Cheaper flights to Europe by starting in Europe

My main strategy for frequent travel to Europe this past year is plan my itineraries for low cost round trip American Airlines tickets starting in Europe. This ticketing strategy can be done with any of the frequent flyer programs in major airline alliances of Oneworld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance.

Cheaper flights from USA to Europe by starting in Europe

Since September 2015, I have purchased and flown American Airlines tickets with two round trip tickets starting in Bergen, Norway to San Francisco for under $400 per ticket. My last two trips to Europe were to the Netherlands where I ticketed American Airlines Amsterdam to Las Vegas for $422 round trip. In April I will finish my second American Airlines round trip ticket when I exit the plane in Amsterdam.

I only figured out how I was flying home to California from Amsterdam a few weeks ago. Norwegian Airlines Stockholm ARN to Oakland OAK tickets were $211 one way in April.

Rather than explain my tickets, this post is a step-by-step on how someone can take get a big airfare discount on frequent travel to Europe by taking advantage of low cost tickets this summer from Scandinavian airports to San Francisco (and many other US airports).

But honey, we don’t live in Europe!

When I mention this strategy of buying round trip tickets from Europe to California to my wife, she has the normal traveler response:

“But honey, we don’t live in Europe!”

Starting round trip travel from Europe has two inherent difficulties for US travelers. You need to get to Europe to start. Problem solved with a frequent flyer one way award ticket USA-Europe or one way paid ticket USA-Europe on a low cost carrier.

And, eventually, you need to have a ticket back home to the USA after two, three or more consecutive tickets originating Europe to USA. I purchased my sixth one of the past year last night to fly Stavanger SVG Norway to San Francisco SFO for $562 round trip in July and return to Norway in September.

One Way Tickets between USA and Europe

Surprisingly, I find that I can regularly ticket two round trip tickets from Europe to SFO or LAX on a major airline like American, Delta or United and their alliance partners, plus buy two low priced one way tickets on a low cost carrier like Norwegian Airlines or WOW and travel to Europe three times for less than the price of two round trip tickets on the same major alliance airlines when starting from the USA.

Norwegian and WOW are the primary low cost carriers and available from Florida, New York and Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas in the west. WOW operates from Baltimore, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Icelandair also has one way fares, although higher than 50% of round trip fare with true one-way fare pricing on Norwegian and WOW. Aeroflot is another one way fare airline, but also higher than 50% round trip fare.

Travel Objective: Three trips to Europe over next 12 months

Here is how a person can ticket in any of the three alliances three separate vacations from San Francisco to Scandinavian airports like Copenhagen CPH, Oslo OSL and Stockholm ARN for around $1,600 to $1,800 in total airfare, including a summer 2016 trip. Low fares bounce around between the three airports and sometimes all three airports have simultaneous sales to USA. In California it bounces back and forth week to week if LAX or SFO is the lower priced flight with different airlines.

Add $100 to $200 round trip to travel from Copenhagen, Oslo or Stockholm to some other airport in Europe from London to Paris, Spain or Greece.

I spent many hours this week planning my summer itinerary to coordinate low fare dates for travel to other places in Europe. Here is a quick itinerary I put together in a few minutes as an example of three trips at low cost.

The refinement process is coordinating transatlantic flights with low cost dates to travel elsewhere in Scandinavia or Europe.

United Airlines/Lufthansa or Air France or Virgin Atlantic

$423 to $487  Friday May 20 – Tuesday May 31

OSL-SFO $423 May 20-May 31

Oslo to San Francisco is a low priced ticket for travel April to June. I randomly picked May 20 as a starting point for airfare searches to depart Oslo, Norway for San Francisco to return to USA.

One-way flight or frequent flyer award needed to get to Europe to start these tickets.

Locate dates with low one way fares on Norwegian Airlines.

Next step is locate dates with low one way fares on Norwegian Airlines. Norwegian Airlines has lowest fare for Oakland to Scandinavia (ARN, CPH, OSL) in May is $275 one way on May 3 for OAK-OSL Oslo, Norway.

Norwegian Airlines Oakland OAK – Oslo Norway OSL (nonstop flight)

$275 one-way Tuesday May 3

OAK-OSL $275ow May 3 Norwegian

$275 for Norwegian Airlines one way from San Francisco area Oakland OAK to Oslo, Norway is the primary expense to start saving with $450 to $500 Oslo to San Francisco round trip tickets with United or Delta. Add $60 to $100 for checked bag and assigned seats.

Find Oslo to San Francisco departure date coinciding with low fare on May 3 to Oslo on Norwegian Airlines

Europe Trip 1: May 3-10, 2016 

Ticket 1: $275 Norwegian Airlines

  • Oakland to Oslo, Norway one-way May 3.

Ticket 2: $471 SAS Scandinavian Airlines

Oslo to San Francisco round trip May 10 – August 19 

  • Oslo to San Francisco Tuesday May 10
  • San Francisco to Oslo Friday August 19

Europe Trip 2: August 19-27, 2016 

Ticket 3: $419 – $493 American, Delta and United

Oslo – San Francisco round trip

  • Oslo to San Francisco Saturday August 27
  • San Francisco to Oslo, Saturday November 19 (Thanksgiving week)
  • $419 Delta/Air France; Delta Airlines ticket.
  • $458 American Airlines/British Airways; American Airlines ticket.
  • $493 United/SAS/Lufthansa; United Airlines ticket.

Europe Trip 3: November 19-27, 2016 

Ticket 4: $471 SAS Oslo – San Francisco round trip

Sunday November 27 – Saturday February 11, 2017

Continue with another round trip ticket or fly home on a one way ticket.

Europe Trip 4: February 11, 2017 to …

No need to travel only from Oslo

This article used three return trips from Oslo, Norway to San Francisco to simplify the ticketing process for multiple trips to Europe via Scandinavia. Copenhagen CPH and Billund BLL Denmark, Stockholm ARN and Gothenburg GOT, Sweden, Bergen BGO, Oslo OSL and Stavanger SVG, Norway have offered discount fares throughout the year among the three alliances.

You can currently book three round trips to Scandinavia visiting in the spring months, peak summer and Thanksgiving week 2016 for $1,600 to $1,800 all in for air travel from San Francisco Bay Area to Oslo, Norway and other airports in Scandinavia ticketing American, Delta or United Airlines. That averages $533 to $600 per round trip ticket for San Francisco to Europe for three trips in spring, summer and fall 2016. The fourth trip to Europe is half paid for and another $200 for a Norwegian Airlines flight home from Europe in February 2017 ro buy another ticket.

Four Trips to Europe in 2016-17 for $2,000 in airfare.

Purchasing American Airlines and United Airlines round trip tickets starting travel from Europe to the USA has cut the cost of frequent travel from California to Europe significantly.

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. Check ATH or SKG as well. I have had some tickets as low as $370 but they are normally around the $410 price as well. It is really nice to start from Europe!

  2. Are you able to use miles and upgrade to business on American or Delta if you choose? Thank you

  3. @Charles – checked SKG and saw some low fares from there to California. I still have not made it to Greece and I like the option of mixing it up and flying round trips from other places.

    I still need a flight back to California in September after my Norway to San Francisco July-September ticket leaves me in Stavanger SVG with no ticket home.

    @Jay – AA USA-Europe routes can be upgraded for 25,000 miles + $350 each way for up to three flight segments marketed and operated by American Airlines.

    Delta SkyMiles is a program I know very little about. Perhaps a reader can answer this upgrade question more quickly.

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