For my shorter European jaunts, this has been easy enough.  Skyscanner.  Type in “UK” to “Everywhere” either for specific dates or preferably calendar month and the choices come flooding out.  If I like one, I’ll  head straight to topcashback and the click through to book directly with the airline.

With long haul business class seats this tends not to cut the mustard.  There’s less flexibility in the search parameters.  Our £700+ a head saving on our Chile tickets nearly didn’t happen.  I switched the search to Google Flights software but finding the right start country was like looking for a needle in a haystack.  In the end I asked the question on the British Airways section of the Flyertalk forum.  One person replied “Italy” and sure enough every airport in Italy was offering a third off the fare I’d have paid had I started in Manchester, London, or even Madrid.  The Madrid irony being that to fly from Madrid to Santiago was over £2,000 and to fly from Milan to Madrid to Santiago was £1,300.  Exactly the same plane.

Why?  Not really sure.  Vague talk about new markets, supply and demand.  It strikes me as something of a screwed up market place with no environmental considerations.  Me neither.  I took cheap, flew more, and the extra flights got me airline status too.

With the USA, Dublin appears to be the standard “cheap” business ticket.  But this seems to be double the price paid three years ago.  Earlier this year Manchester of all places started throwing out cheap business class fares to any destination east of the Rocky Mountains.  Virgin, Delta and American Airlines playing a game that British Airways refused to join in.

For Australia and New Zealand starting in Scandinavia can be cheap.  What costs £4,000 out of Manchester or London is typically £2,000 from Norway, Sweden or Finland.  £1,600 in two recent sales (damn, missed those).  Helsinki for me as I head to the Ashes.

And then there’s the difference in quality of business class seat to consider.  These can vary by plane within the same airline but in my limited experience I’d rank Iberia (A340) and American Airlines (A330) ahead of BA (upper deck 747) and LATAM 787.  I’m looking forward to Qatar who apparently lead the field.  Virgin’s posh seat is meant to be right up there too.  Not quite as good as BA first I’m told.  Which in turn is taught a lesson by Emirates!

My challenge today is to find cheap west coast USA tickets.  Manchester to Oakland (near San Francisco) was a sweet spot a few weeks ago, but it’s gone.  Dublin fares are ok, £2,000 less than many UK fares, but still much more expensive than they have been in the past.  Turkish Airlines are offering decent value, but the 32 hour flying time via Istanbul is more than I’m prepared to submit myself to.

Once I find the bargain I want I’ll then need to cost up the time, effort and risk of getting to the bargain starting point.  Dublin is easy.  Numerous flight options and an overnight airport stay make it a route where, if fog descends, I can most likely get there with a late dash to Holyhead for the ferry or a different airport.  My Avios stash may come in useful to save on last minute fares.  My risks with Milan and Helsinki (when I go to Australia) are a little bigger.

That risk being that I turn up late for the centrepiece flight and lose the whole booking!

The Aches and Pains of Travel Appear to be Easing