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VOL. 132 | NO. 99 | Thursday, May 18, 2017

Wiedower

Lance Wiedower

It’s Great Time to Fly to Europe

By LANCE WIEDOWER

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News out of the airlines industry doesn’t seem all that great these days. Look no further than recent stories of passengers “bumped” off flights, particularly with United Airlines.

But if you’re a traveler looking for a deal, 2017 has been kind so far, particularly for Americans flying across the Atlantic to Europe. Airfare to European cities is at historic lows, not to mention some great exchange rates that make travel to Europe even more affordable.

The United Kingdom reported 37.3 million visits in 2016, a 3 percent increase from 2015 and the highest since records began in 1961. Following last June’s surprising vote to leave the European Union, the value of the pound dropped to a three-decade low, making it a great time for Americans to visit.

Back in 2005, I spent a couple of weeks in Italy and the U.K. The pound was around $1.95. Today, that same British pound goes for about $1.29. I’ve seen the euro as high as $1.30. It’s currently hovering around $1.09.

So that hotel room in Italy that I “splurged” on for this summer for 150 euros a night is about $165. Back in 2005, that same hotel would come in at $195.

Don’t have your airfare booked to Europe yet? It’s not too late if you want to cross the pond this summer.

The general idea that airfare to Europe is priced well right now is true. However, it’s not a blanket statement from every U.S. airport to every European destination.

Sometimes nonstop flights are cheaper, but sometimes connecting flights present a better value. Those great deals that are advertised from time to time that seem to be too good to be true actually often are great, but only if you can fly out of Boston on a Tuesday or Washington on a Wednesday or Thursday.

There often are catches, and if you choose to fly out of a city with limited service, well, those deals probably don’t count for you.

This isn’t a knock on Memphis International Airport. But when I fly to Barcelona this summer, I’m driving to Atlanta from Memphis to do so. My family of three is saving a few hundred dollars, and that’s even after booking an Atlanta hotel and the gas expense to get there and back.

I’ve flown to London from Memphis a couple of times, and found the price to connect in Atlanta the first time and Chicago the second negligible. I would’ve lost money to drive to another city in those instances.

Again, not all destinations are created equally.

If you decide to look at flights to Europe, I suggest using a flight search engine for ease of comparison shopping. And if you aren’t picky about where you want to go, even better.

I compared several European destinations out of a variety of airports before settling on Barcelona out of Atlanta, even though flying to Dublin from Memphis via another city wasn’t bad.

Fingers crossed I’m not facing a rumored electronics ban on flights from Europe to the U.S. If that takes effect, I won’t be surprised if the airlines respond to a public outcry with even lower fares.

Lance Wiedower can be reached at tripsbylance.com.

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