Philadelphia to China for under $500

Update (3pm 4 Oct 2013): Fare is gone; planning/logic remains valid for future similar deals.

I don’t post airfare deals too often here, but this one is ridiculously cheap, plus I figure it is a good opportunity to talk about ITA searches and booking engines, so here goes. There are currently a couple fares filed on AA for travel from Philadelphia to Shanghai or Beijing which are ridiculously cheap. Probably the cheapest I’ve ever seen. If I had to bet it is because the YR (like a YQ, but one letter off) `is loaded incorrectly, but that’s just a guess. But if you want to visit China in the middle of the winter and you’re in the Philadelphia area this is a tremendous bargain. Here’s how I’m finding dates/fares which work.

Start with ITA Matrix.

01.ITA02.ITA Calendar

Not as many dates showing available right now as did last night when I posted about this (on Twitter & Facebook; you should follow me there, too!), but still some worth considering. I chose February 19-24 for my trip, a nice long weekend. Booking the simple trips is relatively simple, even with the overnight in Chicago. I plugged the dates into Hipmunk and came up with an option which directed me over to the site to complete the booking:

04. HIpmunk

04a.AA Booking SImple

There are lots of options with a single connection in each direction but if you want to get a bit more creative (and earn a few more miles) you can also choose the 3 stops itineraries in ITA.


03.ITA Full Itin

Those are, however, much harder to price out on an OTA. I struggled a bit getting Hipmunk to find the PHL-DFW-ATL-ORD-PEK routing but I certainly didn’t lose hope at that point. I simply moved on to another tool. Kayak is my next favorite metasearch engine and it came through like a champ on this one. It doesn’t support the ITA routing language but some creativity in telling it where the multi-city stops exist results in itineraries which are rather easily bookable. Here’s my search:


And here are the top results:

06.Kayak Results

Click on the bright orange “Select” button and you’ll quickly find yourself on the AA website to complete the transaction.

07.AA Booking

I didn’t work this one too hard; it is theoretically possible to get very creative on the return as well, routing it across several stops before ultimately returning to Philly. ITA will show those and a multi-city search (e.g. PEK-BNA,BNA-PHL) should, in theory, show the flights you want. In this case the inventory is dwindling and I’m not sure it is worth the time to squeeze out those last few segments/miles of an already pretty terrific fare. But have fun with it.

I spent a couple days in Beijing in October 2011. It was chilly then and I have to believe it will be downright frigid in January or February. But there are some cool things to see and fun areas to explore. My posts about that trip to Beijing can be found here.

n.b. – The Kayak and Hipmunk images above are links which should take you to the same searches I was conducting so you can see it live and play around with it yourself. Good luck!

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. So I don’t think its the YR. Looking at for example the $640 BOS-PVG fare that people talked about earlier, the YR is only about $40 more.

  2. It took me quite some time to actually book this. Getting the fare to show up on the AA site was easy, but I kept getting error messages when trying to pay for it. I had to use the search by schedule feature (after I knew the exact flights I wanted, of course), and even then, I got a “System Error” after submitting the payment. So I had to call back in to AA and give them the date and the Flight number so they could provide me with the record locator.

  3. And the fair is gone now. The cheapest I’m seeing now is more than twice this price. Did anyone else get it ticketed before it disappeared?

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