The airline ticketing solution to my summer travel problem was so simple, but eluded me for several days this week until ‘Eureka!’, or more like ‘I found it!’ in Stavanger, Norway SVG airport.
My problem this week was how to get home from Stockholm, Sweden in July 2016 when airline ticket prices are the highest of the year for travel between Europe and USA.
An American airline summer refugee in Europe
Why would I be in Stockholm, Sweden without a ticket home to California? This is a result of my low fare ticketing strategy of buying round trip tickets that start from a European airport to a USA airport.
In the past year, I purchased five American Airlines round trip tickets from Bergen and Stockholm to San Francisco and Amsterdam to Las Vegas. The reason for my unusual ticketing strategy is the average cost of these five round trip transatlantic airline tickets has been around $425 per ticket. The average cost would have been double that for tickets starting in San Francisco.
As an American Airlines AAdvantage Executive Platinum member, four of my $425 transatlantic flights were free upgrades to Business Class.
Open Circuit Travel Airline Ticket Purchases
An inherent problem with ticketing flights originating in Europe is you have to get to Europe to start the ticket and eventually you need a ticket back home to the USA. Frequent flyer award tickets or one-way tickets on low cost carriers like Norwegian and WOW are one common strategy to fill in the needed flight segments.
A few weeks ago I wrote Don’t fear Open Circuit travel planning and opened with the line “The uncertainty of open circuit travel planning gnaws at me until eventually I make final itinerary decisions and airline ticket purchases to create closed circuit travel.”
Buying tickets AAdvantage over miles tickets
Despite singing Bob Marley’s tune “Don’t worry about a thing, ‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right,” the AAdvantage frequent flyer award price increase March 22 went into effect and I had not yet found dates or airports for July frequent flyer awards home without getting hit by high British Airways award taxes. I could spend 50,000 miles and $400 for an AAdvantage business class award ticket home to San Francisco
Or I could buy a Norwegian Airlines one way ticket for $419 to return to Oakland from Oslo, Norway.
Were these the best deals I could find?
This was my self-appointed week to close the circuit on my summer travel itinerary with the purchase of a ticket back to the USA. Along the way, as I played with airfares and different ticketing strategies, I published a couple of articles on ticketing strategies, along with some frustrations trying to find a solution.
A couple of times during the week there were fare wars with low priced tickets in the low to mid-$600s from Los Angeles and San Jose, California to Spain and Portugal. There were also low priced tickets in the $600s to Scandinavia. This is where open-jaw travel planning got interesting.
Travel Planning 101: Keep it simple stupid
The idea of going to Spain and Portugal captivated me this week when American Airlines dropped fares to $630 round trip for Madrid and many other airports in Spain and Porto OPO Portugal.
Plan 1: Fly to Portugal in May and return from Scandinavia in July American Airlines ticket $700 round trip.
I looked at how I could travel to northwestern Spain and down the coast of Portugal and then fly to Oslo and catch Norwegian back to the USA and return from Stockholm in July on American Airlines for around $850 round trip, plus have my ticket back to the USA in July.
Problem was I found these fares on two different days, and they were around for several hours each day, but gone by the time I worked out a complex open jaw itinerary with low cost connecting flights between Scandinavia and Portugal.
Plan 2: Fly to Scandinavia in May and return from Scandinavia in July on American Airlines ticket $650 round trip.
This fare was available sporadically for much of the week with only a couple of low fare dates to fly to San Francisco on an American Airlines ticket for around $650 round trip. I would also need a one way ticket home from Scandinavia in May. This option disappeared and fare increased to $900 for July return.
Plan 3: United Airlines ticket Stavanger, Norway to San Francisco in July with return in September 2016.
Once I dropped the American Airlines ticket mindset, several very low fare options opened up flying Star Alliance airlines on a United ticket for as low as $450 round trip.
I ultimately decided on Stavanger, Norway to San Francisco SFO at $562 round trip departing on my desired return date in July from SVG Stavanger, Norway to San Francisco SFO with flights back to SVG Norway in September. There were lower priced tickets from Oslo down to $507 round trip flying Lufthansa and United, but I preferred to pay $50 more for London-LAX and back on UA 777 aircraft compared to 744 on United Airlines.
I set the return date in September to coincide with low fare Norwegian Airlines flights to Lisbon, Portugal and a Club Carlson 2-for-1 weekend rate at Radisson Blu Royal Stavanger at $70 per night room rates.
My travel planning this week was a Loyalty Traveler reality show example of how I plan complex travel itineraries around Europe.
More importantly for readers is my next article on how my strategy as a USA resident leisure traveler who desires to frequent Europe can be applied to currently available airfares in the mid-$400s from Scandinavia to California round trip. These low fares can reduce the cost of frequent travel significantly if you have plans to visit Europe three or more times over the next year.
Loyalty Traveler – Cheaper flights from USA to Europe by starting in Europe (March 27, 2016).