Everything always seems a little different across the pond. Airlines in the United States and Europe operate essentially the same way. There are still budget airlines, economy seats, and frustrating security lines. But just like everything else, there are also a few differences that you might enjoy (or not) between the two.


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Looking for that great deal to sweep you away from the mundane and into a new world full of endless experiences? While both the United States and Europe have budget airlines, European airlines generally have a lower average cost. The average Southwest flight will cost around $149 while the average flight on the European Ryanair will cost around $60.

It is not uncommon for European airlines to run specials in addition to their already low prices. You can wake up to the sounds of Big Ben and finish out the day eating gelato by the Colosseum all for less than the price of filling up your gas tank. Heck, you could jump between three or four European cities for the same price as a one-way ticket to a nearby city in the States.

To keep prices low, budget European airlines use cost-cutting measures such as charging for checked bags and employing less staff as compared to their American counterparts. Be prepared to be a little bit more self-sufficient but enjoy having the extra money to spend on vacation!

Customer Service

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There is fierce competition in Europe between the different airlines. In the United States, the top four airlines make up 83% of the total market share. They know you have no other option but to use them. Basically, they can treat you however they want.

In Europe, the top four airlines make up only 39% of the total market share. There is much more competition between these airlines. That means if one airline doesn’t treat its customers right, there are ten others waiting for that business. It forces them to be friendlier and provide amenities that US airlines don’t need.

Not only is it generally agreed that European airline staff are more friendly, but they also offer creative amenities to put themselves above the competition. Air France offers a self-service buffet for longer flights, and Virgin Atlantic has an afternoon tea service. In addition to offering tasty treats, it is not uncommon for European airlines to provide free alcohol even in economy seating!

Compensation for Inconveniences

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Inconveniences are unavoidable when it comes to air travel. Did your flight get delayed or canceled? Now you have to wait in the terminal, or worse yet, pay money out of your own pocket to get a hotel room and some new t-shirts sporting the name of your layover city.

In the United States, this is common for frequent travelers. To get compensation for flights being delayed or canceled, you have to make a claim directly with the airline, which can be a frustrating process that typically lands at a dead end. Most airlines say that they will do whatever is “reasonable” to help the customer. Reasonable to the airline and reasonable to the person sleeping in the airport are typically two very different things.

Across the Atlantic, the European Union has created legislation requiring airlines to provide compensation for any inconveniences for which the airline is at fault. If your flight is delayed or canceled, you could get up to $750 to cover hotel and meal expenses. Luggage got lost? You’re entitled to a maximum of $1,512 to replace lost items. There is even a website to help you get compensation. No need to deal with the airline directly.

Now that you are prepared for some of the differences between American and European airlines, get out there and fly! There’s a big world to explore.