I have several trips to Europe planned for the first four months of 2015. As part of actually buying the tickets for said trips, especially a couple conferences I want to attend but which I’m paying the costs of, I was rather frustrated to discover that the fares were higher than I was inclined to pay. I get that fares are higher today than 5 years ago but a total of nearly $2000 for a pair of off-season trips to Europe from NYC was a pill too bitter to swallow. So I started to get creative.
I need to be in Istanbul in February and Hamburg in April. Looking at fares with reasonable flight times (I will not take the 6am departures from IST nor HAM on the flights home) I managed to come up with a vaguely reasonable $714 for the first trip and an eye-watering $1255 for the second. It was time to get creative.
I’m already in the middle of a trip which originated in Europe because the round-trip fares were significantly lower so I tried that angle once again. An open jaw from Istanbul to New York and back to Hamburg – again paying a small premium (~$100) for decent flight times – was $720. That’s about the same as the first “normal” round-trip ticket. But the other half of the trip – an open jaw from NYC to Istanbul plus Hamburg to NYC – came in at a much more palatable $841. That’s a savings of $400 without trying too hard.
And then I got even more ridiculous. KLM has promo awards available for travel to Europe in February. From New York it is an economy award for 12,500 points plus ~$105 in taxes while from Chicago it is 31,250 points plus ~$266 in taxes. And figure another $125 to position to Chicago for me bringing the cash component of that one up to $400ish. I can also get an award ticket home from Germany in April but only an “regular” rates so the value proposition falls apart a bit. Basically I’m trading an $840 revenue ticket in and instead paying $250 in taxes/fees plus 42,500 miles for an award. That values the points around 1.5 cents each which doesn’t suck but which is also not particularly spectacular. Putting a value on the business option is a bit harder as there’s no way I’d be paying for a business class ticket but the net costs in the end would be 61,250 points plus ~$520 in cash. And that only gets me business class one way. If I consider that a one-way business award to Europe is typically 50-60k points then this is basically a oneway ticket home for $500 in cash and that’s not all that bad, really. But the longer travel time and unprotected connection in Chicago in February does make me a bit more cautious.
In the end I’m probably going to buy the revenue ticket even though the award option is somewhat appealing. And, of course, I can always just play the game and leave my return trip open, hoping that something better comes along. After all, I may end up going to Japan after Germany instead of coming home; stranger things have happened.
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