With quite a few SQL Server events hosted in Seattle, after all it is the home of Microsoft, its common for people to want to fly there. I’m one of them and have recently done some research which I’m going to share for anyone else going.
Usual rules apply
As with a flight anywhere flying mid-week rather than a Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday will normally reduce your flight cost, although not always by as much as you’d expect. If flying mid-week requires an otherwise un-necessary night in a hotel then look at the difference, for some flights I found it was only £20-40 extra to fly on the Friday.
Be clever when you book. Buying a long time in advance doesn’t always get you the discounts you’d expect. Certainly buying in the month before you fly would be asking for trouble, but if its six months away gut feeling tells me the best priced tickets will be released around 3 months away.
If you know which airline and route you want to fly with then booking direct with that airline can sometimes offer benefits. Maybe a £1 saving than somewhere else, but more importantly you’re setup in their database using their customer and flight details from day 1.
Seattle Specific Details
The first thing you need to know is that Seattle is what I’d call a tier-2 US destination, very few airlines fly there direct. When airlines picked their routes Seattle lost out to New York, Chicago and San Francisco etc. which surprised me. Using Expedia you’ll find only Iberia, BA and American Airlines fly direct to Seattle and I believe the AA flight is a codeshare of the BA flight, or the very least its not as often as the BA flight. This means there’s very little competition on that route so expect higher prices than you’d expect for a similar length flight to elsewhere in the US and don’t even consider trying to use your BA Exec Club miles on the route, they know every seat will get a paying customer as there’s so few direct flights.
Options for Flying Direct
Flying direct gives you the comfort of one check-in, one seat and one flight but at a premium. All of the direct flights go from London leave from Heathrow so there’s no avoiding there. Iberia is often the slightly cheaper option compared to BA flying economy. BA is the only airline which offers a premium economy service on that direct route.
Flying Indirect – via a flight broker
Using a site like Expedia you’ll find the cheapest flights have one-stop. These introduce lower cost leg options which bring the flight price down, but not always down by as much as you’d expect. If you think flying in-direct is the massively cheaper option check first, paying only a slightly higher price might get you the benefits of direct. If you fly a one-stop route check the ratings for the airline you’ll be flying with, there’s a mixed bag of airlines which you’ll start getting options with.
Flying Indirect – Do It Yourself
A few people advised me to look at flying into a major US or Canadian hub and getting an internal flight myself from there. I really don’t recommend this. Internal flights looked to cost around £250 return regardless of when and where they went to. So while the initial flight to the US might cost quite a bit less or give you a lot more options, the second DIY leg takes considerable planning to make it cheaper and worth the effort of planning it.