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How to save thousands of dollars on your international travel

You're not obliged to pay any more than the absolute minimum legal fare that applies to your travels.

Here are two more ways to save thousands of dollars on your travel.

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How to Save up to 60% on Business and First Class International Air Fares

Without a doubt, Concorde offers the ultimate civilian flying experience in the world today. Normally priced at $6326 - one way - you can buy a flight for much less - see the bonus strategy below.

Part 2 of a 3 part series - click for Parts  One  Two  Three



Update - Concorde no longer flies, alas, but the balance of the fare saving strategies below still apply as before.

Indeed, the potential saving present in Round the World and Circle Pacific type fares is so great, we've created a separate four part series on these fares (see link on right hand side).

Strategy 4 : Round the World and Circle Pacific Fares

Perhaps nothing displays the lunacy of airfare pricing more vividly than Round the World and Circle Pacific fares. For example, a roundtrip business or first class fare from Los Angeles to London is $8598/14424. You'll travel about 10,000 miles in the process. But a complete, all the way around the world fare can be had for as little as $6200/8100 (business/first class) and you are allowed to travel twice the distance in the process!

Round the world fares are usually cheaper than simple out and back fares. If all you need to do is to travel to one destination only, they will involve you in a bit of extra traveling time (but you're amassing an enormous number of extra frequent flier miles and quite probably increasing your priority status as you do so!). If your plans have you visiting more places, then the savings can increase, and the 'extra travel' inconvenience becomes less a factor.

A Circle Pacific fare is a variation on a Round the World fare where - as its name implies - you merely travel around the Pacific rim rather than entirely around the world. Circle Pacific fares are generally cheaper than RTW fares.

One of the good things that the major airline alliances (oneworld and Star) have done is to make interline agreements for truly flexible round the world fares much more convenient than used to be the case, when fares were more restricted due to fewer airlines participating in each program.

Is there a 'catch' to such fares? Nothing too substantial. For example, the oneworld fares have a seven day advance purchase, require a minimum ten day stay out of the country, and are 'capacity controlled' - ie not every seat in first/business class is available for sale at these low rates. But if you can live within these mild restrictions, you can look for massive savings on your international premium cabin travel.

NoteRound the World and Circle Pacific fares are so complex - but also so important - that we've created a separate article series to completely cover them.  Click the link to go visit that separate four part series.

Strategy 5 : Frequent Flier Fares, Upgrades and Coupons

Estimates suggest that perhaps only 10% of people in the First Class cabin have actually paid a full published First Class fare - no-one really knows for sure, except the airlines, and they're not telling! A greater percentage of people in the Business Class cabin have paid for their fares, but there's still a huge number of people seated in both those desirable cabins that did not pay the full fare. You should become one such people.

Many of these fortunate people are flying on frequent flier awards or upgrades. Such strategies can be a very valuable way of getting discounted premium cabin travel. Read on.

How much are frequent flier miles worth? To the airlines, the cost of frequent flier miles is some small fraction of a cent per mile. But they'll sell them for between 2c-3c a mile, variously to their members or to companies that want to give away frequent flier miles as premiums and sales incentives - in the process, the airlines are marking up their cost by a factor of ten or twenty or so!

Let's take an average cost/value to you, per mile, of 2.5 cents. For travel to Europe, it is common to need 80,000-90,000 miles for business class and 100,000-125,000 miles for first class - in other words, an equivalent cost of $2000-2250 for a business class fare and $2500-3125 for first class - between a third and a quarter of the full fare. (Note that these tickets typically allow you to make two stops as well.)

By contrast, a free coach ticket within the US typically costs 25,000 miles - or $625 - not a good deal at all. And a coach class ticket to Europe costs 40,000-50,000 miles ($1000 - $1250), also not a good deal compared to normal priced tickets.

There's another type of award - the 'upgrade' award, which can give excellent value to you as well. For example, with United, it costs 20,000 miles to upgrade from a 'full' coach fare to business class on a European trip, and 40,000 miles from a lower priced (but still expensive) coach fare to business class. From Los Angeles to London, the business class fare is $8592, a 'full' coach fare starts at $3088 and a lower priced (40,000 mile upgrade) coach fare starts at $1760. This means that the first 20,000 mile upgrade saves $5504, and the extra 20,000 miles saves 'only' an additional $1328 (but when you consider that it has a notional value of about $500 it is still a good deal).

What does this all mean? Firstly, any time the airline offers to sell you miles, you should take advantage of them. Secondly, save your miles up for business and first class travel awards and upgrades rather than 'wasting' them on domestic free tickets. Thirdly, if your company has a chance to buy a bulk quantity of miles from an airline, it should do this, too.

But what if you don't have enough miles or coupons to get an award ticket or to upgrade from coach class? Don't despair. You'll find lots of deals at websites such as eBay - today there were deals such as two roundtrip Business Class tickets to Europe (use them singly or together) with an instant purchase price of $4500 (compare to their value of up to $17,000!), and lots of one class upgrade coupons for sale, and even people selling mileage certificates. Of course, there are also a rich mess of useless things that verge on scams also for sale!

Bonus Strategy : Discounted Concorde Flights

If you don't have the budget for a $6326 oneway fare on Concorde between JFK and LHR, here's a trick with a special bonus as well.

Buy a QE2 crossing (priced from as low as $1350) and then pay an upgrade for a Concorde flight in the opposite direction (priced from as low as $2000 extra). Either enjoy the included 'free' QE2 crossing or simply throw away the QE2 part of the deal and just use the Concorde ticket! Note that there are only a very limited number of dates that you can use this special arrangement on, but with a bit of flexibility, you'll find yourself not only enjoying flight at twice the speed of sound, but also, if you wish, taking a leisurely luxurious trans-Atlantic crossing by ocean liner as well!

Note that the prices on the Cunard website are higher than I've seen them offered through travel agencies. A good cruise specialist can probably get you the best deal on these types of fares. And, note also, that if you're planning on not using the QE2 leg of your journey, you'll need to take the Concorde flight before the proposed QE2 crossing (if in the other direction, when you don't show for the QE2 crossing, your flight will be automatically cancelled).

Read more in Parts 1 & 3

Be sure to read the other two parts of this series for more strategies, including a strategy that will get the airline offering you discounted fares itself!

If so, please donate to keep the website free and fund the addition of more articles like this. Any help is most appreciated - simply click below to securely send a contribution through a credit card and Paypal.


Originally published 21 Dec 2001, last update 30 May 2021

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

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Part 1
Part 1 reader replies
Part 2
Part 3
All About Round the World and Circle Pacific Fares

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