“No flying machine will ever fly from New York to Paris … [because] no known motor can run at the requisite speed for four days without stopping,” the original inventor of the airplane, Orville Wright, once said.
As it turns out, he was wrong.
The jet engine has transformed this formerly unimaginable feat of aerospace engineering into a fleeting seven-hour stint.
Indeed, numerous tourists fly from New York to Paris every day.
And if you follow the advice in this post, you could be on one of them.
I spent years as a travel agent in Australia sending budget backpackers to Europe. During this time, I learned a few secrets about finding cheap airfares.
Here’s how to make your way to France without breaking the bank.
With the extra euros you’ll save, there’ll be plenty left over to spend on fine wine, delectable cheese and fresh baguettes.
Where to arrive in France
International airports in France
As the French capital and third-most-visited city in the world, Paris is the country’s principal international gateway. Three airports serve the city:
- Charles de Gaulle is France’s primary international hub. As the second-busiest airport in Europe, it welcomes almost 70 million arrivals per year. High-speed trains connect travelers to the city center in 30 minutes.
- The smaller Paris Orly services domestic and European flights as well as a limited number of long-haul routes.
- The Beauvais–Tillé Airport resides outside of Paris and serves as the city’s low-cost carrier terminal. A high-speed train to the center takes about an hour and 15 minutes.
Other major international hubs include:
Domestic airports in France
France boasts a whopping 77 airports, many of which are domestic. Consequently, travelers can connect to virtually anywhere in the country by air.
However, domestic connections don’t always equate to good value in France. Oftentimes, it’s cheaper or more convenient to reach your final destination by train or bus. Be sure to weigh up both options before booking.
Open jaw tickets to France
“Open jaw” is an airline industry term that refers to flying into one city and out of another. The process allows the traveler to save time (and sometimes money) by negating the need to backtrack to their original destination.
However, open jaw tickets are typically more expensive upfront. Therefore, it’s prudent to compare the extra cost of an open jaw with the time and expense of backtracking.
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What you should expect to pay for flights to France
Airfares to France vary between continents according to distance, competition and passenger demand.
The following is a rough estimate of what you might expect to pay for a round-trip flight:
- North America: 300-1000 USD
- Europe: 30-150 USD
- South America: 900-1,500 USD
- Australia and New Zealand: 1,300-2,000 USD
- Asia: 700-1,200 USD
Combien Ça Coûte? How to Find Cheap Flights to France
Understanding how airfares work
The seasons in France
Seasons play a crucial role in how airlines set their fares. Each carrier has a slightly different policy, but you can usually expect fares to be higher in mid-June to the end of August, which is peak summer season. It’s the same case for the holiday season, which is mid-December to mid-January.
Mini-high seasons resurface during the French school holidays. The rest of the year is either a low or shoulder season, and airline tickets should be cheaper.
To visit in summer without paying high season rates, aim to arrive in May or early June.
Only the outbound flight is taken into account, meaning your return flight won’t affect the season of the fare.
Another critical airfare factor is availability. Airlines release fares based on different pricing tiers, known as booking classes. Once the cheapest booking class has sold out, travelers must purchase a higher and more expensive tier.
To score a good deal, it’s important to be flexible with both your inbound and outbound travel dates. Outbound flights won’t affect the season of the fare, but they will affect the final cost due to availability.
Use a fare aggregator such as Google Flights to quickly scan what’s available around your ideal travel date.
Availability becomes increasingly more scarce the closer you get to your departure. Book three to six months in advance for your best chance of snagging a discount booking class.
Also, note that availability worsens during peak seasons and around French public holidays.
Airlines intermittently release specials which offer substantial discounts on the standard rate. Nobody knows precisely when they’ll come out, as such promotions are a closely guarded trade secret.
Past experiences can give us some indication, however.
The best promotional fares for the summer season in France tend to come out in November the year before. If you can’t book that early, airlines release various smaller promotions throughout the year, often three to six months before your departure date.
Follow the social media feeds or sign up to the email marketing campaigns of target airlines to hear about these super-cheap promos. Other options include airfare alert services such as Scott’s Cheap Flights and Hopper.
Choosing an international airline
A seemingly endless array of carriers arrive in France every day. If service and safety standards are top priorities, consult the reviews on the Skytrax website.
Platforms such as Skyscanner and Google Flights are the easiest way to search for the cheapest fares. These don’t include all low-cost carriers, however, so it’s often worthwhile checking them all out separately.
Low-cost carriers might appear amazingly cheap, but be aware that they make their money through ancillary fees. Everything from seat selection to check-in or carry-on luggage and onboard entertainment cost extra. Take these factors into consideration when comparing them to full-service carriers.
As the nation’s national carrier, Air France services a whopping 36 domestic and 168 international destinations across 93 countries.
Their fares are reasonably priced, especially if you’re lucky enough to snag a promotion. Onboard service is excellent, including an ample serving of locally produced cheese and wine.
Direct flights from the United States and Canada to France
- Delta Airlines flies between Paris and 22 separate North American cities.
- United Airlines flies between Paris and Chicago/New York/San Francisco/Washington.
- La Compagnie flies between Paris and New York, offering business class seats only.
- Air Tahiti Nui flies between Paris and New York.
- Low-cost, long-haul carrier Frenchbee flies between Paris and San Francisco.
- American Airlines flies between Paris and Charlotte/Chicago/Dallas/Los Angeles/Miami/New York/Philadelphia.
- Low-cost, long-haul carrier Norwegian Air Shuttle flies between Paris and New York.
- Primera Air flies between Paris and New York/Boston.
- British Airways flies between Paris and New York.
- XL Airways France flies between Paris and Los Angeles/Miami.
- Air Canada flies between Paris and Montreal/Toronto/Vancouver as well as Montreal and Lyon/Nice/Marseilles.
- WestJet flies between Paris and Halifax.
- Low-cost leisure airline Air Transat operates charter flights between numerous French and Canadian cities.
Low-cost carriers that fly direct from Europe to France
Virtually all European national carriers offer direct flights between their respective countries and France. The following low-cost carriers are ideal for budget travelers looking for a bargain.
- French carrier Transavia France flies between nine French destinations and numerous European cities.
- German carrier Eurowings (formerly Germanwings) flies between six French destinations and numerous European cities.
- British low-cost carrier Flybe flies between 14 French destinations and the United Kingdom.
- Romanian carrier Blue Air flies between Lyon/Paris/Bordeaux/Nice and multiple destinations, primarily in Eastern Europe.
- Irish carrier Ryanair flies between multiple French and European destinations.
- British carrier Jet2 operates seasonal flights between Nice Côte d’Azur/Lyon/La Rochelle/Grenoble/Bergerac and the United Kingdom.
- British carrier easyJet flies between multiple French and European destinations.
- Hungarian carrier Wizz Air flies between Paris/Bordeaux/Nice/Lyon/Grenoble and multiple destinations, primarily in Eastern Europe.
- HOP!, a subsidiary of Air France, flies between multiple French and European destinations.
- Spanish carrier Vueling flies between 11 French destinations and multiple European cities.
Direct flights from Asia to France
- Thai Airways flies between Paris and Bangkok.
- Singapore Airlines flies between Paris and Singapore.
- Malaysia Airlines flies between Paris and Kuala Lumpur.
- Emirates flies between Paris/Nice/Lyon and Dubai.
- Etihad Airways flies between Paris and Abu Dhabi.
- China Southern flies between Paris and Guangzhou.
- China Eastern flies between Paris and Shanghai/Beijing.
- Air China flies between Paris and Shanghai/Beijing.
- Vietnam Airlines flies between Paris and Saigon/Hanoi.
- EVA Air flies between Paris and Taipei.
- Korean Air flies between Paris and Seoul.
- Asiana Airlines flies between Paris and Seoul.
- All Nippon Airways flies between Paris and Tokyo.
- Japan Airlines flies between Paris and Tokyo.
- Cathay Pacific flies between Paris and Hong Kong.
Direct flights from Latin America to France
- LATAM flies direct between Paris and São Paulo.
- Air France is the only other direct option, flying between Paris and numerous Latin American and Caribbean destinations.
Flights from Australia and New Zealand to France
To paraphrase Orville Wright, no known motor can run at the requisite speed to fly from Oceania to France.
Well, technically it’s possible. But the route isn’t economically viable as it would require airlines to carry and use a tremendous amount of fuel.
Most of the above Asian carriers offer airfares from Oceania to France, with a layover in their hub city along the way. Other options include Qantas, Air New Zealand and codeshares with European airlines.
Now that you’re a certified airfare expert, jump on your preferred platform and start searching for a deal. If you remember to consider the seasons, availability, promotional specials and all these different airline routes, a bargain is bound to come your way.
Before you know it, you’ll be meandering through medieval castles, feasting on beef bourguignon and sipping on pinot noir on your epic French adventure.
Bon Voyage! (Have a good trip!)
Harry is a South American-based freelance writer who covers travel, the arts and culture, among many other things.
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