Mar252016

Wasted time seeking an elusive perfect low fare Europe flight itinerary

I do not even want to tell you how many hours I analyzed American Airlines airfares between California and Europe this week. I will tell you in the next 800 words about how I wasted hours of time this week seeking an elusive perfect low fare Europe flight itinerary.

Advanced frequent flyers come up with advanced ticketing strategies to save money on travel. My strategy for my last five California to Europe airline tickets in the past six months has been buying tickets that start and end in Europe. My cost for five American Airlines tickets from Bergen, Norway BGO and Stockholm ARN to San Francisco has ranged from $360 to $500 round trip. I have been racking up AAdvantage miles before a ticket revenue-based frequent flyer program for U.S. residents emerges in American Airlines AAdvantage, similar to Delta SkyMiles and United Miles Plus.

I knew I wanted to be in Stockholm this July, so last November we flew an AAdvantage 20,000 mile economy award tickets to London for the week, then Norwegian Airlines London to Stockholm for $100. We came back to California in November flying ARN-LHR-SFO on British Airways operated flight on $500 American Airlines tickets.

Our return flight to Stockholm is in July. I don’t have a ticket back to California yet.

American Airlines from California to Portugal in May

Return from Denmark, Norway or Sweden in July 

Seek elusive under-$700 round trip ticket.

Watson, the game’s afoot!

I love travel planning to earn and redeem miles and points. I have wasted hours years of time seeking the elusive perfect low fare itinerary for my travels. The airline ticket purchase system is rigged and I don’t want to be beat. So, I waste time, sometimes with great success, however, other times are just wasted.

American Airlines fares from California to Spain moved up and down this week faster than the Dow Jones. Fares changed by hundreds of dollars over the course of hours on several tickets I priced from California to Spain, Portugal and Scandinavia over the past three days.

All of Spain for $650 round trip

On Tuesday March 22 American Airlines round trip fares were in the low $600s from Los Angeles LAX and San Jose SJC to airports all over Spain for travel April to June. That was interesting, but not unique. Spain, behind Scandinavia, has been the second most discounted region of Europe over the past year with American, Delta and United. One exceptional feature of this sale were low fare airports in remote corners of Spain in the Basque and Galicia regions, a bit off the main tourist track. Another exceptional feature is a return from Spain was possible in July for under $700 round trip.

I spent hours working on travel plans and researching where I wanted to go in Spain and Portugal. Madrid was cheapest, but deals to Madrid happen with regularity. This seemed to be a good time to take advantage of low fares to visit a more outlying region of Spain than Madrid. Barcelona was not one of the airports on sale. I have been to Barcelona a few times, but never Madrid.

The fares increased to over $1,000 before I could finalize an itinerary within Spain and Portugal.

Wasted time.

Yesterday, March 24 I woke up and saw low fares back again for Spain and Portugal from Los Angeles and San Jose. Low fares were back, but several of the low airfare dates for a return from Scandinavia had changed from two days before.

Santiago de Compostela SCQ

I narrowed down my ticket destination to fly Los Angeles to Santiago de Compostela SCQ in the Galicia region of northwest Spain with a return in July from Oslo, Norway. I planned to travel down the coast of Portugal over a week in May, then fly Norwegian Airlines from Lisbon to Oslo and back to Oakland for $225 one way.

I had to make a new list of low fare dates for American Airlines return flights to California in July since I can depart from Stockholm, Copenhagen or Oslo. Travel from Portugal needed to align with dates offering low fare Norwegian Airlines flights. There are $150 to $160 one way tickets flying Norwegian from ARN, CPH and OSL to LAX or OAK, but there are also dates with $400 one way fares.

Went to book the LAX-SCQ/OSL-LAX $722 ticket and saw airfares across Spain had risen once again to over $1,000 round trip. This was the second time in three days American Airlines ended the fare sale from California to Spain/Portugal while I was in the process of refining a multiple week, multiple trip European itinerary.

Google Flights Europe-SCQ

Spain and Portugal may go on sale again or not. This drama has not ended for me.

Travel research indicates many tourists are enthusiastic about Lisbon with high recommendation as a tourist spot.

Keeping my Eye on July

After missing out on the American Airlines ticket to Spain once again yesterday, my focus returned to finding low fares to Scandinavia allowing a return in July at a low fare.

RyanAir flights between Porto OPO, Portugal and Copenhagen CPH allow $62 round trip travel if you can land the right combination of dates. Norwegian flies between Oslo and Copenhagen with $133 round trip flights available.

Norwegian Airlines  Oslo OSL Norway – Lisbon LIS Portugal

1,126 NOK = $132.66 USD round trip May 30-June 8

OSL-LIS $133rt Norwegian May30-Jun8

My rule of thumb is get anywhere in Europe on a cheap ticket from the USA and you can probably get just about anywhere else in Europe for under $100 one-way. This often works out for saving hundreds of dollars over ticket prices direct from California to a specific airport in Europe.

I am still wasting time seeking that elusive perfect low fare Europe flight itinerary for May and July travels. Portugal may still be in my travel future.

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 BoardingArea.com in 2008.

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Comments

  1. This is exactly how i spend too many days. I just can’t pull the trigger when the price is over $600 to Europe (from the east coast.) Rick I’ve enjoyed your writing for a couple of years. Thanks for everything.

  2. Doesn’t AA have a 24 cancellation period? Why not lock on the price you like and then do your research?

  3. I just checked and you can put a reservation on hold for 24 hours for no charge. Even better than a 24 hour cancellation option.

    This is on aa.com, other airlines might have similar options.

  4. @Colin – Well-planned itineraries are a challenging puzzle. What makes my trip harder is I have flexible travel dates and places.

    I probably checked more than 100 dates and routes, refining with each step.

    Beyond price, I focused on airport layover time for visiting lounges as an opportunity to do some work. Airport departures and arrival times that avoid peak rush hour traffic and early morning late night times that require taking a taxi. After taking eight or so transatlantic flights on American and British Airways, my preference is BA 380 out LAX-LHR, AA 777W out of LAX. Those were only available at low fare on some dates. Other dates those aircraft were $200 more.

    The reason I did not make a hold is I did not have the right itinerary and building dates around low cost flights intra-Europe is essential. For example, Norwegian Air Oslo to Lisbon is $65 on some days and other dates it is $200 one-way. Everything has to align. I would have made a dozen or more holds as I repeatedly found better ticketing options.

    Yesterday I came up with a new ticketing strategy for summer travel home from Europe with Star Alliance carriers. The ticket I found is $553 round trip Scandinavia to San Francisco in July and I can travel back to Europe at end of summer. Easy to align dates for late summer low fare flights to Portugal too.

  5. You can make multiple holds, so either cancel the old one after you hold the new one, or hold multiple options and then cancel the ones you don’t need as you refine, e.g., hold 5, cancel 2, then add a few more and cancel a few more.

    A way more detailed option would be to keep track of flight times for airports you’re interested in, so you’d already know you couldn’t use, for example, SJC-OPO because there would be no good connections.

    And yes, Lisbon is awesome. Visited for a long weekend in January on the Wideroe mistake fare a few years ago and I’d love to go back.

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