With two trips planned to Europe in late summer and fall, I have played around with the United Airlines discount fares to Oslo, Norway the past couple of weeks. On international flights from the USA to Europe, there is the possibility to force overnight transit layovers to get up to 24 hours in a city for a few dollars more.
San Francisco and Los Angeles and other cities where low-cost Norwegian Airlines flies in the USA like in New York and Florida have resulted in United Airlines dropping fares to rates often less than 50% compared to other cities in Europe.
When it comes to Europe, getting across the Atlantic on the cheap is the major challenge. Once in Europe, there are low-cost carriers to get you to the place you want to be. With United Airlines fares in the $500 to $600 range for Oslo and connecting tickets under $300 to most cities in Europe, buying a ticket to Oslo and a second ticket to your ultimate destination can save a couple hundred dollars on the published rates for direct flights.
United wants $1,167 for a San Francisco-London roundtrip economy ticket October 20-November 3, 2014.
The ticket price drops to $737 when booked as SFO-Oslo with a 12-day stopover in London.
SFO-Oslo, Norway with stopover in London for October 21-Nov 1 and fly to SFO from Oslo on November 3. The only reason I checked this for two nights in Oslo was to take advantage of Club Carlson Visa one night free benefit for Oslo.
This stopover fare for London does not work as well for other cities.
Under 24-hour transit stops to visit another city in Europe
More fascinating to me is the opportunity to schedule an overnight in another European city on route to Oslo or whatever your ticket destination city is for your itinerary.
For the SFO-OSL flights outbound I have found itineraries that would allow 21 to 23:55 hours in London, Paris, Vienna, Zurich, Geneva, Amsterdam, Munich, Frankfurt, Stockholm, and Copenhagen.
There are likely more possibilities.
Here is one of my favorites for almost 24 hours in London.
$603 SFO-OSL with 23:55 hours transit stop and overnight in London.
Arrive in London at 7:10am and depart at 7:05 the next day.
To find these overnight transit stops you need to enter your flight itinerary as a multi-city routing.
Enter SFO-(transit city in Europe).
(Transit City in Europe) – OSL.
Here is an example for an overnight in Paris on a transit stop for $624 SFO-OSL ticket.
$624 SFO-OSL with Paris transit stop from 10:45am to 8:30am the next morning. Price is $624 roundtrip. Add Paris as a stopover of more than 24 hours and the ticket price climbs to $900+.
SFO-OSL with Amsterdam overnight 12:50pm arrival and 10:40am departure the next day to Oslo.
The United fare sale for SFO-Oslo, Norway runs August 24 to October 24.
Other cities have low rates for United Airlines travel in April and May.
This strategy of transit stopovers works with other airlines and cities. In March 2013 I flew to Berlin, Germany from San Francisco on American Airlines with transit stops that allowed me to spend the day in Zurich, Switzerland and overnight in Oslo, Helsinki, London and Chicago on the return trip for $20 more than the lowest available direct flight fare.
Business travelers tend to want to minimize their flight times. For leisure travelers touring Europe, the transit rule gives flyers the opportunity to briefly see another city in Europe for just a few dollars more.
With hotel loyalty program points and free night vouchers, the added expense of transit cities on my itinerary is often just the price of transportation from the airport to the hotel. I spent three days in Switzerland, Norway and London without ever buying any foreign currency. Everything went on my credit card.
Ric Garrido of Monterey, California is writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler.
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