July 11, 2023 Advanced Ticketing Strategy
Flip the script and save big
In Betty Edwards’ best-selling book, “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” a drawing tip for newbies is to turn the object that you’re drawing upside down. That way you won’t draw your preconceived notions of, say, a piece of fruit. Instead, you see the actual shape and size relationship between things. You simply draw what you actually see.
Today, we’re drawing on a similar idea: but instead of flipping something upside down, we’re turning it around. Makes me want to sing…
Turn around. Every now and then I get a little bit tired of listening to the sound of my tears.
~ “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler
Total Eclipse of the Fare
So many tears have been shed over high premium fares to Europe. And yet there’s one solution that’s staring us all right in the face nowadays – especially if you go to Europe more than once in a 12-month period, or would go if the price were right.
The idea is to buy a round-trip Business Class ticket TO the U.S. FROM Europe. That’s because the fares are often much cheaper. This is another quirk of airline pricing that’s best understood by bugging the airline’s boardrooms (we’re working on it), but simply knowing about it is a good start.
This approach makes a lot of sense if you’re flying across the pond more than once in a year. Because all it means is that you’re starting a round-trip from Europe. Then you can bookend that round-trip ticket with one-way flights (or other roundtrips) to save quite a bit as a result. We’ll expand more on this in a minute.
Which Way Will You Go?
To give you an example, fares are up to 66% less round-trip when you travel from Europe to the U.S. versus the U.S. to Europe. It’s like paying double for gas if you drove from New York to L.A. and back, versus going from L.A. to New York and back. But hey, this is flying, ladies and gentlemen.
Here are some sample fares from Europe to the U.S. It makes me want to live on the continent. Café et croissant s’il vous plaît, serveur!
|Home Airport||Europe Destination||Airline||U.S. to Europe|
|Europe to U.S. Biz Class||Savings|
Three Ways to Play
THE U-Turn Strategy
FCF’s U-Turn Strategy #1
Start a one-way ticket to Europe (probably with miles) and then book your round-trip fares originating in Europe.
The Keep-It-Going Strategy
If you want to avoid high Biz Class fares starting in the U.S., book a lower-fare round-trip from Europe to the U.S. Remember that since your fare starts in Europe, you’ll have to get yourself there first. You can start this strategy with a one-way flight (paying in miles is often best for one-ways).
Then you can keep your trip going by buying another round-trip ticket from Europe to the U.S. as many times as you like, and you’ll end up saving quite a bit as a result. Airline alliance makes no difference with this strategy (more on this in a moment).
Here’s what it looks like:
Ticket #1: A one-way award ticket using 57,500 American miles to begin the trip in Business Class from Miami to Madrid
Ticket #2: $1,809 USD for travel in Business Class from Madrid to Miami round-trip.
Ticket #3: Where to next? Keep your journey going with a round-trip from Europe to the U.S.
Who is FCF’s U-Turn Strategy #1 for?
Budget Business Class travelers.
This is great if you won’t go if you must fly coach – that’s actually a lot of people – and you won’t pay rack rates for Business Class (ditto), and if you’re willing to be flexible on the routes and dates that offer deals.
Travelers who know their dates in advance.
The outbound EU>US flights are most important, because you can generally change the return flight (US>EU) on a published fare for little or no cost (check the fare rules!). But if you’re taking your daughter to school, and then going back for the holidays, or you know half of your dates in advance, no problem.
FCF’s U-Turn Strategy #2:
Mixed-Alliance Back-to-Back Published Fares
If you book multiple trips with one airline, and fly the segments out of sequence, many airlines will think you’re trying to do “back-to-back ticketing.” This can cause them to cancel one of your trips without notice, because this is against their rules.
However, you’re fine if you book multiple trips on different airlines. So… consider booking one round-trip starting in the U.S. on Airline Alliance A airline (say Delta) and another round-trip starting in Europe from Alliance B airline (say United).
Here’s what it looks like:
Use different airline alliances because there’s no telling how much inter-alliance airlines communicate, and they might consider this a back-to-back ticketing situation. If you need a primer on why not to go all in with one airline, read this report on Loyalty Free Agency.
Who is U-Turn Strategy #2 for?
The Frequent European Traveler: Because the U.S. fare is much higher, you take many trips in the middle of your first and last segment on the U.S.-originating flights to yield big savings.
FCF’s U-Turn Strategy #3:
Bookends With Mileage-Award/s
+ Low Published Fare EU>US>EU
You get the idea by now. Check out the diagram below to see what makes this one different.
Who is FCF’s U-Turn Strategy #3 for?
The Sometimes-Flexible Business Class Budget Traveler: There’s only one way to get a round-trip mileage award ticket to Europe nowadays. That’s if you’re flexible! In which case, you can use miles in this strategy to easily get to Europe and return to Europe. No problems there.
That said, your flight originating from Europe in the middle is a published fare, so you can be much choosier on your dates. In other words, you only need to be flexible on the award ticket portion of your trip.
See you up front.