Airfares from U.S. to Europe much higher than vice versa

September 13th, 2010 by Mariah

Americans flying to Europe this fall may pay hundreds of dollars more than their counterparts traveling the opposite way over the Atlantic.


Round-trip fares from several U.S. cities to European hot spots like Paris, London and Amsterdam are up to 66% higher than the price for trips originating overseas, says Tom Parsons, founder of, who scouted fares from the last week of October through March 31.



“Between the same cities, (for the) same seats, same days of week … one country gets an advantage over the other,” says Parsons, who found similar pricing at most of the major carriers including Continental, Delta and United, as well as international airlines such as KLM. “Because we’re Americans, we pay more.”



A round trip from Atlanta to Paris on Nov. 9, returning Nov. 16, costs $902, for instance, compared with $544 for the same trip beginning in France, Parsons says. A trip from San Francisco to Milan would be $829 vs. $633 if it were reversed, and Chicago to London has a fare of $791 as compared with $586 if the journey began in Britain.Higher fuel surcharges for flights to Europe and taxes could be part of the explanation, travel watchers say.



But George Hobica, founder of, says that the disparity in airfares has been visible throughout the year, and most likely simply reflects what the airlines believe passengers are willing to pay on each side of the pond.



“Part of it is simply what the market will bear,” says Hobica, who noticed low Virgin Atlantic fares over the summer that were only available if you were traveling from Britain to the U.S. “If airlines think people are earning more in the U.S. and are willing to pay more, they’ll charge more. … It doesn’t seem fair, but apparently it works for the airlines, if it doesn’t work for us.”



Carriers also are likely capitalizing on a renewed eagerness to fly after the industry struggled through the economic downturn that kept many would-be travelers at home. In June, international premium travel rose 16.6% and travel in economy class rose 9.5% over June 2009, according to the International Air Transport Association.



In the U.S., airlines “saw us pay much more this summer and we filled up the airplanes,” Parsons says. “I think they’re banking on the fact they’re going to … get more money on this side of the pond and subsidize what they can’t get on the other side.” While it may not be the cheapest time for Americans to visit the Louvre in Paris or the canals in Amsterdam, there is an upside to the lower fares being offered to Europeans, Hobica says.




“I think it’s good news for us here in New York because European visitors … come to shop,” he says. “It’s very good for our economy.”



By Charisse Jones, USA TODAY