Cheap flights to Europe as airlines bring in early-bird sales

Travellers looking to book a European holiday over the northern spring and summer period next year will find the cheapest economy-class tickets available in "early-bird" sales with major airlines are relatively unchanged from last year's low levels.

Qantas Airways, Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airways and Malaysia Airlines have all released their promotional fares over the last month.

Flight Centre Travel Group managing director Graham Turner last month said the cheapest international airfares fell by 3.5 per cent in the last financial year, with the largest falls on flights to Europe and Asia due to strong competition between carriers.

"The prices and affordability is exceptional and extraordinary and this will continue to drive growth [in bookings]," Mr Turner said.

A rapid expansion in international flights to and from Australia is beginning to slow, but the airlines will be looking to fill more seats to enhance returns.

Malaysia Airlines, which is struggling to rebound from the MH17 and MH370 incidents this year, last week offered economy-class fares for as little as $1350 return to Amsterdam and $1572 to London, from Perth and Darwin respectively. Fares from the east coast are around $100 more. However, bookings had to be made by Friday so the deal is no longer available.

The other airlines have allowed much longer booking periods for customers.

Qantas began loading early bird fares into its system on Friday but will formally launch the sale at midnight on Tuesday. For the first time ever, North America, South Africa and South America specials are on offer in addition to the UK and Europe.

For the first three weeks of the sale, until October 13, Qantas will offer double points on Qantas-operated flights to the UK, North America, South America and South Africa. The fare offers include $1724 return to London and $1560 return to Rome.


Emirates is offering lead-in return fares from $1521 for flights from Perth to Dublin and $1770 from Perth to London, although prices will be higher from east coast cities. In total, Emirates is offering 37 destinations and is taking bookings until November 19 for travel from March 1 to September 30 next year – the same dates as Qantas.

"We know these fares will offer Australians planning their 2015 getaway a truly competitive price and package," Emirates vice president Australasia Bryan Banston said.

Cathay Pacific, which last year offered return fares from $1629 to Rome and $1799 to London has this year lowered lead-in prices on those routes slightly to $1624 and $1784 respectively. The fares are on offer until December 2014, with no blackout dates for 2015.

Singapore Airlines is offering economy-class return deals such as $1554 from Sydney to Barcelona and $1769 from Melbourne to London. The fares can be booked until November 17 for departures between March 1 and November 30 next year.

Singapore Airlines is also offering a stopover in Singapore from $1 per person twinshare, including accommodation, transfers and entry to attractions such as Universal Studio and Singapore Zoo.

"Our sizeable network and the convenience of Singapore from Australia enables those wishing to extract maximum value from the Early Bird season to opt for a side-trip to south-east Asia as part of their European trip," said Dale Woodhouse, Singapore Airlines's senior manager marketing and alliances Australia.

Etihad Airways has raised its prices on some routes slightly from last year, offering prices from $1517 return from the east coast to Amsterdam versus $1449 last year and from $1753 to London, up from $1642. This year, it is also offering early bird flights from Perth, having started flights from Western Australia to Abu Dhabi in July.

The fares on offer are for shoulder seasons, rather than the peak northern summer. They can be booked before October 31 for travel between February 1 to March 24 and October 1 to October 31 next year.