bag), plenty of weight allowance
  • we always walk with hiking poles - they have to go in the hold and they can be attached to a backpack that is checked - or in our large Osprey shuttle that we use as the main repository for most of our equipment - our light day packs are carried on
  • many times you can take advantage of discount fares by selecting your carrier in advance and signing up for email notifications - you'll have to book in advance and decide whether you want to opt for a changeable ticket - if you go the non-changeable route like we do, you'll be at risk if you have anything that is not critical happen to you, someone close to you, etc. Our credit card provides this insurance gratis (for a reason that is critical) and we use that card to buy our tickets.
That's about all I can think of off the top of my head.

Good luck. You are correct, IMO, in assessing that air fare is the best place to possibly save money on a long trip.

Tom
 
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koilife

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF w/ son #1 (2013); Logrono-Leon/Salvador/Primitivo w/ son #2 (2016)
You are correct, IMO, in assessing that air fare is the best place to possibly save money on a long trip.
You might think so until you see my vino tinto bill by the end of the Camino . . . ;)

I've looked into open-jaws in the past, but they've always been much more expensive for may particular trips. I will of course check them in prep for this next trip.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-Finisterre X 2 - 2016 & 2017, El Norte - Irun to Vilalba 2018
So far I've been able to purchase my Camino flights using points that I earn using my Chase Sapphire credit card.
 
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TMcA

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Pamplona to Santiago (2013)
Le Puy to Pamplona in segments (2013 - 2016)
Pamplona to León
You might think so until you see my vino tinto bill by the end of the Camino . . . ;)

I've looked into open-jaws in the past, but they've always been much more expensive for may particular trips. I will of course check them in prep for this next trip.
Maybe it's because you have to fly from Denver with an intermediate U.S. stop.

I can never fly from Burlington, VT which is only 13 miles from my home, because I have to fly a preliminary short-hop leg to JFK, Dulles, or Newark and the fare is always $200-$400 more than flying from Montreal. Even with an additional secondary flight in Europe like Montreal-Paris-Lyon.

Boston or JFK direct to Europe is also much cheaper. But Montreal parking is cheaper than Boston's and the drive to Montreal is shorter. Sorry, Boston Logan.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, 2015
Not within Europe but a budget airline to Europe is Level (flylevel.com) with flights between Barcelona and the cities of San Francisco, New York and Boston. Once you've entered dates you can get views by months to find the days with the lowest fares. I haven't flown them yet but I have booked a $350 round trip (including tax). Level is associated with Iberia. Maybe you can get a cheap flight to one of the US cities.
 

jl

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances('05, '07), Aragonese ('05), del Norte / Primitivo ('09), Via Tolosana (Toulouse '05), Via Podiensis (Le Puy '07), Via Lemovicensis (Troyes '09), VF ('12), Winter Camino ('13/'14) Cammino d'Assisi ('14) Jakobseweg (Leipzig - Paris '15) San Salvador/Norte ('15) Ignaciano ('16) Invierno ('16)
This may not affect any of the posters above, but as an Australian I made an individual decision not to fly via any of the Arab State (in particular the UAE) due to the incredeible restraints that are put on women. Thus for my upcoming (April next year) Camino Portuguese I have booked to travel via Singapore to Barcelona and instead of flying direct into Lisbon I will catch a Vueling flight from there a few hours later. This also makes life easier coming home as I will just catch the direct (but lovely and slow) train to Barcelona. This is a lovely way to come off a Camino and re-enter normal life! I have decided that I may need to put my money where my mouth is - hence my decision.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP-Finisterre X 2 - 2016 & 2017, El Norte - Irun to Vilalba 2018
So far I've been able to purchase my Camino flights using points that I earn using my Chase Sapphire credit card.
And I recommend that my fellow Camino addicts look into getting a credit card that gives them points that can be transferred to airline mileage programs. In addition to the Chase Sapphire card (I can transfer the points one to one to the United mileage plan) I also have a United Airlines branded card which gives me perks when I purchase my tickets with it.
Also, many of these credit cards offer a sign up bonus when you spend a certain amount in the first few months. I earned 50,000 bonus miles with my Sapphire card (almost enough for a round trip to Europe, which can be as low as 60,000 miles), and 40,000 miles when I got the United card. I use my credit card for as many purchases as possible, and also for recurring payments: cell phone, electric bill, internet, etc. I do take care to pay my balance in full each month, so I'm not paying any interest.
 

André Walker

Never loosing my way: always standing on it
Camino(s) past & future
Holland-St.Jean, Frances, Del Norte, VdlP.
I don't know if my experiences might be of any help, but I'm going to bother you with it anyway.

When I choose to fly, I prefer flying with lowcost airlines. Within Europe flights will only take a couple of hours max and I don't feel the need for a meal or drinks on board (I'll buy a bottle of something at the airport and drink it during the flight). So just paying for the flight is perfect for me. Even when flying to the USA, the cheapest option by far was to fly lowcost to London and from there with a major airline to Washington. Instead of a direct flight from Amsterdam to London, which was way more expensive.

The downside is that, if you want to combine several flights, you cannot book them in one go. You'll have to book the different flights seperately. I've done that more than once and never ran into any problems, provided you plan enough time between connections.

If you're looking for tickects, make sure you use a website that also lists the lowcost airlines. Or use a site that specialises in lowcost airlines. Even then it makes sense comparing different sites. For example: I've searched for a flight from Paris (Charles de Gaulle) to Barcelona on September 6 on two different sites:
- www.lowcostairlines.nl (unfortunately only in Dutch)
- www.lowcostairlines.com

Both sites return the same flight. The first site however is cheaper (both including fees & taxes):

1565244382802.png

So, when you book through Iberia's website, you pay almost € 30 more than booking through Vueling's website. For the same flight.

What I don't like are the very strict baggage policies of the lowcost airlines. At the airports they have this box. If your cabin luggage doesn't fit into it, you'll have to pay so much extra that your cheap flight won't be cheap anymore. Whenever I'm going to walk a Camino, I only carry the smallest backpack possible, and would like it to be cabin luggage. Companies like Ryanair and Easyjet are notorious for being very strict. I don't know about all the lowcost airlines, but I do have a very good experience with Vueling.

It was on my 2016 Camino Del Norte. I booked a flight with a major airline to Barcelona (the lowcost airlines had very inconvenient flight times for me) and a connecting flight with Vueling to San Sebastian. The major airline didn't have a very strict cabin luggage policy, but Vueling did. When checking in at Barcelona airport for my flight with Vueling, they had this box where cabin baggage must be able to fit into. The lady from Vueling looked at my backpack and said: "I don't think your backpack will fit it the box." I looked at the box and replied: "I can't walk a Camino with a backpack that small." She started smiling and asked: "Peregrino". When I said "yes" she just let me pass. I've tried to reason like this once with Ryanair, but just had to pay extra.
 

Vacajoe

Traded in my work boots for hiking ones
Camino(s) past & future
2019 Biarritz-Pamplona-Lourdes
2018 Aragon/Frances/Finis
2018 Operation Sabre
2018 Marin Ramble
A few tips:

• Don’t forget the convenience and economy of bus transportation! FLIXBUS is especially inexpensive. Walking up to a bus minutes before it leaves is much better than taking the metro to an airport an hour ahead of time to suffer through security.

• Low cost airlines often fly into secondary airports, so factor in the possible extra cost of getting into the city plus getting to a different airport for your next flight. London, for example, is served by six airports with budget airlines at different sites.

• Remember that the WEIGHT of your bag also matters and what is allowed changes between airlines.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, Le Puy
Careful....you may think you are saving a dollar or two but add up all the little costs you incur in transit not to mention lost time.
I've come to the conclusion the most direct is often the cheapest in the long run.
My only exception might be utilising trains as I enjoy travelling in Europe by train anyhow.
Go well and once you are on the Camino these cares will seem ... well ... silly really.
 

simeon

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
SJPDP LosArcos 09\14 Tricastella SDDC 0515 Porto SDDC 1015 LosArcos Burgos 1016 Burgos Leon 0917
Remember that when you are waiting during your layover between flights you will probably pay for a snack at the airport or buy something small that you wouldn't have done so if you had a direct flight. That adds to the cost as well. Ryanairs most recent baggage rules appear to require you to buy priority boarding if you want to bring your bag on board... Another addition
 

TatiLie

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Portugues Variante Espiritual July 2019
Finisterre next!
If you're going to and from Dublin, Aerlingus is a good alternative to Ryanair. Costs a little bit more but you have all the perks of a big air company (central airports, reasonable timetable, reasonable baggage allowance, excellent pilots). And differently from Ryanair, it flies to and from SdC.
 

Barbara

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, Norte (twice)and Primitivo, Sureste, In France From home Tours and Vézelay, also Le Puy
I agree that flying low cost can be tedious, but Ryanair pilots have the same qualifications as in all the other airlines, and are very good at getting in and out of the less well set up airports. All the European airlines have to meet EASA standards. Nothing wrong with most other countries standards, either. You can always check safety records if you are worried. If you want to make a safety point, then compare flying with traveling by train.
Cost will often depend more on when you book than who the carrier is. In any case, it's a 21st century first world problem. Not that long ago you would spend three weeks on a ship to get to A Coruña from the other side of the Atlantic. Then three weeks back. And I don't think there were many Australians on Camino either, before cheap air travel.
Actually, I rather fancy sailing a Camino. Anyone fancy a start from La Rochelle? Hire horses at Ferrol ?
 

koilife

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF w/ son #1 (2013); Logrono-Leon/Salvador/Primitivo w/ son #2 (2016)
Go well and once you are on the Camino these cares will seem ... well ... silly really.
I agree that, once on the ground, so much becomes so irrelevant. However, the cost differential of inexpensive long-hauls plus inexpensive local hops appears to be about $400 US cheaper per person for me (others' travel will vary based on location) compared to the typical cost of direct into Madrid. With my son and I, that adds up quickly. Now, with those savings, I can ship back many cases of Spanish wine or a high quality ham, or upscale extra nights, or bank it towards a later Camino with my wife, or, or, or . . .
 

koilife

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF w/ son #1 (2013); Logrono-Leon/Salvador/Primitivo w/ son #2 (2016)
If you're going to and from Dublin, Aerlingus is a good alternative to Ryanair. Costs a little bit more but you have all the perks of a big air company (central airports, reasonable timetable, reasonable baggage allowance, excellent pilots). And differently from Ryanair, it flies to and from SdC.
Flying out of SdC is nice, and several major airlines appear to support it to major European international airports, and their tickets don't appear to be significantly higher than the budget airlines once you figure in the potential extra fees.
 
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Doughnut NZ

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2019)
The train within Spain can be fast and cheap. Like the airlines, booking a month ahead is much cheaper than on the day or even a week ahead. E.g. twenty two Euro for the high speed train from Madrid to Pamplona.
 

koilife

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF w/ son #1 (2013); Logrono-Leon/Salvador/Primitivo w/ son #2 (2016)
The train within Spain can be fast and cheap. Like the airlines, booking a month ahead is much cheaper than on the day or even a week ahead. E.g. twenty two Euro for the high speed train from Madrid to Pamplona.
I agree, and it's a lovely ride with all the fields of yellow wildflowers with red poppies.

I am curious, and no one has really commented on it so far regarding airlines inside Europe, but what is the typical advance purchase timeframe to avoid price jumps?

In the US, in very general terms, prices start going up at about three weeks out, and then up sharply in the last week. Lots of factors and exceptions play into this, but it is the general pattern.
 

Raggy

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozarabe Almeria (2017)
Cherhill to Canterbury - Pilgrims' Way (2018)
Via Francigena (2019)
In the US, in very general terms, prices start going up at about three weeks out, and then up sharply in the last week. Lots of factors and exceptions play into this, but it is the general pattern.
Recently I've been unable to second guess the airlines' dynamic pricing models. It's not as simple as "let's jack up the prices three weeks out."
 

koilife

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF w/ son #1 (2013); Logrono-Leon/Salvador/Primitivo w/ son #2 (2016)
Recently I've been unable to second guess the airlines' dynamic pricing models. It's not as simple as "let's jack up the prices three weeks out."
Sure, these things bounce sooner or later based on how many passengers, which routes, how much competition, fewer planes in service (thank you 737MAX), what time of day the flight is, etc. But the large trend is still more or less predictable, even if the specific timing is more dynamic. I travel about 35 weeks out of the year in the US, and those patterns still hold, more or less.
 

Raggy

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozarabe Almeria (2017)
Cherhill to Canterbury - Pilgrims' Way (2018)
Via Francigena (2019)
With LCCs I typically find ultra cheap fares if I’m looking 60 days ahead of departure or earlier and I’m somewhat flexible about the departure date. When I’m booking within 10 days, I typically consider myself lucky if I find a half decent fare and I jump straight on it.
I‘ve seen fares move in ways that defy this principle on the routes that I fly regularly (e.g. Fire sale prices offered less than 60 days before departure / Cheapest fares still available less than a week before departure). I don’t see a pattern that serves me at all well.

I guess you’re right that there’s a general pattern that holds but IME, LCC fares are less predictable than what you may be accustomed to in the US. Much of what US flyers consider to be the “norms of air travel“ differ in Europe.
 

Raggy

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Mozarabe Almeria (2017)
Cherhill to Canterbury - Pilgrims' Way (2018)
Via Francigena (2019)
FWIW, here’s an academic study of ryanair fares

And if you’re really interested in tips and tricks for air travel, I’d recommend the Flyertalk community. That’s where you’ll fond discussions between people who take an obsessve interest in the subject - unlike most people here who are more intereusted in the pilgrimage at the end of the flight than they are in the flight:
Www.flyertalk.com
 

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