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In a recent phone call to financial analysts explaining why its recent profit results for transatlantic flights were down by as much as 9%, an official of the mighty Delta Air Lines listed all the reasons you'd normally cite: the current presidential election season (which traditionally reduces international travel), a slowdown in the European economy, the fear felt by numerous Americans of terrorist attacks overseas—and so on.


But then he went on to list a factor that no one else—to my mind—ever mentions: the competition for transatlantic flights from "budget airlines" crossing that ocean: Norwegian Airlines, WOW Airlines, and WestJet (the latter a Canadian carrier flying to Europe primarily from Toronto). And thereby the major U.S. and foreign airlines flying the Atlantic have revealed an important trend: the success enjoyed by upstart airlines cutting the cost of a transatlantic flight. From the standpoint of price-conscious U.S. travelers, no revelation could be of greater significance.


Delta's confession was followed by a Wall Street Journal article stating that the three carriers listed, which in the past have flown slightly more than a thousand transatlantic flights per year, were now flying some 5,000 transatlantic flights each year—an important development.


The big player is, of course, Norwegian Air. It's important to realize that Norwegian is no recent upstart, but a major budget-priced carrier which, for several years, has been among the top budget airlines flying within Europe. It has nothing but money; its owners are phenomenally rich Norwegians enjoying some of the oil wealth that has made Norway one of the wealthiest of European nations. It currently goes to some 70 destinations within Europe and the Middle East, of which an increasing number are flights from several major U.S. cities.


And most important of all, its planes are brand-new. It is one of the larger purchasers of Boeing-made aircraft, and its ambitions are such that it has also begun flyng routes from Boston and Baltimore to the Caribbean. Its ambitions are obviously immense.


Go to its website—Norwegian.com—and you'll be fascinated by the seemingly impossible prices it's currently listing for flights from America to Europe: $320 round-trip between Boston and London Gatwick and $380 round-trip between San Francisco and Copenhagen, are two outstanding examples. Now, obviously, these are not usual fares but occasional superbargains, and most Norwegian prices are considerably higher. But they are almost always considerably less than the standard U.S. and European airlines are charging. To find the superbargains, you have to be rather flexible in your dates of departure and return, but with reasonable flexibility in those dates, you have the chance to cut several hundred dollars from your flying costs.


WOW Airlines is, of course, the upstart Icelandic carrier which flies to Europe via Iceland's capital city of Reykjavik (but does not permit you to stop over for a few days in Iceland). By choosing it, you again save several hundred dollars off the normal level of cost. WestJet airlines, the carrier from Toronto primarily, is less reliabily cheap. If flights on a particular date are heavily booked, it does not list a cheap fare, but goes with the standard rate charged by everyone else. 


But nevertheless, if you live near the U.S./Canadian border, and can drive easily to Toronto, you can often find an unusually low price to London and other European gateways.

All in all, there are means for flying cheaply to Europe, especially as offered by Norwegian Air and WOW Airlines. You might want to try them.