If you're Lebanese, then you know that flying from Beirut for cheap can be complicated, due to the political corruption in the country and lack of healthy competition.
However, you can still make it and fly to Europe for much cheaper than you think.
Travel during the low season
Getting good deals from Beirut International (and only) Airport during the high season is difficult as flights are usually fully booked due to the surge of the demand during the summer.
So here's a suggestion: travel during the low season. Not only you’ll get much cheaper tickets, you’ll also enjoy a smoother process. Employees are generally less stressed. This means, smoother security procedures and friendlier travel.
Also, your destination will generally have less tourists, streets are more quiet, prices in restaurants are lower, and you get to experience the city more like a local.
Did you know that you can save around €35 per flight on checked in luggage in high season? Simply pack light and skip the checked in luggage.
For example, if you’re flying from Beirut to Amsterdam through Aegean, which connects in Athens, you will be able to save the checked luggage fee 4 times (Beirut -> Athens, Athens -> Amsterdam, Amsterdam -> Athens, Athens -> Beirut). That’s between $90 to $150 of savings.
You will also be able to skip long check-in lines and long waits at the baggage drop carousel.
Here's how you can pack light and travel smart.
Look for these airlines
Most flights to Europe are with Middle East Airlines, the flagship carrier. They also offer non-stop flights to some destinations. The catch is that they're very expensive.
Airlines like MEA or Lufthansa make me pay for things I never use:
- Checked luggage
- In flight meal
- Additional 5cm of legroom
- Reclining seats
- Seat pre-selection
That’s why I prefer flying budget airlines that sell a bare ticket that includes only the essentials, then charges me for food, checked luggage, seat selection, etc. Even though most of these airlines fly at inconvenient times (2AM-6AM), it's still worth it. And even if you bought food on board those budget airlines, it’ll still be cheaper to fly with them.
Here are some cheaper airlines that I use to fly from Beirut, along some personal recommendations:
Wings of Lebanon
Wings of Lebanon is a privately held Lebanese airline under Nakhal Group. They offer great seasonal deals in the summer and non-stop routes that most airlines do not offer. They fly non-stop cheap flights to Vienna, Brussels, Copenhagen, Budapest and more.
Pegasus is a Turkish airline that I used to fly frequently with. I stopped traveling with them because I try to avoid transits in Turkey due to previous terrorism events at both Istanbul Airport and Sabiha Gocken Airport.
However, Pegasus offers great cheap deals (and they're getting even cheaper) and you can connect to a lot of European cities from there for less than 200$.
Aegean is a greek airline that I frequently fly with as they offer cheap flights from Beirut and connect in Athens. Their service is great comparing to the others, they offer free light snacks on their flights. A flight from Beirut to Amsterdam with Aegean can cost around 170-300$.
Germania is a privately owned german airline that has pretty awesome non-stop 150$ fares to Munich, Hamburg and a few other German cities. They fly only a few times a week from/to Beirut.
Tarom is the oldest operating airline in Romania. They're similar to Aegean and they generally have good service. A flight from Beirut to Paris connecting in Bucharest can cost around 250$.
Air Serbia is the flag carrier of Serbia. A flight to London connecting in Belgrade can cost as cheap as 150$.
Google Flights: Explore
How can you find all of these deals quickly and efficiently? Go to Google Flights, choose one-way (even if you’re flying round-trip) and select your departure date. Then, click on Explore and scan the map for cheap destinations.
Stay flexible: Scan the entire week
There isn’t huge demand from Beirut airport, that’s why most of the cheap flights only operate on certain days. While you're scanning Google Flights, make sure to scan the entire week, go all the way from Monday to Sunday as you may be able to get much cheaper tickets.
Take public transportation in Europe
It’s worth noting that if you’re flying from Beirut to Amsterdam, you may consider Brussels as your final destination. There are lots of buses and trains from Brussels to Amsterdam. A bus ride can cost only €9 and take about 3 hours. A train ride costs between €30 and €50 in just 80 minutes.
Are Budget airlines safe?
People have always warned me about flying budget airlines. “What? A 140$ ticket from London to San Fransisco? They must be flying very old airplaines”. It turns out, it’s exactly the opposite.
Budget airlines typically invest in newer airplanes which are more fuel efficient. Norwegian airlines offers 140$ non-stop tickets from London to Europe because they fly with the Dreamliner 787 which is the most fuel efficient passenger airplane in the world. So yes, budget airlines are as safe as any regular airline.