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River cruise lines have begun to bundle prices for sailings and flights, luring passengers and offering more affordable ways to fly to Europe.

According to the Australian Financial Review, a search on Flight Centre found prices for business class tickets to London, Europe and the United States at the pointy end of the plane are three per cent higher than pre-COVID-19 levels.

Some punters are forking out as much as $20,000 for a business class return flight during the peak Northern Hemisphere period.

The reason? The price crunch comes as international air traffic remains at less than 68 per cent of pre-COVID-19 levels and the recovery of flight capacity is not expected until 2025.

“On average, across all classes including economy, we’re seeing the cost of flights sitting about 40 per cent higher than pre-COVID prices,” Flight Centre Corporate ANZ Managing Director, Melissa Elf told the AFR.

“I’ve seen tickets into the United States ranging from $15,000 to $22,000 for business class return over June and July.”

But recently, lines like Uniworld have launched special offers for their 2023 cruise season. The new Fly Back Into Cruise offer includes the cost of flights as well as a river cruise. While this might only be in the cattle class section of the plane, the pay off – return flights to Europe AND a stunning river cruise.

River Cruise Passenger compared flights for the 2023 April season and found Singapore had the best price. Between Sydney and Vienna in April, a return business class fare starts at $8,500. The most expensive was Etihad Airways with a starting at $11,547.

Qatar Airways was $9,355.44, Emirates was $9,364.08 and Qantas Airways was $11,547. All of these rates were per person.

So how did the river cruise lines compare to business class flights?

The most affordable available fly-river cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest from March 27, 2023, until April 10, 2023, was with Viking River Cruises. Prices start from $8,695 per person in a Veranda (B) Category stateroom. Couples can save up to $1,000.

APT was the second most affordable and offers a 15-day cruise from Amsterdam to Budapest with flights included, from $9,495 per person. The cruise departs on May 10, 2023, and guests will disembark on May 24, 2023.

APT’s sister river cruise line, Travelmarvel, also sells a 15-day itinerary from Amsterdam to Budapest. Flights are included and couples can save up to $1,000. The best price available in May is $7,795 per person.

Scenic River Cruises departs on May 3, 2023, from Amsterdam to Budapest and guests will disembark on May 17, 2023. The prices start from $10,725 per person with flights up to $2,000 per person included.

Uniworld was the most expensive with prices starting at $14,099 on a 15-day cruise with a departure date of May 4, 2023, until May 19, 2023. All flights are included, and guests have the option to upgrade to business class for an extra $4,700 per person.