Frugal Flying 101: Fly From Europe to Save Money on Flights

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When you’re planning a holiday there are lots of things to consider. Where do I want to go? How long for? Where will I stay? And, most importantly in my opinion: how will I get there.

This is the first in a series of articles about how to research and book your flights most effectively, so as to get them as cheap as possible! Today, we’re going to look at ex-EU flights (also known as ex-Europe flights).

What’s an ex-EU / ex-Europe flight?

Put simply, flying ex-EU simply means that you start your main journey from somewhere in Europe, instead of the UK (ex-UK). For example, you could fly from Paris to Tokyo and back to London. Then all you have to do is get yourself to Paris to start your journey.

What’s the technique for ex-EU flights?

  1. Start by checking the price of a normal return flight from your usual point of origin (e.g. London – Bangkok, return) as a benchmark
  2. Use Google Flights or Skyscanner’s Multi-city option to check for ex-EU flights that leave from Europe but return to your usual point of origin (e.g. Milan – Bangkok – London)
  3. Join the dots! Search for a one way ticket from your usual point of origin to your European start point (e.g. London – Milan, one way)
  4. If your ex-EU flight plus the additional one way ticket is less than a normal return flight from the UK, then you’ve saved money!

> Step one: check a simple return flight

For example, if you were booking a trip to Thailand and you were based in the UK, you might look for flights originating in London. Here’s a screenshot from Google Flights based on a trip in June 2016:

Cheap flights - London to Bangkok, Thailand

As you can see, the cheapest option flying from London to Bangkok, return, costs £349 on China Southern/KLM, flying via Amsterdam and Guangzhou.

So what if we look at flights originating outside of the UK? Let’s try some airports in Italy…

> Step two: check for ex-EU flights

Here, we’ve used the “Multi-city” option in Google Flights. This allows us to build a more complex itinerary, flying out of Italy to Bangkok, and returning from Bangkok to London, all on one ticket:

Cheap flights to Bangkok Ex-EU

Right away, we can see a price drop: Milan – Bangkok – London is only £280!

Remember: as your journey starts in Milan, we’ll need a flight from London to Milan to complete the journey.

> Step three: join the dots

Ex-Eu positioning flight

As you can see, a cheap flight from London Stansted to Milan MXP is available for just £14. What’s more, as it arrives quite early into Italy, you could spend the day exploring Milan before catching your onward flight to Bangkok!

> Step four: calculate the total price

Let’s compare our original return flight from London, with the ex-EU + one way flight:

Option one: London – Bangkok (via Amsterdam, Guangzhou): £349

Option two: London – Milan (direct) [£14] plus Milan – Bangkok – London [£280] = £294

In this example, flying ex-EU saves £55!

Why does it save money?

Ex-EU flights are often cheaper than ex-UK flights for a couple of reasons:

  • Ex-UK flights have high taxes added to them such as Air Passenger Duty. Other countries in Europe have lower taxes, and therefore cheaper flights!
  • Airlines often have different deals and special offers for different countries.

Things to consider when booking your ex-EU flights

  • Make sure that your first flight (London – Milan in our example) is early, giving you plenty of time to catch your onward flight. If your first flight is delayed and you miss your ex-EU flight, the airline is under no obligation to put you on another flight!
  • You may want to travel with hand baggage only, to save time picking up suitcases on each part of the journey, as your bag won’t be checked all the way through to your final destination from the UK.
  • Milan is a good start, but you should try as many different cities as possible to ensure you are getting the best possible price! Hint: Brussels, Amsterdam and Madrid are good places to start your search.

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