If your home airport is barren of great travel deals, you should start looking elsewhere. It is just like fishing. You can only get the fish where the fish are.
Starting and Ending Points
To get good deals, you must be prepared to fly from and to airports that are not your preferred points or not from where you are based. If you live in Seattle, you may have to start off from Los Angeles, Las Vegas or San Francisco. If London Heathrow is your home airport, you will find it very challenging to bag something good. You are more likely to find palatable deals from Dublin, Munich, Berlin, Stockholm, Oslo or Helsinki. Likewise, for your return points.
Regular flyers term this as “repositioning”. Repositioning involves taking you from your base to the departure airport to start your trip, and then from the arrival airport to your destination city – and vice versa. Occasionally, if you are lucky, there is no repositioning involved. Sometimes, only one way, but sometimes both ways.
Your home airport is London Heathrow and you want to end up in Vancouver. You found a great business class fare originating from Dublin to Los Angeles, and the return journey is from Los Angeles to London Heathrow. (DUB-LAX, LAX-LHR, this type of itinerary is frequently known as open jaw.) In this example, you need to reposition yourself from London to Dublin one way, then from Los Angeles to Vancouver return.
Repositioning adds to your overall travel costs. You have to factor this into your equation. The typical frequent flyers incur minimal cost for repositioning. The reason is because they usually use their frequent flyer points to get them where they need to be, and use hotel points for overnight stays if required.
Repositioning also requires extra travelling time. You must never plan your repositioning flights to immediately connect with the main flights. If your repositioning flight is delayed, you will be on your own. The airline is not going to help you because you are flying on separate tickets. You must build in more than adequate layover hours, 4-5 hours at least. Remember, when flying on separate tickets, the airline will not check through your baggage to your final point (but you may get lucky on the rare occasion). You will have to exit the arrival terminal and check in again. All these consume time.
It only makes sense if you are flying business class.
As repositioning incurs additional cost and time, you will find that it makes little sense to fly an economy deal. It is more suited for business or first class deals. To illustrate, say you bagged an economy fare for Los Angeles-London-Los Angeles for US$450, and you are based in Vancouver. You need to get to Los Angeles from Vancouver return, and if you cannot score a redemption flight, the cheapest paid return economy ticket might stretch to US$250, bringing the total to US$700 (or C$900). On a good day, you probably can get a published fare from Vancouver to London return for C$900. So, why bother with all the troubles? The situation is totally different if you scored a business class deal. The standard business class fare for Los Angeles-London-Los Angeles is in the region of US$4,500-5,000. If you scored the deal at US$1,500 business return, the repositioning cost of US$250 is insignificant. What awaits you later, principally, the lie-flat bed for 11 hours or so, will totally make up for the troubles. (Yes, make sure you choose the right aircraft type.)
Our position on repositioning: we use repositioning as the opportunity to discover a new city or to spend time at our favourite cities. We often stay overnight, or in the case of new cities, several nights. A word of advice – ensure that you have a comprehensive travel insurance to cover all eventualities.
Is it worth it? See our next installment in this series.