With over 2,000,000 miles flying domestically and internationally, as well as planning flights for hundreds of small group travel clients, The Professor has learned a thing or two about booking flights. In this blog post, The Professor shows a strategy how to save money on your next international flight booking.
In the case illustrated here, The Professor needs to get from Dallas (DFW) to Paris (CDG) departing on May 15 and return from London (LHR) to DFW departing on the afternoon of September 23. Although the routing in this example is for specific dates, the strategy employed in this situation will work for just about any dates. Another consideration is that The Professor is booking a "Premium Economy" class flight offering extra room and comfort, a good thing to have on long overseas flights. American Airlines is preferred by The Professor because he is a member of the AAdvantage Elite Status program allowing The Professor to accrue miles and get some other benefits.
The Professor uses Google Flights to search for a flight itinerary on this multi-city trip. Google Flights is a good resource for flight planning, but it is always recommended to book flights directly with the airline instead of a booking company like Expedia or Orbitz.
The Professor does a search and comes up with this option with a cost of $2801 for the R/T flight:
The cost of this Premium Economy flight is about 50% higher than similar flights booked a year ago. Therefore, there is an incentive to find a cheaper airfare. The strategy employed here is that we want at least one connecting flight to go through a competitive connecting city. What does that mean? American Airlines is the dominant airline at DFW. There is little competition. However, when booking through airports like New York (JFK) or Chicago (ORD), there is more competition among airlines on international routes like Paris and Londhon. Hence, lower fares.
So now The Professor does a search for a flight from ORD to CDG instead of DFW to CDG. This is better for a couple of reasons. First of all, the price is lower. Secondly, notice that the original flight gets into CDG at 09:25. Once I get to the hotel, I probably need to wait for my room in the lobby. Here is the flight originating in ORD with a fare of $1871:
Wow! That is some savings on airfare. So now we arrive in CDG at 11:55 am. By the time I get to my hotel I will probably be able to check in without waiting around. And of course, we save $930. But wait! I still need to get from DFW to ORD to catch the flight to CDG. This is how to do it: book a flight from DFW to ORD for $195. My airfare saving is still $735 (2801- [1871+195]).
So, the obvious drawback is that there is a connecting flight from DFW to ORD to CDG instead of just a non-stop flight. But if I took the non-stop flight that arrives in Paris at 09:25, I would probably need to wait in the Paris hotel lobby for my room to be ready. Since the flight from ORD arrives later, there will probably be little or no wait for the hotel room. So, what's the difference of waiting in an airport or a hotel lobby? It's just about the same. When you compound this airfare savings solution to 2 travelers (The Professor is flying with a companion), the savings is doubled to $1470 ($735 x 2). The traveler needs to ask themselves if it is worth saving $1470 to make that connection instead of flying non-stop.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post and learned some lessons to apply to saving money on your next international flight.