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Originally published Saturday, February 19, 2011 at 7:06 PM

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German budget airline Condor to start Sea-Tac service

Germany's Condor, an airline that whisks European jet-setters travelers around the world on low-cost flights, is the latest player in flights between Seattle and Europe.

Seattle Times travel writer

Germany's Condor, an airline that whisks European budget jet-setters around the world on low-cost flights, will be the latest player to shuttle travelers between Seattle and Europe.

With the addition of Condor's flights starting in June, Sea-Tac Airport officials expect airlines to boost European seat capacity by 23 percent this summer and fall through a combination of additional flights and bigger planes.

Seattleites are more likely to use Condor's new twice-weekly service to reach Frankfurt and other European cities, but they could also snag a deal on a connecting flight to one of Condor's more exotic destinations. Among them: Brazil and India.

Condor, now part of Thomas Cook AG, is a former subsidiary of Lufthansa. While Lufthansa flies daily between Seattle and Frankfurt, Condor will add Seattle-Frankfurt flights on Mondays and Thursdays starting June 23 and continuing through October.

"Seattle has long been on our list," Condor executive Jens Boyd said in a phone interview from Frankfurt. He said that demand for flights from Seattle to Germany is outstripping available seats.

"While the market isn't big enough for Lufthansa to add a second daily flight, it's certainly strong enough to support two or three more flights a week."

Condor, formerly called Thomas Cook Airlines, also flies to and from Las Vegas and Fort Lauderdale and in Canada, from Vancouver, Calgary and Whitehorse.

"Internationally, traffic has come back much quicker than we expected," said Mark Reis, Sea-Tac's managing director. Airlines flying between Seattle and Europe filled more than 90 percent of their seats last summer.

For now, Condor plans to fly only in the busy summer/fall season, but that could change next year, as the airline beefs up its international fleet.

"Clearly they're (Condor) trying to get some of the high-demand part of the season," Reis said. "Whether or not they will choose to spill over with flights later in the year or add frequency, we'll have to wait and see."

More European service

Other airlines are boosting their Seattle-Europe capacity.

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Icelandair, which has been flying five times a week between Seattle and Reykjavik, Iceland, will add a sixth flight in April, with ongoing connections to 24 European cities.

Delta will fly twice daily to Amsterdam this summer, up from 10 times per week last summer and one flight per day other times.

Air France plans to put a larger aircraft on its Seattle/Paris flights in July and August and during other busy periods this spring and fall.

Condor flies refurbished Boeing 767s, seating 270 in three classes — economy, premium economy and comfort (business/first) class — and offers discounted fares and flashy promotions for short hops within Europe and to far-flung destinations such as Cuba, Goa and Bahrain. Peanuts characters appear on its website, http://www11.condor.com, along with drawings of palm trees and the Eiffel Tower.

Condor's "Joker Flights" let travelers choose a category: "Fly nearby" for 49 euros each way (about $66) or "A long way off" for 199 euros one way (about $268). Condor reveals the "surprise destination" (with departures from German airports) after you book.

Like Icelandair, Condor tends to peg its fares below those of the major airlines that fly newer, bigger planes. A search for flights in mid-July showed Condor offering a Seattle/Frankfurt round-trip fare of $1,211.70 on its website as well as at Expedia, Orbitz and CheapTickets. Lufthansa had a fare of $1,665.

Condor belongs to the Star Alliance network which includes United/Continental; Lufthansa; US Airways and Air Canada. So far, it has no mileage partnership with Alaska Airlines. Icelandair and Alaska formed a mileage partnership last year.

Carol Pucci: cpucci@seattletimes.com

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