Friday, June 30, 2017

Our $99 trans-Atlantic fare saved us money, but the costs are much higher than they might seem

    The family and I recently journeyed to Europe on one of those ultra-cheapo fares that Norwegian Airlines is now offering from Stewart, New York, to various locales in Europe. If we had been willing to pack really light, sit in middle seats, and carry our own sandwich on board we could have made the trip from Stewart to Edinburgh (pronounced Edinborough) for $99. We wanted to check bags, sit together, and eat something, so we ended up paying $193.50 each for our flight over the pond.
    For our roughly $95 extra we each got to check a bag, which was certainly worth $40, a surprisingly good meal, which was worth $25, and the ability not to all sit in center seats next to strangers, which was worth $500,000.
    I thought it might be interesting to analyze how much money we actually saved by going through a great deal of effort to journey to New York to get a cheapo fare. Fares out of Memphis to Europe are rarely less than $1,500 round-trip, so I think that’s a good benchmark.
    We’re flying home on TAP Portugal (a very comfortable airline with reasonably wide seats), Barcelona-Newark at a cost of $236.77 each, plus an additional $30 each for seat assignments, for a total of $266.77. So our open-jaw from New York to Europe cost $460.27 each. Add to that the $20 cost of the shuttle bus to the Stewart, New York, airport, and the cost rises to $480.27.
    We now run into a bit of a problem. Our flight took us to Edinburgh, which was in no way on our sightseeing itinerary. Do we count travel time from Edinburgh as part of the trip? I’m not going to, because we enjoyed our stay and were able to visit with one of Jinny’s high school roommates. However, the flight to Helsinki, which was our ultimate destination, cost us $200 each, which really smarted.
    Our costs aren’t over. We had to get to New York. As it worked out, we started our trip immediately after daughter Lucy’s college orientation, and so it was practical (and much cheaper) to fly out of New Orleans, which we could do for 10,000 Delta Skymiles each way, or 80,000 Skymiles. Since Skymiles are said to be worth 1.2 cents each, that’s roughly $960, or $240 each. Oh, and the parking was roughly $240.
    So where are we now? $480.27 for the round-trip, plus $240 for the Skymiles, plus $60 for parking. Add to that $35 each for hotel points for a hotel in New York, plus about $20 each for taxi fare, and our round-trip fare to Europe comes out to about $835. As I said before, one would be hard pressed to find a comparable fare from Memphis for less than $1,500 or perhaps even $2,000, but $835 is a lot more than the low-sounding $99 over and $249 back that I started out with.
    After all is said and done I think we got the cheapest fare possible booking about three months out. But there are frequently round-trip fares from Chicago to Europe in the $600-700 range, and it might be a better deal for a family to simply drive to Chicago and grab one of these – if they are available, of course.
    There’s not really a moral to this story, save that when booking cheap fares in far-flung cities one should be careful to add up all the ancillary costs involved in accessing the fares. In our case we saved money, but one should be careful lest these low fare deals turn out to be a fool’s bargain.

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