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European Airlines

Read about the best airlines for travel around Europe. Find out facts about these European airlines, including which flies to the most destinations, which have the most coverage and which airline to use for different European regions.

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About European Airlines

Europe is a continent entirely located in the Northern Hemisphere. Although the continent only makes up for 2% of the Earth’s surface, it still has a surface area of 10.18km² and a population of over 740 million people, meaning there are plenty of things to see and do in Europe’s 44 countries.

The continent is bordered by several seas; the Atlantic in the west, the Arctic in the north and the Mediterranean to the south. It is also bordered by parts of other continents; Asia in the East, with Africa and the Middle East to the South.

Flights are an easy way to get around Europe, especially with the many bodies of water making getting around by car, boat or train more difficult. There are many airlines that offer domestic flights around particular countries but also flights around the continent with transcontinental flights and also to other continents with intercontinental flights or transatlantic flights.

There are over 50 large European airlines operating in the area and the rest of the world. These airlines include some legacy carriers and also provide a variety of low-cost, full-service and hybrid airlines.

Largest European Airlines

Take a look at these European Airlines which are ranked according to the number of passengers flows last year, starting at the most.

Lufthansa Group

This group not only covers German airline Lufthansa, but also its subsidiary airlines including Eurowings, Brussels Airlines, SunExpress, SWISS, Air Dolomiti and Austrian Airlines. Lufthansa itself flies to over 80 countries across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas. The whole group flew an impressive 142.3 million passengers in 2018.


Ryanair is famed for being Ireland’s low-cost carrier, offering cheap flights to locations across Europe. The airline provides a great option for cheap travel around Europe, as it currently flies to many countries in Europe, as well as destinations in North Africa and the Middle East. It is currently the largest budget airline in Europe, according to the number of passengers carried, and also the largest airline in the world according to the number of routes it serves.

International Airlines Group (IAG)

Although this name may not be familiar to some people, this group is in charge of some of Europe’s largest airlines including British Airways, Iberia, LEVEL, Vueling and Aer Lingus. These airlines combined contribute to a huge network across the continent, allowing passengers to travel to more places with this airline.

Air France-KLM

The strategic partnership which combined airlines Air France and Dutch KLM created the 4th busiest airline group in Europe. Both airlines have a wide selection of destinations across Europe, establishing themselves across Europe and further across the globe.


easyJet is known by many for its budget flights around Europe. This British airline operates domestic flights around the UK, and also international flights to the rest of Europe. This airline is still relatively young compared to others, as it was only formed in 1995. This is also one of our featured cheapest airlines on our blog for its great value for money.

Turkish Airlines

The national airline of Turkey, Turkish Airlines, was first founded in 1933 and flies to over 300 destinations across the world. Although its services are spread around the world, this airline still has great connectivity across Europe. This airline is in the top 10 largest airlines in the world by number of destinations served. The rapid expansion of this airline is also cause for the new airport in Istanbul, which has one of the best shopping scenes in all of the world's airports.

Aeroflot Airlines

This Russian flag carrier is one of the oldest airlines in the world still in operation. Covering a lot of Russia with its routes and destinations, Aeroflot also flies to many European destinations and also to some American, Middle Eastern and Asian destinations.

Which is the best European Airline?


As voted by Skytrax for being the best airline in Europe, Lufthansa was commended for its exceptional service and product quality.


Swiss International Air Lines (notably a member of the Lufthansa group) was a runner-up in Skytrax’s award, credited for its genuine and friendly cabin crew and complimentary extras such as its alcoholic beverages.

Austrian Airlines

In third place in the Skytrax award for ‘Best Airlines in Europe for 2018’ was Austrian Airlines. This placed highly for its great service from staff, and also for the efficient service for economy fliers.

Best Airports for European Flights

There are many airports in Europe, from large hubs with great connectivity around the world but also small, regional airports which typically provide domestic flights. The following list documents the busiest airports in Europe, based on number of passengers in 2018, including which airlines fly there. If you are looking for the cheapest countries in Europe, read our blog here.

1. Heathrow Airport (LHR)

Where: London, United Kingdom

TotalPassengers (2018): 80,102,017

Hub for: British Airways

Focus City for: Virgin Atlantic

2. Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG)

Where: Paris, France

TotalPassengers (2018): 72,229,723

Hub for: Air France, Joon

Focus City for: easyJet, Norwegian, Vueling, XL Airways France, HOP!

3. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS)

Where: Amsterdam, Netherlands

TotalPassengers (2018): 71,053,157

Hub for: KLM, Martinair, Transavia, TUI fly Netherlands

Focus City for: Corendon Dutch Airlines, EasyJet, LEVEL, Vueling

4. Frankfurt am Main Airport (FRA)

Where: Frankfurt, Germany

TotalPassengers (2018): 69,510,269

Hub for: AeroLogic, Condor, Lufthansa

Focus City for: Ryanair, SunExpress Deutschland, TUI fly Deutschland

5. Istanbul Atatürk Airport (ISL)

(recently replaced by Istanbul Airport (IST), read more here.)

Where: Istanbul, Turkey

TotalPassengers (2018): 67,981,446

Hub for: MNG Airlines, Turkish Airlines Cargo

6. Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport (MAD)

Where: Madrid, Spain

TotalPassengers (2018): 57,891,340

Hub for: Air Europa, Iberia

Focus City for: Evelop Airlines, Ryanair, Wamos Air

7. Josep Tarradellas Barcelona El Prat Airport (BCN)

Where: Barcelona, Spain

TotalPassengers (2018): 50,172,457

Hub for: Level, Vueling

Focus City for: Air Europa, EasyJet, Norwegian, Ryanair

8. Munich Airport (MUC)

Where: Munich, Germany

TotalPassengers (2018): 46,253,623

Hub for: Air Dolomiti, Lufthansa

Focus City for: Condor, Eurowings, SunExpress Deutschland, TUI fly Deutschland

9. London Gatwick Airport (LGW)

Where: London, United Kingdom

TotalPassengers (2018): 46,081,327

Hub for: British Airways

Focus City for: easyJet, Norwegian Air UK, Thomas Cook Airlines, TUI Airways, Virgin Atlantic

10. Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO)

Where: Moscow, Russia

TotalPassengers (2018): 45,348,150

Hub for: Aeroflot, Rossiya Airlines, Nordwind Airlines, Pegas Fly, Royal Flight, Ural Airlines

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European Flights FAQs

Why are European Flights so expensive?

European flights don’t have to be expensive. In fact, once you are in Europe, inter-European flights are fairly cheap as there is less distance and more options from low-cost airlines. If you are planning a long European trip, why not use our multi-city planner to get around? If you are planning to travel to Europe from further away where a flight will be more expensive, why not consider one of our finance options to make your flight more manageable?

Are iPads allowed on European Flights?

Yes, you are allowed iPads on European Flights. These may need to be removed from your hand luggage during airport security inspections, so please pay attention to and follow instructions from security personnel. Please see our electronics page for information on flying with valuable electronics, including how best to pack and transport them.

Are dogs allowed on European Flights?

The general rule is that if flying between countries that are both in the European Union, they will be allowed with you on the plane subject to them meeting certain requirements and the airlines conditions. Find out information about taking dogs and other pets on flights here, including information on how to qualify.

When do European Flights go on sale?

The date that airline tickets go on sale depends on the airline itself. Find out here about how far in advance European flights go on sale according to each airline.

What happens to European Flights after Brexit?

Until a deal is agreed by the UK government, it is difficult to determine exactly how and what will be affected by Brexit. However, air travel is not expected to be affected by delays or cancellations. You can read more about how Brexit may affect travel and what additional requirements such as visas or passports here.

Where can I buy European flights?

You can fly flights to and around Europe here on Alternative Airlines. We provide flights to big well-known destinations as well as smaller, lesser-known regional airports. Enter your destination and date into the search bar above to search and buy flights with us.

How early to book European flights?

This depends on where you are going and when, although generally the best day to book flights is 6 weeks before, and the earliest possible date to book European flights is around 1 year. Read our full blog for tips and advice on the cheapest day to buy flights here.