3 European low-cost flight search engines

by Charlie Leocha on January 18, 2013

3WebSitesEuroLCC

Here in the USA, we are missing a good, widely-know low-fare flight search engine for European flights. Once, traveling inexpensively in Europe was solely the province of trains. Today, flying is often far more inexpensive than trains and saves loads of money and time on longer journeys.

Using Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, CheapOAir and the other normal major-centric search engines won’t bring up the super-low-cost airlines of Europe. For intra-European travel, bargain-conscious travelers need to go elsewhere.

Three search engines fill the bill.

Momondo.com
Skyscanner.com
Travelfusion.com

Both Momondo and Skyscanner have good smartphone apps that have been a lifesaver when making changes to travel plans on the fly. Those two search engines are the ones that I have used recently. Each of these websites sends travelers directly to the booking engines of the airlines involved with your travel.

When booking flights, take a look at multiple sites. The results are not always identical because each site has a different algorithm for its flight search and because there may be deals negotiated by various sites.

The important factor with each of these sites is that they include Ryanair, Easy Jet and Vueling, the big dogs of low fare travel.

Plus, these sites alert travelers when airline flights listed are arriving in alternative airports such as Bergamo rather than Milan or Girona instead of Barcelona. These alternative airports may save money on the flight, but they add significantly to time needed to get to the city centers should travelers be headed downtown. On the other hand, for those headed to other nearby destinations, these alternative airports might actually be closer to their final destination.

Momondo.com
This search engine was recently purchased by cheapflights.com and is expected to become their flagship website. This site includes a scale that shows the low fares for each day of the month in a chart.

Skyscanner.com
Before Momondo, Skyscanner was my go-to website for low fares across Europe. It has not disappointed me. On balance, I still find it the easiest to use and their app interface works brilliantly. However, a lot of my comments are based on my familiarity with the site interface.

Travelfusion.com
I don’t find the interface of travelfusion.com as elegant as either Skyscanner.com or Momondo.com. Plus, I haven’t found an app for this site. Hence, it is not always in my tool kit, so to speak, while on the road.

The big difference with this site is that it allows travelers to blend air and rail travel in one site. For instance, travelfusion will tell you the Easy Jet flight from Rome to Venice will cost $76 while the train will cost $122. These kinds of easy comparisons make planning trips much easier.

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  • Graham

    There’s one thing that many European Low Cost Carriers (LCC) don’t do – CONNECTIONS. They don’t interline with anyone else so you have to buy their ticket separately. They don’t even do connections between their own flights. If you buy from Ryanair A-B and B-C thinking they will through check you it won’t happen; not only that but if their A-B flight is delayed and you miss the B-C flight they won’t give you any credit – you will have to but a completely new ticket.

    Buyer beware.

  • MeanMeosh

    Also beware – those “cheap” flights on an LCC might not be so cheap once fees are factored in. Ryanair is famous (notorious?) for advertising crazy fares like 5 pounds from London to Rome, but you’re also going to pay a seat assignment fee, carry on fee, checked bag fee, credit card convenience fee, foreign transaction fee, etc., etc., etc. You’re well advised to do the math, and make sure that your total price doesn’t end up being higher than a full-service airline like BA or Air France.

    And as Graham pointed out, LCCs often don’t permit interlining or even connections within their own systems, meaning you’ll not only have to buy two tickets, you’ll also have to claim bags, re-check, and go back through security when you’re connecting. And if you do this, and miss your onward flight, they won’t provide you any assistance at all with your missed connection – meaning YOU are responsible for meals, hotels, purchasing a new ticket, taxi fares, etc.

    Not arguing that looking at these search engines and using LCCs is a bad idea. Done correctly, you can save a ton of money over the traditional carriers. But make sure you know what you’re doing and are prepared accordingly!

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