While travel to Europe remains evergreen, the cost of getting there has been on the rise. And it's not the airfare itself that is spiraling ever-upard, but the taxes imposed by foreign airports for landing or fuel surcharges imposed by the airlines. We spoke with Rick Seaney of travel website FareCompare, who shared some insights on what travel agents need to know about these hidden costs.
While airlines may offer reasonable ticket prices to Europe, Seaney said, taxes, fees and fuel surcharges can prove prohibitive: “The fuel surcharge can be $455 roundtrip,” he said, “with taxes and fees reaching $165. Before you even pay the airfare, you're paying $600. That sets the baseline.” In the summer, when airfares reach $300 each way, the taxes and fees can drive the full ticket price up to $1,200.
So what can agents do to keep the prices down? Seaney suggests keeping an eye on what gateways are charging the most and what offer a bargain. Airfare to the cities that Seaney calls “the trifecta”—London, Paris and Rome—are the most expensive, but Ireland, Switzerland, Spain and the Nordic countries are “a bit less expensive” this year than last, he said, and may offer a better value.
And once travelers have arrived in Europe, hotel prices throughout Europe can offset the cost of the airfare. “Hotel prices are very negotiable because of the economy,” Seaney said. “You may pay a premium to get there, but you'll get a discount at the hotel.”
Fortunately, Seaney doesn't believe that the taxes and fees will get much higher. “The economy won't allow it,” he said. But with the rise of airline mergers and code-shares, the lack of competition may also prevent the costs from going down. “Two or three years ago, American Airlines would compete with British Airways for business,” Seaney said. “Now they set the prices together.” With fewer airlines competing for business and keeping prices low, Seaney suggests finding other gateways for European trips to keep prices reasonable. “The taxes on a flight to Ireland from New York are much lower,” he noted.