As recently as two years ago, visitors who flew into France typically rented a car or took the train to see the rest of the country. But today there’s an easier way. The recent opening of more budget airline routes into France’s smaller cities make it a snap to go from the bright lights of Paris to the beaches of Nice or the mountains near Montpelier in just over an hour. There are also many discount airline routes from French cities to many European destinations, making it easier to plan a European vacation on a tight budget.
The UK-based easyJet leads the pack with the following routes:
Lyon to London
Marseille to Paris Orly
Nice to Paris Charles de Gualle/Amsterdam/Bristol/Geneva/Liverpool/London
Paris Charles de Gaulle to Nice/London/Liverpool/Newcastle
Paris Orly to Marseille/Nice/Toulouse/Barcelona/Geneva/Milan.
Check out their website for the best rates (the earlier you book, the cheaper it is). And since it’s a ticketless flight, no worries if you’re not in Europe for booking. But be warned, there’s a very small carry-on allowance of 5 kilos, and no free food or drinks onboard.
The latest French company to open budget routes since the demise of AirLib is Aeris, with the following routes in France, Greece and North Africa (some don’t start until July 2003):
Paris Orly to Nice/Lourdes/Perpignan/Toulouse/Marrakech/Dakar
Paris Charles de Gaulle to Malaga
Toulon to Brest/Djerba
Nantes to Marseille/Heraklion/Malaga/Marrakech
Montpellier to Brest/Heraklion/Athens/Ibizia
Lyon to Marrakech
Clermont Ferrand to Malaga//Djerba
Caen to Ajaccio (Corsica)
Ajaccio to Brest
If you’re coming into France from another European city, RyanAir has the following routes:
London to Reims/Strasbourg/Lyon/Clermont Ferrand/Nîmes/Montpellier/Perpignan/Carcassonne/Pau/Biarritz/Rodez/Bergerac/Poitiers/Tours/La Rochelle/Dinard/Brest
Carcassonne to Brussels
Montpellier to Frankfurt
Paris to Shannaon/Dublin/GlascowStockholm/Milan.
Some of these flights are only available once or twice a week, and land at very small airports (such as Beauvais in Paris).
Transavia’s budget airline is called Basiq Air, and they have flights to Amsterdam from Marseille and Nice.
BMIBaby is the budget airline of British Midlands, with flights to Wales and the English Midlands from Paris, Nice, and Toulouse airports.
Of course these airlines add and remove routes all the time, and sometimes the airlines themselves are bought out (such as Buzz Air and Go, bought out by RyanAir and easyJet). The best way to find out what flights are available from smaller French cities, simply contact the local airport or check the French Airports website (in French, but the airports are listed on the lefthand side, and the word for airline is compagnie aérienne).
This article is one of the 78 original “Secrets of Paris” articles published between September 1999 and July 2004. After disappearing into the internet graveyard for almost 15 years, I’ve republished them in autumn 2019 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Secrets of Paris: “1999-2019: Twenty Years of the Secrets of Paris” Broken and dead links have been updated or deactivated, but otherwise the article remains unchanged.