Airfare tips for Australia winterim (part 2)

You can spend all day looking up flight info on the Internet ... good luck!

You can spend all day looking up flight info on the Internet … good luck!

Now that we’ve covered some of the basics for the COMM 373 winterim course, here’s some other information you might find useful.

While I mentioned in Thursday’s post that I thought it unlikely you’d be able to find a cheaper deal than the $2,600 or so my flight is costing, I did find at least one cheaper deal today (Aug. 7) for essentially the same flight.  Read on …

Please note that my recommendation Thursday assumed you would take the low-risk approach that guarantees you arrive either on the same flight as I do or on similar flights (westbound from the U.S., originating in Chicago or on the West Coast around the same time as the legs of my United flight). There are options that could prove cheaper but might involve greater risk of weather delays or less-familiar carriers.

I’ll post on this yet again by Saturday (Aug. 8), looking at some other sites that I don’t have space for today — primarily those recommending WHEN to buy flights.  There’s some evidence to suggest you might still do better by waiting, but I’m not recommending anything specific about that.  Instead, I’ll just be passing on info I’ve found.

For all round-trips described below, I used a departure date of Dec. 27 and return date of Jan. 17 (both Sundays).

First, a little info on what might be your best bet, at least right now.  Generally speaking, I haven’t found Expedia, Orbitz or the other major travel sites to differ much in their offerings, and the best price I found on Expedia Aug. 7 for an itinerary closely matching mine (an exact match) out of Chicago was $2,442.  This is about $150 cheaper than the fare I was required to get through the state purchasing system.

Incidentally, the above services show a number of options, such as Etihad and China Airways, that are several hundred dollars cheaper, but be cautious:  if you are considering these things, be aware that the travel times and connections could be problematic, so you’ll want to check them carefully.  In addition, some options, such as flying on Etihad, take you in an east-bound direction, meaning you won’t cross the dateline on the Sydney-bound flight.

You also might want to consider such issues as whether you are comfortable flying on airlines, such as Etihad, based in countries like the United Arab Emirates that have laws many Americans would consider repressive — see links here and here.  While the Abu Dhabi airport seems to have a good reputation and one of the purposes of travel is to experience how other cultures live and think, such issues are important to some travelers.

One option might be Korean Air, which had some decent flights a couple of weeks ago.  On Friday morning, I found a $2,366 ticket for a round trip departing Chicago O’Hare at 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 27, arriving in Seoul at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 28, and departing two hours later for Sydney and arriving at 7 a.m. on Dec. 29.  That would be almost two hours before my 8:45 a.m. arrival in Sydney, although it also departs O’Hare almost 8 hours before I do. The airline is highly ranked for quality (see end of post).

The downsides to this flight are two: longer travel times (almost 27 hours compared to just over 20 for my United flight) on the first leg and a whopping 41.5 hours on the return leg.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Qantas had some cheaper flights in July out of LA if you could find separate, less expensive flights to and from LA — if, for instance, you decide to spend the holidays in California or do some traveling there on your return trip.  On Aug. 5, Qantas wasn’t looking as good — its lowest round-trip price out of LA $2,378, would require a pretty good round-trip price to LA to make it worthwhile if cost alone is your biggest factor.  Other origination points, including San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit and Minneapolis, also did not look worthwhile.

Incidentally, if money is less of a concern and travel quality is important to you, airline rankings can be found on TripAdvisor, Travel+Leisure, and other sites.  Many Pacific-based airlines do well in these rankings (and United usually doesn’t).  There are all kinds of informative sites and pages, such as TripAdvisor’s “Seat Guru.”

Because such concerns are not practical for most of us, I’ll leave this research to others.

Still, I have to admit the “premium economy” ticket on Qantas out of Chicago is attractive at $3,563.  The increased seat size, premium meals, and expedited boarding and deboarding wouldn’t require you to win the lottery.  Maybe we should all take on a third or fourth job, eh, mates?

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