This week Condor Airlines announced that it’s bringing back the Halifax – Munich route. Although it’s just once a week, it’s welcome news to any Maritimers looking for more non-stop flight options to Europe. Currently, other non-stops include London Heathrow on Air Canada and London Gatwick, Glasgow and Dublin on WestJet. Last year WestJet’s Halifax – Paris route was suspended due to the 737 Max 8 situation and that issue remains unresolved (although it appears bookable as a non-stop starting mid May). Icelandair removed Halifax from its seasonal schedule for the same reason.
I have flown Condor three times now and have not yet had a bad experience. I was quite concerned this fall when its parent company, Thomas Cook, went out of business. However, Condor lives on and restoring the Halifax – Munich route gives me some hope for the airline’s financial future.
There are a number of reasons why you might want to consider flying Condor out of Halifax so I’ll spell out a few of them here.
Alaska Mileage Plan
Condor is a partner airline with Alaska Mileage Plan which means you can earn and redeem Alaska Airlines miles on Condor flights. Canadians can get a nice bunch of Alaska miles via the sign-up bonus for the Alaska Airlines Platinum Plus or World Elite Mastercards (apply through Great Canadian Rebates to get a rebate on the annual fee).
The lowest redemption level for a one-way economy flight is 25,000 miles. At the moment, flights are showing up at 40,000 miles but last year they dropped to 25,000 early in the year and availability remained pretty good as I recall.
One great perk of booking with Alaska miles is the ability to add a free stopover on one-way redemptions. So, you could fly to Frankfurt or Munich and spend a few days in the Rhine Valley or Bavaria before flying on to another Condor destination. If you check the Flight Connections website or the wikipedia pages for FRA or MUC you’ll see that Condor’s intra-Europe flights are focused on popular seaside locations. With a miles booking it’s not possible to connect to a Condor partner airline in Europe – it has to be a Condor operated flight. Use the multi-city option on the Alaska Airlines website to book.
Although one should always weigh the options carefully before transferring hotel points to airline programs, it’s possible to convert various point currencies into Alaska miles.
Another method to get some Alaska miles is through a Rocketmiles hotel booking. They usually have a good first-time user promotion, or as with Black Friday, they occasionally have one available to repeat users. Just be sure the hotel rate is competitive.
I should also mention that as of March 1st, one will no longer be able to book American Airlines flights with Alaska miles. This is unfortunate because the seasonal flight from Halifax to Philadelphia provided a good way to use miles to get to various European destinations with only one connection. That leaves Condor as the only remaining option out of Halifax unless we see Icelandair, another Alaska partner, make a return.
I have no experience with this class of service myself, but it could be a nice option for those who don’t wish to cough up the miles or cash for business class but prefer more comfort than economy typically provides. I know when I booked our flight home from Europe the fare for premium economy one-way on our dates was in the $400s which seemed quite low.
Reasonably Priced One-Ways
A great aspect of airlines like Condor or WestJet is the opportunity to book a one-way ticket at a good fare. The major airlines like Air Canada generally price their Europe fares such that a one-way ticket often costs as much or more than a return. Perhaps you wish to use miles for the flight over and combine that with a decently priced paid ticket for the trip home. That’s what we did for our recent trip to Poland when we flew home on a Condor ticket that included a segment from Warsaw to Frankfurt on LOT. We used Aeroplan miles for the outbound.
Cheap Flight Finder
I’ve noticed that Google Flights does not always display the lowest Condor fares. You need to go to the Condor website and if you have some flexibility you can plan around the best fare deals on the Cheap Fare Finder if you leave the final destination open.
Open-Jaw Germany Itinerary
If a trip to Germany is on your radar and you like direct flights, having the option to fly non-stop to one city and then return non-stop from another saves you the hassle of backtracking to your origin to fly home. Rent a car or use public transport for getting around. For rail travel info, check out the Seat61 website’s Germany page.
Rail & Fly
And on the rail topic, if you want to arrive and then scoot off on one of Germany’s great high speed trains to a city further afield, you’ll run into the conundrum of whether to book an advance purchase discount rail ticket. These are a super deal but they are non-refundable and non-changeable. If your plane is delayed and you miss the train, you’ll be out the cash and have to buy a pricey walk-up ticket. (If your first destination is nearby, you can just use local transit or a regional train and not be faced with this dilemma.)
One solution is to purchase a Rail & Fly ticket through Condor. For $34 USD you get a ticket valid for any destination in Germany on any Deutsche Bahn train.
I would love to take advantage of a non-stop flight to Germany to visit various places of interest in the country and perhaps a few in Austria as well. Lots of opportunity to use my meagre German language skills. Having previously researched potential trip ideas in the Black Forest region, it seems like a particularly great destination for budget travellers looking for reasonably priced accommodation and sightseeing.