Rome FCO

Rome is my unexpected summer ticket destination

One of my summer destinations in Europe is Rome. I had not even considered traveling to Rome for summer 2018 until 48 hours ago when I noticed Rome to San Francisco $505 round trip tickets flying United Airlines transatlantic each way.

Lower fares flying from Europe (sometimes)

My frequent travel ticketing strategy for Europe results in an ‘open-circuit’ – an electrical term meaning a circuit that is not complete. By ‘not complete’, I mean I often possess a ticket that flies me out of the USA to Europe, but no ticket purchased for my return travel back to the USA. This is a result of buying round trip tickets mostly starting in Europe to San Francisco or San Jose, California. As a consequence, I am generally looking for a low fare ticket to get home to California from somewhere in Europe. In my travel planning that means from ‘anywhere in Europe’.

Low one way ticket prices for intra-Europe travel means I am not too concerned about the cost of getting from wherever I am in Europe to the city I need to fly to or from. Paying $100 to $150 to fly across Europe, on top of the Europe-California round trip ticket cost, is still generally less costly than purchasing tickets from San Francisco to Europe during summer and major holidays like Christmas and Easter.

Summer 2018 is an exceptional year in that ticket prices from California to Europe have been in mid-$500s to several cities like London, Milan and Paris for travel this July. I have seen more California low fares in mid-summer travel for 2018 than I have seen in 15 years.

Xmas to Summer to Xmas ticketing

While summer 2018 is an outlier for low fares from USA to Europe, the peak season pricing for Christmas season is where tickets originating in Europe still offer the low fare competitive edge. I have not seen any evidence yet for low California to Europe fares at Christmas time.

Last Christmas I flew American Airlines to London on the return flights of a $557 Stockholm to San Francisco round trip ticket I started in June 2017 with overnight layovers in London each way. Not wanting to be in Stockholm on Christmas Day, we got off the plane in London and stayed there for three nights, then flew one way to Prague on a $49 one way ticket. Prague was a blast for New Year’s.

Basically I had six months, from June to December 2017 to find a cheap ticket from Europe back to California flying the first week of January 2018. I found a United $527 round trip ticket in October 2017 flying Copenhagen to San Francisco in January 2018 and back to Copenhagen in June 2018.

The airline ticket from Prague to Copenhagen cost $53 one way on Czech Airlines.

Europe – California – Europe Ticketing Cost

American Airlines/British Airways June 2017-Dec 2017

$557 round trip  Stockholm – San Francisco – Stockholm

  • June 2017 Stockholm – London (overnight) – San Francisco 
  • December 2017 San Francisco – London (exited) – (skipped Stockholm flight).
  • $49 FlyBe Airlines Dec 2017 London Southend SEN – Prague
  • $53 Czech Airlines Jan 2018 Prague – Copenhagen

Total $659 June 2017 – Jan 2018

Stockholm – London – San Francisco – Los Angeles LAX – London – Prague – Copenhagen


United Airlines Jan 2018 – June 2018

$527 round trip Copenhagen – San Francisco – Copenhagen

  • Jan 2018 Copenhagen – Toronto – San Francisco
  • June 2018 San Francisco – Zurich – Copenhagen
  • June 2018 $12 Ryanair Copenhagen – Kaunas, Lithuania
  • June 2018 $100 Air Baltic Riga, Latvia – Rome

Total $639 Copenhagen – San Francisco – Copenhagen – Kaunas, Lithuania/Riga, Latvia – Rome, Italy


United Airlines June 2018 – July 2018

$505 round trip Rome – San Francisco – Rome

  • June 2018 Rome – Munich – San Francisco
  • July 2018 San Francisco – Frankfurt – Rome


Over the next four months I will be looking for a ticket from Europe to San Francisco/San Jose that takes me back to Europe at Christmas 2018. Preferably with Star Alliance airlines.

Star Alliance airlines and Aegean miles

Another cheap airline tickets limitation for me is my preferred alliance is Star Alliance airlines with mileage accrual for Aegean Miles+Bonus Tier Miles. This knocks out cheap Miles & More flights with Lufthansa, Austrian and Swiss, often the cheapest tickets between Europe and California (as low as $300 round trip for LH Stockholm ARN-SFO), but no miles earned with Aegean on deep discount economy fares with Miles&More airlines.

The past four months I have had my eye on finding a summer travel ticket from Europe back to California since my United Airlines ticket takes me back to Copenhagen in June 2018 with no return ticket back to the USA.

Low cost carriers tend to be high priced for summer travel. Summer 2018 is different in that several airlines like Icelandair, WOW and Norwegian launched new routes from California to Europe with low one way fares around $200 to Iceland, Milan and Rome, but $300 to $400 one way for the return flights from Europe.

Summer 2018 route home to California goes through Rome 

On Saturday I noticed low round trip tickets for travel in July 2018 from $444 round trip for Helsinki to San Francisco on American Airlines and $469 Rome to SFO on United Airlines.

An interesting observation is did not pull up these low Star Alliance fares. Momondo searches for Rome to SFO pulled up SkyTeam flights in $700s round trip as the cheapest tickets through OTA sites.

Milan and Rome were both offering Star Alliance low fare tickets to San Francisco, San Jose and LAX with an open-jaw possibility of flying from one city and returning to another.

I ended up buying a United Airlines ticket Rome – San Francisco – Rome at $505 round trip flying Lufthansa Airlines between Rome and Germany and United Airlines-operated flights between Germany and San Francisco. This ticket will earn 50% flight miles as Aegean Tier Miles for MUC-SFO-FRA on United Airlines = 5,789 Tier Miles. This is nearly 25% of 24,000 Tier Miles, along with four Aegean flight segments, I need to requalify for Aegean Gold/Star Alliance Gold elite in 2018

Ticketing for one closed circuit trip opens the circuit for the following trip

The purchase of a $505 Rome-San Francisco ticket gets me back to San Francisco in summer 2018 and closes my airline ticketing circuit for a June 2018 trip to the Baltic nations.

But that is a short-lived closed flying circuit since I fly back to Rome in July 2018. I closed the flight circuit for one trip and created another open circuit flight itinerary. I still need to get back to California in August 2018.

Fortunately, if this summer plays out like recent years, ticket prices from Europe to the USA drop significantly for August departures. I have four months to find my next ticket home to California, preferably with a Star Alliance airline that earns Aegean miles and will fly me back to anywhere in Europe for Christmas 2018.

Over the past few years I have flown Europe-California round trip tickets with Oneworld and Star Alliance airlines from Amsterdam, Netherlands; Bergen, Norway; Copenhagen, Denmark; Prague, Czech Republic; Salzburg, Austria and Stockholm Sweden.

Now I have a low fare ticket flying from Rome, Italy. The last time I was in Rome was when I was 15 traveling by train with my college-aged sister and her boyfriend. Standing in the Pantheon with rain drops falling through the oculus is an old travel memory I have carried with me for decades when I think of Rome.

Four months remain to buy my next ticket home to California from anywhere in Europe I find a good deal. I look forward to updating my travel memories with new memories of Rome.

Plovdiv Roman theater
Roman Theater (1st c.) Plovdiv, Bulgaria is a destination I visited Oct 2017 for its Roman architecture sites. A cheap $77 Aegean 2-segment flight flew me Nice – Athens – Sofia and $53 for Aegean Sofia – Athens – Prague provided 4 Aegean flight segments for Gold elite qualification. This was my European travel tacked onto a British Airways AARP discount $367 San Jose to Prague round trip ticket I purchased for travel in a normal USA-Europe closed-circuit itinerary.





1 Comment

  • Earl Lee March 7, 2018

    This is a GREAT strategy Ric.

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