Nesting tickets, saving money


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.

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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.

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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.

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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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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, LinkedIn and .

7 Comments

    1. I honestly hadn’t considered where to credit the points. Maybe DL. The JFK-AMS-HAM could credit to AS well but the SAW-AMS-JFK fare is too low to earn there.

      But I’m not going to spend a couple hundred extra dollars to earn points worth less than that. So I focus on the trip first and the points later.

  1. Why not exploit the goodness of our favorite non-US award program instead? That’s by far the best option.

  2. Brilliant! I considered doing this for all of my trips to Europe because it seems that prices from Europe always seem to be better than prices From NA for my destinations. But I also call home to an expensive airport. Nice read!

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