Orlando is a hot spot for low winter airfares with Frontier, JetBlue and Spirit fares being countered by low American Airlines and United Airlines fares. There are at least a dozen cities offering round trip fares to Orlando MCO for under $180 round trip. Chicago is as low as $88 round trip for travel in December and January.
Google Flights Tutorial Finding Low Fares to Orlando
One of the ways to find low round trip fare cities for Orlando is to check Google Maps for one way fares from Orlando. The beauty of airlines moving to a one-way fare system for U.S. routes in the past decade is this means you can look at the destination, Orlando, and see airports where low fares from Orlando are posted and the fare should be available in the other direction too. [Note: this strategy does not work for international fares. Stockholm ARN to San Francisco might be $500 round trip, while SFO-ARN might be $1,100 round trip.]
Google Flights Low Fares from Orlando MCO for January 26
For this one date I see Chicago has a fare of $44 MCO-ORD one way.
Other low fares from Orlando include:
- Washington $35
- Atlanta $36
- Dallas $54
- Houston $54
- Indianapolis $73
- Charlotte $82
- Saint Louis $83
- New York $89
- Richmond $92
- New York $93
These fares are not sorted by airline, so they might be Spirit fares or they might be American Airlines fares or some other carrier.
The next step is to check for airlines at these fares. Starting with Washington, I learn this is a Spirit Airlines $35 fare from Baltimore BWI.
Google Flights MCO-BWI one-way fares January 26
The low $35 fare is Spirit Airlines. Frontier is $69 and United is $79 one-way. This second screen in my search shows me that United Airlines has a $158 round trip fare from Washington IAD. I am looking at one way fares from Orlando. Now I can filter my search to look only at United Airlines and change the search to IAD-MCO to find $158 round trip fares.
Google Flights Fare Calendar filtered for Star Alliance round trip fare WAS-MCO.
The airline is filtered for Star Alliance flights only to show United Airlines round trip fares from WAS (all airports) to Orlando MCO.
Google Flights fare calendar shows there are 12 departure dates in January and February 2016 with $157 round trip fares on United Airlines.
United Airlines Washington IAD – Orlando MCO
$167 Monday Jan 25 – Thursday Jan 28
There was a $157 round trip fare, however, the lower fare is for a 10pm departure and 12:30am arrival in Orlando. Most of us would likely prefer paying $10 more to arrive at 8pm on a $167 round trip fare.
Google Flights showed a potential fare for $70 round trip with Spirit Airlines for Baltimore BWI – Orlando MCO. Even with additional bag fees for checked or carry-on luggage, Spirit will likely be a lower fare. But a lower Spirit Airlines fare is unlikely to be better value for a United Airlines loyalist, especially someone with elite status or Red Carpet Club airport lounge membership who can potentially upgrade a United flight with 500-mile certificates or hang out in the lounge until just before flight time and no additional bag fees to the ticket price.
Legacy carriers competing against Low Cost Carriers
Spirit and Frontier Airlines run a sale nearly every week. American, Delta and United strategically compete against these fare sales on certain routes.
Looking at Chicago’s $44 one way fare seen in my initial Orlando to Chicago search reveals this route has a low $89 round trip fare on United Airlines that is even lower than Spirit Airlines.
United Airlines Chicago ORD – Orlando MCO
$88.20 Monday Jan 25 – Thursday Jan 28
Since I happen to be an American Airlines Executive Platinum elite, my hope is to find a similar low fare with American. I filter airline to Oneworld alliance and check ORD-MCO to find the lowest fare on the fare calendar is $153 round trip if the dates are shifted one day to depart Tuesday Jan 26 and return Friday Jan 29.
American Airlines Chicago ORD – Orlando MCO
$152.20 Tuesday Jan 26 – Friday Jan 29
This $152 fare on American Airlines is $64 more than the fare on United Airlines, yet this is a small difference for an elite AA flyer. I would have to pay $25 each way for one checked bag on United.
As a United base member my $60 ticket base fare earns 300 redeemable miles in United Mileage Plus. As American Airlines Executive Platinum I earn 2,010 redeemable miles for the flight distance, the same as any AAdvantage member, and I earn another 2,010 redeemable miles as an ExPlat elite bonus. That is 4,020 redeemable miles flying American compared to United Airlines.
And I might receive a complimentary upgrade to First Class on American Airlines as an Executive Platinum member.
This illustrates the value of elite status. These same features apply to a United Airlines elite flyer, except even a United Premier 1K will only earn 660 redeemable miles on the $88 ORD-MCO ticket, while an AAdvantage base member with no elite status will earn 2,010 redeemable miles on the $152 ORD-MCO ticket.
Of course, there are other dates I found using Google Flights searching Oneworld airlines where American Airlines comes out as the no-brainer choice for an elite flyer like me when searching for low fares.
American Airlines Chicago ORD – Orlando MCO
$88.20 Sunday Dec 13 – Wednesday Dec 16