To continue the story, I had found many possible routings from San Francisco, CA to Helsinki, Finland. However, they vary in airlines, fare class, stopover locations, stopover duration, fuel surcharges, and many other criteria.
In this post I will reveal what we ended up selecting, but before I do that, I want teach you what to do when you are stuck.
When you are stuck, get unstuck by reviewing your preferences and accept small compromises.
At the end of the last route-finding sprint, we decided not to stopover in Iceland or Ireland. But we still had many options:
- See which alliance has easier routing (direction) and book that route first.
- Determine if we are ok with more than two stops.
- Searching on Qantas website for Oneworld availability (could be different from AA or BA)
Then look at revenue fare on Icelandic air for the way back. Might be reasonable. Use LH or SAS to get to KEF from Berlin/Hamburg/Oslo (positioning flights).No longer going there.
- Try two stop with one of the stops in the east coast somewhere.
- Connect on the outbound in Oslo or CPH and visit there instead of Iceland.
- Book the outbound with UA miles and use the AA miles for something else.
I normally travel off-peak. But some destinations are far more desirable in a particular season. For example, I go to Finland for the summer saunas. In mentally preparing myself for a more difficult search, I reduce disappointment and keep up my spirit.
Alas, that is the pain and beauty of this field.
So, back to the drawing board, but don’t erase the previous work!
Earlier I tried CPH-SFO, but the award search engine missed a valid connection through IST. By searching segment by segment I was able to piece together an inbound from CPH. That seems like a cool place to visit.
I think I’ll shoot for the CPH-IST-SFO on 7/29. That places my outbound around 7/16 (2 week trip). Cash tix HEL-CPH are reasonable from $100 – $300 or I could use BA Avios, which is also reasonable depending on the carrier.
But a quick search shows no outbound availability 7/15-7/17. I have to be more flexible with my dates, so I extended the range a couple days both ways to find something. I found two routes possible routes by looking at 7/13-7/19:
I prefer route two since the hard product across the pond is much nicer on AA’s 777-300ERs, but there is currently no availability. The SJC outbound has availability and I can book the 763 (not as nice as the 773) and change the date later as award availability opens up, but I have to lock in my departing airport – SJC or SFO. AA has a unique feature in that you can change the date and routing of any award flight as long as the destination and origin airports are the same.
I decided to go with SJC and forgo my SFO-JFK-LHR-HEL option in the 773 later on. I think that’s fine given that with SJC, I have a slim chance at opting for the SJC-LHR direct w/o YQ if there is IRROPS.
Then, I finally booked the inbound TK flights CPH-SFO. For each person there was about $270 in taxes (accurate to ITA Matrix) + $20 A3 booking fee, but it was the best way to redeem A3 miles thus far. The same flight would have cost 25k more in UA miles and the change policy is much less lenient. Considering most people got into A3 mostly for the easiest *G in the alliance two years ago, this was a great way to liquidate the ‘orphaned’ miles. The 15 min phone call to book the flight was simple and pleasant as well. Finally, though 7 CPM is something to be proud of, it doesn’t matter since I would almost never buy this anyway. This is an example where CPM fallacies can hold people back from pulling the trigger on an acceptable route.
Poor award availability and lack of partners limited our ability to route through Iceland. However, between Dublin and Copenhagen, we are looking forward to enjoying some time in CPH.
Now the last thing I need to book is the HEL-CPH connection flight on either BA Avios or cash ticket. I am also exploring the possibility of taking a boat from HEL to CPH. But overall, the flights in this trip are secured!
What a ride!
What has been your experience booking award tickets to non-standard destinations?