United Airlines nested tickets strategy for cheaper USA to Europe summer travel

This article is about how you can sometimes use a nested ticket buying strategy to lower the cost of travel when planning on travel to Europe or some other international destination or region two or more times in a year.

United Airlines and Star Alliance carriers have a fare schedule today for low priced flights in the low $600s from San Francisco and several Scandinavian Airports. I use United Airlines ticket prices available today for San Francisco to Stockholm and compare the cost of two trips ticketed normally and a nested ticket itinerary strategy for the two trips to acheive significant overall cost savings.

Friends & Family take you to Europe regularly

Assume a couple in California needs to make one trip to Stockholm in April for an annual cheap season family visit to Sweden and another trip is needed in peak summer season July 2016 for a relative’s wedding. That is four airline tickets you need to buy for you and your partner. Those Christmas trips wiped out your frequent flyer miles accounts.

The traditional way to ticket two trips to an international destination like Stockholm, Sweden is buy one USA-Stockholm round trip ticket for one trip and a second USA-Stockholm ticket for the next trip.

San Francisco SFO – Stockholm ARN

$632 Swiss Airlines  Monday April 4 – Monday April 11

SFO-ARN LX Apr4-11 $632


United Airlines  San Francisco SFO – Stockholm ARN

$1,209   Friday July 8 – Thursday July 14

SFO-ARN Google Flights Jul8-14

$3,682 price for two round trips and four airline tickets

Congratulate the hometown bride and groom, you just dropped over $3,600 on airline tickets.

Nested Tickets drop airline ticket price by $1,400 

  • SFO-OSL (April 4 – July 14)

  • ARN-SFO (April 11 – July 6)

There are relatively low fares from San Francisco to Oslo and Stockholm for departures in April and May and many of these fares remain low priced, even with a return flight in July. You can buy a round trip ticket from Stockholm to San Francisco at a far lower price than $1,200 round trip for departures in July.

SFO-OSL (April 4 – July 14)

SFO-OSL LX $684 Apr 4- Jul14

The original Swiss Airlines April 4-11 ticket price was $50 less at $632 round trip. This additional $50 per ticket is a bargain since it gets you home from Stockholm in peak summer for only $50 more per ticket. That extra $100 paid for these Swiss Airlines tickets is recouped on the nested ticket Stockholm to San Francisco.

ARN-SFO (April 11 – July 6)

ARN-SFO $457 UA Apr 11-Jul6

3,795 SEK = $450.72 USD per round trip ticket

ARN-SFO UA $550 Apr11-Jul6

Nested Tickets: 

  • $684 x 2 Swiss Airlines SFO-OSL (April 4 – July 14)

  • $451 x 2 United Airlines ARN-SFO (April 11 – July 6)

  • Total Airfare = $2,270 with nested tickets

  • Traditional Airfare = $3,682 for two trips on same dates when flying SFO-ARN.

  • Savings $1,412 by purchasing nested tickets

Hey, but one ticket is to Oslo, Norway and not Stockholm.

Travel between Copenhagen, Oslo and Stockholm is often less than $50 one way between any of these airports.

You will need to travel round trip between Oslo and Stockholm April 5 – July 13.

Osl-ARN Norwegian Apr5-Jul13

Now the total nested ticket savings is only $1,200 on all airline tickets.

Nest Tickets are Useful Frequent Flyer Strategy

Nested tickets are another strategy useful to flyers interested in earning miles and elite status flying repeatedly within one frequent flyer program than flying the carrier with the lowest airfare.

What about low cost carriers?

Airlines like Icelandair and WOW transiting via Reykjavik KEF Iceland and Norwegian Airlines offer one way fares between the USA and Europe.  These airlines make it far easier to take advantage of lower airline ticket prices sold in Europe for travel to the USA. Often the price to start your round trip travel is more than double the price for an airline ticket to fly from Los Angeles to London, Paris or Rome than it is to buy a round trip ticket starting from an airport in Europe.

One way fares are a way to get to Europe and start travel from Europe to the USA on low cost tickets. But in the end you will still need to get back home.

One way fares are one strategy to take advantage of low fares from USA to Europe, however the deal with low cost carriers is sometimes no deal when you have to pay super high prices for everything like seats, bags and water.

The fares on Norwegian and WOW for travel from the USA to Europe in July are over $1,000 round trip too.


Anyone planning more than two trips to Europe over the course of the next year can potentially lower overall ticket cost by checking for the availability of lower fares originating in Europe to the USA.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined in 2008.

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  1. You don’t really explain why OSL for the outer tickets? Are the rules about nesting that are in COCs not applicable if you fly different airlines in the same alliance for the outer and inner tickets in the nest?

  2. The reason for Oslo was simply to get a lower priced ticket for as close to same dates I had originally used to show the price of a round trip ticket SFO-ARN in July. The fare at the time I was writing this was quite a bit more more flying Stockholm – San Francisco. With different dates the fare would have been lower from Stockholm and comparable to the Oslo fare.

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