Ah, budget travel. There’s something very appealing about planning a vacation on the cheap – converting what you would otherwise be spending on typical nights out in some far-flung locale, taking in the culture and the sights. And the gifts of the internet era – the rise of couchsurfing, the ease of finding the perfect hostel or the cheapest train ticket, there’s a nigh-endless amount of opportunities for the determined explorer to keep things low-cost.
Except for one sticking point: airfare.
We probably shouldn’t complain, of course. As Louis C.K. said, we’re sitting on a chair in the sky. Flying is amazing, and it makes sense that getting a third of the way around the world in a single day might cost us a bit. Those single-serving peanut pouches don’t pay for themselves, you know. But however understandable, expensive flights are the biggest challenge to any American international traveler, slapping a four-figure price tag on just about any potential getaway right out of the gate.
That’s what makes this new announcement from budget airline RyanAir so incredible: the company has mid-term strategies to bring tickets from the East Coast to Europe starting at just $15.
Now, if that seems too good to be true, it probably is. RyanAir admits that requirements like ‘passenger taxes’ will likely push the final price of a round trip up a couple hundred dollars. But that still pales in comparison to the current median price for getting an American across the pond (or a European coming the other way). And the reality of budget carriers like RyanAir is that their spectacular prices come from stripping away a lot of the most basic features of airfare. Which means if you’re planning a discount trip to Europe, try to travel light! And uh, use the bathroom before you leave.
Skeptics are convinced that RyanAir’s announcement is all hot air (jet fuel?). One observer pointed out that the price of the fuel alone would push the airline’s cost per passenger up to $50. And RyanAir in particular is known for their bombastic ideas about what’s possible, even when those ideas are more fantasy than reality.
But beyond all the skepticism, there’s something very important to consider here. Transatlantic travel is an intensely valuable market, representing all of the business opportunities of the United States for those in Europe, and the same- as well as the limitless potential for tourism and vacationing for those in the US. RyanAir may have jumped the gun with their $15 skeleton flights, but what that announcement reveals is that a number of international airlines are eying the discount version of the route as a lucrative possibility. Like a lot of groundbreaking services and tech, it’s a given that the first provider to really capture the public’s attention for a new, powerful trend will have the biggest head start in monopolizing it.
It’s still a few years into the future, but the possibilities are endless. And the response to the very idea is no doubt going to make a lot of airlines sit up and pay close attention.
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