is a pimp
Join Date: Apr 2002
Car: E46, E36
For anyone interested in flying to europe
Air Transat just started a bit of discounting on their spring flights. To keep things neater, I figured I'd start a new thread. But if people prefer this to be added to last year's thread, it should be no problem for the mods to merge it.
Air Transat is Canada's largest charter airlines that flies from Toronto to Europe.
Sunwing announced in December that they won't be flying to Europe this year. However they will continue to sell tickets from Toronto to Amsterdam and Montreal to Paris on European charter airlines, as they have in the past.
Air Canada has a discount airline starting in July called Rouge. It will only be starting with 4 planes, so it won't have a huge number of flights. They plan to grow it up to 50 planes over a number of years. The European cities Rogue will fly to from Toronto this summer are Edinburgh, Venice and Athens.
Charter airlines such as Air Transat will normally not have as comfortable flight as you would expect from mainline carrier. The planes will often be more cramped and baggage limits may be smaller (although due to mainline carriers reducing their baggage limits that may be now less true).
Air Transat starting installing seat back video on their planes in 2012. They said it would take 2 years to finish it in all of their planes. So while there is a chance your Air Transat plane will have seat back video, there is no guarantee.
While large problems with airlines are not that common, if it happens when you are flying with a charter, there is a good chance it will not be handled as well as a mainline carrier. If this is a large concern, it may make more sense to fly with a mainline carrier, even though the cost can often be much higher.
To get the cheapest flights to and from Europe, it often makes sense to use a multi-city trip. And if you are planning to visit more than one part of Europe, multi-city trips can avoid the need to backtrack.
A multi-city flight is flying from Canada into one European city and then flying back to Canada from another European city.
Depending on the time of the year, there are often certain cities that can be flown into from Toronto quite cheaply and different cities where you can return from Toronto quite cheaply.
On Air Transat the following is normally true (although there is no guarantee it will continue):
In early spring, flights from Toronto to Portugal (especially Faro) can often have a quite low price.
In last spring and early summer returning to Toronto from Portugal, specifically Lisbon and Porto, will often have the best price.
If you are looking to fly during the first couple weeks of July there are usually some multi-city trips available for under $600, although they aren't available for long. Once they are gone, the rest of the summer will usually be more expensive.
The UK charges large taxes for overseas flights leaving the UK. However overseas flights arriving in the UK have much lower taxes. So if you are planing a multi-city trip involving the UK it is often cheaper to fly into the UK, instead of out of the UK. Although in late summer and early fall, it may still be cheaper to fly out of the UK, even with the additional tax.
Air Transat allows you to book a multi-city trip using the Multi Destination option on the front page. On the search results screen to quickly search dates, choose the Flexible Dates tab (if you are not already brought there).
When searching for prices with Air Transat it usually makes sense to search directly on their website. Other travel search engines such as Kayak or ItaSoftware sometimes have incorrect prices for charter airlines, although that seems to be improving.
Canadian Affair is a travel agency that is owned by Air Transat. They sell tickets on Air Transat flights, but only to the UK and Ireland (they don't sell tickets to the rest of Europe). Prices are usually the same as the Air Transat website, but they occasionally have specials that are not available of the Air Transat website (and occasionally Air Transat specials are not available on the Canadian Affair website). So if you are looking to fly to the UK or Ireland, it may make sense to look at this website as well.
Getting Around Europe
Both trains and planes are common methods to get around Europe. In general if prices are roughly the same and the train ride is at most 5 to 6 hours, it will usually be better to take the train. It is more comfortable, it usually takes you from the centre of one city to the centre of another and you don't have to bother with the hassles of getting to and from airports and waiting at airports.
There are a couple of websites which are helpful in figuring out the European train system. Seat 61 is a very good overview of European train system and Bahn (aka: DB, the German national rail company) has schedules for all of the trains in Europe. When buying train tickets you normally have to buy them from the country where you're starting from or ending up at. As well you can usually buy from RailEurope. Tickets at RailEurope are normally a bit more expensive than buying from the European sites, but the price will be in Canadian dollars.
If you are not planning a very long trip, it usually makes sense to just buy individual train tickets and not bother with rail passes. Websites such as Seat 61 can help determine if a rail pass makes economical sense.
If you're going to use discount airlines, Skyscanner is a good search engine for discount flights within Europe.
European discount airlines are now required to include most fees in their prices, so all you'll probably have to add on is the fee for luggage and possibly a credit card surcharge (thanks to elwebmaster for pointing this out). They usually have very small baggage limits and if you go over the limits there will be very large fees. They sometimes use small airports that are located a long distance from the city. So before booking, you need to see how you can get to and from the airports and at what cost.
As well, they will be very cramped and they often don't have the best on time record. But, if you want to travel long distances, and can put up with all of the rules, they are often a very good way to travel long distances in Europe.
Also check the prices of mainline carriers for flights within Europe. Sometimes they will match the prices of the discount carriers.
When traveling outside of the country, you should have travel medical insurance. You may be covered through a benefit plan at your job or through your credit cards or some other way. But if not, you really should buy some travel medical insurance.
The Air Transat website will offer to sell you this. It is usually quite expensive. Here are a couple of options that will usually be cheaper.
If you are under 50, Travelcuts resells Royal Bank travel medical insurance for prices that are usually cheaper than you can buy it directly from the Royal Bank.
Kanetix is an insurance search engine which usually has some cheap options for travel medical
Many people also say that CAA also offers good prices travel medical.
Be sure to read all of the fine print, especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition. They will usually only cover you if the condition is "stable", so you'll have to see exactly what they mean by this.
As for the other forms of travel insurance, such as trip cancellation, interruption, baggage, etc..., none of these forms of insurance is necessary, unlike travel medical. Whether or not you purchase these will come down to personal preference.
A good site also for flights now:
Google Flights and Google Flight Explorer
There are a couple of early spring deals available for under $600
Toronto to Faro: April 30
Porto to Toronto: May 13
$600 all in
Toronto to Faro: April 30
Rome to Toronto: May 17
$600 all in
Last edited by AlpWhitE46; 04-12-2013 at 12:31 PM.