Progress to book flights to Finland: Part 7 HEL to CPH connector

Progress to book flights to Finland: Intro

Progress to book flights to Finland: Part 2

Progress to book flights to Finland: Part 3

Progress to book flights to Finland: Part 4 Routes

Progress to book flights to Finland: Part 5 Final Route

Progress to book flights to Finland: Part 6 Route Optimization

The last route I needed to secure for our Finland trip was for our second destination, Copenhagen. We wanted to have two European destinations and decided to checkout this city in addition to Helsinki. To recap, I have already secured the flights to HEL and back from CPH. We split the itinerary into two one-way segments, so could not take advantage of a free stopover, which comes with roundtrip itineraries of most programs. Hence, we need a way to get from HEL to CPH.

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We explored taking a boat to Stockholm, which is connected by rail to Copenhagen. However, the cost, travel time, and logistics required was quite complex and seeing Stockholm was not our priority.

Using ITA matrix, I identified several air carriers and the possible prices.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 1.01.50 AM.pngFor this flight I can use BA Avios on Finnair, but the redemption isn’t the best use of the miles compared to the least expensive cash itinerary.

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For example, I priced a midday departure out to 4,500 miles  and about $60 in taxes required per person. The same flight costs about $100 per person. Using 4,500 miles to cover $40 is not ideal (less than 1 CPM). I don’t have an abundance of Avios and I would need to transfer valuable Chase UR points to make this work. UR points are worth much more than 1 CPM (I value them conservatively at 2 CPM).

If I determined that miles was a good redemption, after confirming the amount of miles needed, I would log into my Chase Ultimate Rewards account to make the transfer (which posts instantly). In past experiences I was able to refresh the BA website and purchase the flight. In our case, miles is not the best option, so I will stick with the flexibility of a cash fare. Furthermore, this gives me more flexibility to determine when I want to leave Finland, since award availability is currently limited to that one Tuesday in that week (which works out ok in my current calculations). And if I purchased the SAS flight, my Star Alliance Gold status gives me free luggage as well, in the case our luggage doesn’t meet their carryon requirements.

Thus, I will continue to monitor prices and award availability. If things don’t change significantly in about a month, I will most likely purchase a cash fare with the best schedule.

What is your experience with open-ended, or open-jawed itineraries? Do you sometimes feel nervous about not having everything booked, or does the mystery and potential for more options excite you?

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Progress to book flights to Finland: Part 2

Progress to book flights to Finland: Intro

Now that we had a destination and timeframe, we could start working on the flights.

How to find flights:

  1. Determine where/when I want to go (airport code: HEL for Helsinki).
  2. Total how many miles I have (enough for two one ways on two alliances).
  3. Determine which programs can get me there (factoring in transfer partners). You can ask me for more details in the comments.
  4. Transfer enough miles to the appropriate programs (done).
  5. Look for availability, one route at a time.

Progress: 1-4 complete.

On Jan 22, I ferried enough miles from SPG to top off A3 account for two one-way awards at 45k mile each. The 45k miles each way NA to EU in C seemed like a lucrative sweet spot, so I started crediting *A miles to A3 starting early 2015. <Edit> Jan 25 – SPG points have been transferred, so it only took at most 3 days.

The main destination is HEL, but we want to visit another country in the same journey, so finding a natural stopover was ideal. Iceland is ideal, but CPH, OSL, DUB, are fine as well.

However, the priority is finding any award that will get us there.

SideTrack: Because I wanted a stopover, I researched options with A3 or AA award tix:

AA (Oneworld): no stop over allowed, but natural plane stops for OW awards include ORD, MIA, JFK, YYZ, DUS

A3 (*A): no stop over allowed either. Natural plane stops are normally east coast, FRA, IST, or CPH. Use ITA Matrix, filter by *A to find more. Found MUC (UA/LH) and ZRH (LX – swiss)

Since no stopover was possible, we need to find a reasonable cash ticket to the 2nd EU destination, and ideally one that has easy routing for the return award.

HEL-CPH 60-100 Euros on AY, DY, SK, almost every hour.

HEL-OSL 99 Euros on AY, DY, SK, 5 daily scheduled flights.

HEL-DUB: 333 Euros on AY, once per day and monopoly.

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Thus, It looks like I will have the return (inbound) award coming out of CPH or OSL.

In the next post, I will be testing out routes via searches.