September 24, 2015 11:47 am
Updated: September 25, 2015 12:35 pm

How flights to Europe are about to get (a lot) cheaper

Passenger aircraft surround satellite gates at Gatwick Airport.

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Getting to London won’t just be cheaper for Canadian travellers when WestJet begins service to Gatwick Airport next spring – travel throughout Europe will become accessible for less than it currently costs, experts say.

“While London is not as large of a connecting traffic market relative to some other European cities, Gatwick is in terms of passenger traffic as large as Toronto’s Pearson airport,” airline experts at Scotiabank said in a research note this week.

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“It will offer WestJet passengers a selection of low-cost carriers for onward journeys within Europe at low fares,” the note said.

Canada’s second-biggest airline announced last week plans to begin daily flights from Pearson and weekly service from five other Canadian airports. The Calgary-based carrier is selling one-way tickets for as low as $199 from St. John’s and for as little at $299 from Vancouver, with service scheduled to commence in early May.

‘It will offer WestJet passengers a selection of low-cost carriers for onward journeys within Europe at low fares’

“WestJet has launched the routes with aggressive pricing to stimulate the market,” Scotia analyst Turan Quettawala said, adding he believes those price points will rise over time.

Gregg Saretsky, the airline’s CEO, said customers can expect airfares to Gatwick to rise “modestly” once the new service gets more established. “But we will still be Canada’s low-fare airline to the U.K., no matter what fare you buy,” he told Global News last week.

One-way base fares to the United Kingdom capital from Toronto start at $249. From there, travellers will have access to the much more competitive prices offered by Europe’s low-cost carriers such easyJet, Ryanair and Air Berlin to destinations around the continent.

Big savings

And the savings appear to add up. For example, Ryanair is currently selling one-way tickets from Gatwick to Dublin for 17 euro, or about $25 (CAD). Booking a one-way ticket with easyJet to Paris from the London-based airport will currently cost about 33 pounds, or $67 CAD.

Neither Ryanair or easyJet fly from London’s biggest airport and travel hub, Heathrow, which serves as the primary U.K. hub for Air Canada.

There are risks of course, namely a delay at one carrier forcing a passenger to miss a connecting flight. But for $274, you could conceivably fly to Dublin from Toronto (with a stopover in Gatwick), or all-in to Paris for as little as $316.

That’s about $200 less than the cheapest option on a one-way ticket to Paris from Pearson in mid-May, offered by Icelandair, according to expedia.ca. Air Canada offers non-stop service starting at $1,344.

UPDATE: An  Air Canada spokesperson said base fares for non-stop service to Paris next May, round trip, are currently less than $800. That’s a better comparison than a one-way ticket price because most customers book a round trip, Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick said.

In response to WestJet’s foray, Air Canada has announced that it will commence flying its Rouge service to Gatwick next spring, as well.

“If you look at our website, you will see the fares we are offering on our new Gatwick route next year are very competitive with [WestJet],” Fitzpatrick said.

WATCH: WestJet President and CEO Gregg Saretsky announced details of the cheaper flights WestJet will be offering to London’s Gatwick Airport starting in May 2016.

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