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9 replies
Best Time to Purchase Low Season Fares
chong1948
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Hello

We are planning to fly to Rome in late November.
When do you anticipate the airline will start their Fall airfare sales to Europe? Do you think we may have to wait until October to get the lowest prices assuming seats are still available?

The fare from San Francisco, CA to Rome, IT Sat Nov 27 – Thu Dec 9 from multiple airlines is approximately $1200.

US Airways for the same itinerary is $900 NOW but their flight times are an hour longer outbound and 2.5 hours longer inbound.

What’s your guesstimate what these fares may be for the low season and by when?

Thanks in advance!!!

Don
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My guesstimate… sign up for sale alerts now with Farecompare and Airfarewatchdog. The best fare might be now, next week, in a month, or just 3-4 weeks before (a November) departure. Thanksgiving in the US does affect transatlantic demand around that time. Maybe in the $600s if you’re diligent, quick to act on a sale, and a little bit lucky.

If you could leave SFO the evening of the 26th, then I’m seeing Swiss with just one connection—at ZRH each way—at $892 total. I’d much prefer Swiss to USAir for such a long flight.

chong1948
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The Swiss does have better flight times but $892 doesn’t appear to be much of a bargain or am I wrong?

Don
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Depends how you define bargain. I would consider 892 a shoulder-season fare (Spring/Fall) on a route like this, but if fuel prices rise, it might be a bargain.

chong1948
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Don’t we usually get a Fall sale on airfares before the end of summer?

We did not consider the Swiss flight because we would need to overnight on arrival and departure because the cruise ship disembarkation starts after 8AM arrival.

I found a non stop flight from SFOLON and connecting flights on easyJet to FCO. Is 2 hours enough time to pickup luggage, go from Heathrow to Gatwick by private transfer and clear security and be at the gate 20 minutes before departure?

Total flight times each way would only be 12 – 13 hours!!!
Total airfare would be $995!

Don
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We usually get sales for Fall starting in late summer, but there’s no guarantee of timing or price levels. I know what they’ve been in the past, but I don’t know if fuel prices will keep rising.

I would not risk losing a cruise, especially because of a mis-connection between 2 non-interline carriers. Easyjet is a low cost airline. On arrival at LHR or LGW, you will have to fetch bags and re-check them when you check in for your Easyjet flight. (I’m assuming the flight you found from SFO arrives at the same airport as the Easyjet flight to Rome CIA or FCO?). If Airline A is late for any reason, Airline B does not have to—and most likely will not—accommodate you on their next flight. Fog, mechanical, and crew delays happen.

Myself, I would sign up for sale alerts, be diligent about checking fares at least a couple times weekly (try BookingBuddy.com), and be ready to book if/when it drops to a price that I’m comfortable with—and also realize that it might not ever drop to a price that I’m comfortable with!

chong1948
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I have been tracking the SFOVCE and FCOSFO fares for our flights in Nov – Dec. The fares for the better flight times have decreased several hundred dollars with one flight as low as $904.
There is a chart on FareCompare showing the following:
Average Cheapest Nonstop Roundtrip to Europe by Departure Date
2009
Air France 23 Aug $1299 30 Aug – 18 Oct $922 25 Oct $825 8 Nov $860
Lufthansa 16 Aug $1344 23 Aug – 11 Oct $924 18 Oct – 8 Nov $830 – $831
United 16 Aug $1246 23 Aug $988 30 Aug – 11 Oct $914 18 Oct – 8 Nov $851 – $814
12 Aug 2010
Air France $948
Lufthansa $942
United $924
Lufthansa + Swiss $904

The following statement was below the chart:
The chart clearly shows that those departures in very late August are when hefty summer ticket price points drop (usually by several hundred dollars). Also note the next price drop in mid-October.

Do you think we may get another price drop in mid October?

Thanks for the suggestions!

Don
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Those are normal seasonal price shifts. A $1200 summer transatlantic fare might drop to the $900s in spring/fall, and maybe $600s in winter—except around Christmas—on the same route.

I can only tell you what I would do myself with the same purchase decision: Sign up for alerts, keep shopping it, cross fingers for something in the 600s, and if that doesn’t happen before, say mid-Oct, I’d bite the bullet and pay for the best I could find at that time, and I’d be kicking myself for passing on anything that had come along in the 700s or 800s.

Have you tried consolidators?

chong1948
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I have signed up for all the alerts and it only seems Yapta has been the only timely one. I check prices on expedia.com, farecompare.com, itasofeware.com, tripadvisor.com, yapta.com and others several times daily.

Do you think there’s a chance we will see a fare in the 600s because it never dropped that low last year?

Which consolidators would you suggest?

Don
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Check our new user thread for consolidators. It’s pinned to the top of this forum. As far are searching airfares, I’d probably just do BookingBuddy a couple times a week, since 1 input of cities and dates checks a lot of sources—including some additional consolidators not listed in our new user thread; and on weekends when I had some extra time, I might hunt some more with ITA, Yapta, etc.

Low season $600s for your itinerary has happened. Fares are higher on average currently because of reduced capacity and above average fuel prices. If capacity holds steady for Fall—or possibly increases over previous shoulder-seasons- and fuel prices dip, it will increase your chances of snagging something in the 600s, but of course I do not have a crystal ball. Smile