How to find cheap fares to Europe

JOSH MARTIN
Last updated 08:00 06/07/2014

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If you're Europe-bound this winter after snapping up the airfare savings of earlybird season last spring you'll be feeling smug.

Airfares dropped to $1549 return to Europe (Dublin in that case, but almost all were heavily discounted) as airlines sought to fill their long-haul flights early. That's a bargain and the flights were with full-service carriers and include two stops at the most.

If you stalled until earlier this year to book your winter European holiday your travel agent would have likely said, "Should have caught the early bird sale, return flights to London in July are now $2399, you'll have to travel in September or October". If you then rushed home to double-check online, be it on airnz.co.nz Skyscanner, Webjet or Expedia it would have been a similar story.

But two days ago I outsmarted the agents and the online booking sites and pieced together a one-way flight to London for $860 and Frankfurt for a very low $829. There are some caveats. It's vital to embrace low-cost carriers (LCCs).

When Jetstar stops flying from New Zealand to Singapore on July 21 there will be no long-haul LCC flights from New Zealand. Australia, however, has six offering bargain tickets to Asian airport hubs like Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong - if you can stomach the cramped eight-hour flight.

So, if you combine a readily available sub-$200 Auckland to Sydney hop with an Air Asia flight to Kuala Lumpur, or a Jetstar Asia or Scoot flight to Singapore (baggage included), you can expect change from $500.

The fierce competition between airlines out of Asia meant a bit of trial-and-error searching on farecompare.com and skyscanner.co.nz but resulted in an airfare from Kuala Lumpur to Frankfurt for a crazy $383 and a grand total $829 one way, with three stops (although no layover was more than four hours). This included the longest, final leg of the journey on a full-service carrier, Vietnam Airlines.

But if I had simply typed Auckland to Frankfurt on July 21, 2014 on an online airfare website, rather than piecing together the flights, the cheapest comparable price would be $1273 with two stops and $1300 with one stop. Hypothetically I saved 35 per cent.

So, don't wait for the next earlybird deal if you're a serious bargain hunter - Australia offers more budget airlines connecting through Asia and onvto Europe, so consider a readily available cheap Tasman hop and piece together an online airfare bargain from the lucky country.

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- Sunday Star Times

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