EuroDopers: cheap airlines?

In an attempt to have my cake and eat it too, I’m trying to see just how feasible it is to do England, France, and Switzerland in one all-too-short trip. (OK, more accurately, London, Kent, Paris, and Zurich.) I’ve pretty much got the England side of things figured out, and have friends to crash with in Paris and Zurich, but it’s the inter-city transportation that may do me in, both time- and expense-wise. Apparently the UK has all the cheap airline hubs.

So what’s the fastest and cheapest way to travel between Paris and Zurich? I was amazed to discover that it’s far cheaper to fly from London to Paris, and definitely from London to Zurich, than to take the train or ferry/train combo. A Paris/Zurich train would be a beautiful ride, but kind of long; basically, it would take up either a whole day or a whole night of traveling. Are there any small regional airlines, comparable to Ryanair or Easyjet, that can do it quicker and/or cheaper? Or maybe a German one with a not-too-terrible connection in Frankfurt or something?

I can’t help you with tips for particular airlines, but in general you have to be careful about the “insanaley cheap” fares (as you called them in another thread) European dumping airlines advertise with. Usually there’s some fine print on them:

Only a small number of tickets on each flight get sold at those advertised prices; when they’re sold out, you have to pay a regular, much higher price for a ticket on this flight - the 19 euros tickets you read about so much are to attract attention. So book early.

Very often, the cheapo lines land at Podunk airports in the middle of nowhere - in the case of London, neither Heathrow nor Gatwick but some place dozens of miles away. Travelling to the city centre from there can be a pain.

Since Ryanair is now doing free* flights, if you book well enough in advance you might find that using London as a hub works out cheaper than inter-continental travel; get to Switzerland by flying into the nearest airport in Germany, Italy, or France, and getting a coach.

*Limited availability, but they’re usually in the €30 each way level anyway. You do get what you pay for though. is fairly insanely cheap if you are out early.
They are a “no-frills” airline, which is fine for such short hops, but the one thing I would warn you about is to not arrange your travel so that you have connecting flights, trains etc. Consider them the aero-equivelant of hitchhiking and you will have a great, cheap time.

Well, for example, how crazy would it be to fly Paris-Geneva on Ryanair, and then take a train to Zurich? I imagine there would be a fair number of trains between Geneva and Zurich, so if I missed one it wouldn’t be a huge tragedy. It should be a fairly quick train ride, no?

I should really find a good train timetable site…

Hey Iteki! Great minds!

Eva, the problem is that these low fare airlines have most (not all) of their flights coming from one or two hubs. Also, they don’t fly to major airports. And indeed not to all countries - Ryanair doesn’t fly to Switzerland at all. If you look at the Ryanair site, you’ll see the vast majority of flights are ex-Stansted - hence me saying use London as a hub and hooking into Switzerland overland from outside the country. Alternatively you can go with a more expensive airline, and use a travel agent to book a ‘proper’ ticket with different legs to it.

Have a look at Easyjet too, though - they do fly to Geneva from the UK.

Grr, I meant that Easyjet flies to Zurich direct from London.

**jjimm, ** thanks, I did check out Ryanair…and discovered the no Switzerland thingie. And Easyjet, which I was thinking of doing…an itinerary something like Chicago-London-Zurich-Paris-Chicago, with the transcontinental legs on a major airline, and possibly reversing the Zurich and Paris legs. (Easyjet does fly London-Paris and London-Zurich, as does BMI, which is also pretty cheap, plus I get frequent flyer miles on United. And Easyjet also flies Paris-Geneva, thus my other train question.)

Thus my OP. But if I start using London as a hub again, what with connections, etc. it becomes just as simple to take the train.

Except that apparently the Swiss railway site, although it is also in English, for some goofy reason has no function to request fare information. (On the bright side, there is apparently an overnight train from Zurich to Paris with no connections, so one might actually get some sleep.) Maybe the French railway site will actually have fare info? Hmmm…

Dunno about fare information, but you can trust the Germans to have the best rail information & journey planner site in Europe (it lets you plan journeys across countries!):

I wouldn’t bet on it…

On the other hand, I found fare info on the Swiss railway site here. Standard price seems to be around CHF75 for a one-way trip Geneva - Zurich. Considerably more expensive than the flight Paris - Geneva.
However, if you investigate the easyjet Paris-Geneva connection, you might be interrested to know that there’s a TGV that does the same trick in about 3 hours - without having to go throught the hassle of Charles-de-Gaulle (or whichever airport EasyJet use - it might well be Roissy.) And they have sometimes

I highly recommend the train - the TGV (super-fast train) runs through France and probably beyond, I got from the centre of London to the centre of Montpelier (in the South of France) in something like four hours, which would take substantially more time on a plane, factoring in time to-from airports. And it’s pretty cheap too. And far, far more comfortable than those discount airline jets.

Well, I checked, and the fare from Ashford to Paris is 78.20 euros, plus I have to get from Deal to Ashford (about a half-hour train ride). So it’s significantly more expensive, but not so much once you factor in the time to schlep back from Deal to London and then out to whatever airport (Gatwick or Heathrow, depending on airline). It’s a 3-hour ride from Ashford to Paris-Nord, which isn’t bad at all, even counting the train connection from Deal to Ashford, plus then you’re already in Paris rather that at Charles de Gaulle, a Godawful airport if ever there was one.

Hmmm, I think I’m going to have to sit down and make a spreadsheet…

It is actually a two journey time Ashford to Paris. Don’t forget that French time is one hour ahead of the UK and the Eurostar timetable shows all local times. So the trip is even better compared to flying.

Sorry about the typo. I meant to say" two hour journey time"

Cool! I’m thinking that all told, it may be worth it to pay about $20 extra to save half a day of travel and something like 73 train/bus/plane transfers…although if you live in London, those fares on Easyjet are a steal!

Watch your luggage weight, too, if you take a bargain airline. On RyanAir, we had to pay extra when our luggage (checked) was heavier than the allowed. Our cheap fares were suddenly (and of course, nothing we could do with our flight taking off in an hour) a bit higher - as much as a whole 'nother fare.

Another advantage of Eurostar is that there is usually a shorter minimum check-in time compared to flying . Also , as you have already pointed out, you are travelling city centre to city centre , not to some airport twenty miles out of town.