I'm looking for experienced help on searching for air travel from Portland OR to Lisbon late May for a Rick Steves tour. We have lots of Alaska points, but I'm not sure that's going to help out here. Also have Alaska Air's companion ticket available, but again, not sure that's going to help get us from the great northwest to Lisbon. What do folks suggest? Fly to NYC or Boston and ticket separately from there to Lisbon? Tour starts in Lisbon and ends in Porto. What search tools will help me find the best deals? When's the best time to get a bargain? Are then any bargains to be had? Thanks in advance to all you voices of experience.
Next May I'll be using my Alaska miles to fly for the 5th year in a row from PDX to Europe. Alaska has several international roaming partners including AA. (Sadly, they just ended their partnership with Delta so no more direct flights to Amsterdam!). This time I'm stopping on the east coast (same as last year actually) to see family for a few days (Alaska allows one free stop-over with an award ticket), then flying direct to Paris (and somewhere from there, TBD), then flying CDG-PDX on AA with a change in Chicago on the way home. Not bad for 40,000 Alaska miles!
I am going solo - no idea if their companion pass will work for going to Europe on partner awards. You can always call them and ask.
To search for flights to Europe with your Alaska miles, go to their website, then check the "Use Miles" box, then try to search for flights from PDX to LIS and see what comes up. Could be you will need to stage somewhere like Paris and book your own local flights to/from your starting/ending points. Or, use your Alaska miles for just one way. However, buying one-way tickets is usually expensive for a return ticket.
If you don't want to use your Alaska miles or there are just too many stops, try Google Flights to find something better. FYI, Alaska award tickets are free to change and cancel up to 60 days before departure (minus a $25 partner booking fee), so you could always book best available right now and keep looking; if something better comes up next week, change your ticket for free - or if you see some hot fare sale, cancel your Alaska award ticket for the $25 fee up to 60 days ahead of departure.
I would check on the TAP Portugal Air website. TAP sometimes has fares a lot cheaper than other options to Portugal. The only inconvenience might be a long layover on eastbound flights.
Your companion ticket can only be used on Alaska flights, not partners, so no help there, unless you just want to use it to get to New York for more flight options.
Your Alaska miles can be used on several partners with routes to Europe, but the only ones I see with seats available to Lisbon in May are British Airways and American Airlines. In Economy, the BA flights will cost 32,500 miles each way per person, plus $206. The AA flights will be 20-30K miles plus $73 each way, but they are more scarce. Try looking one way at a time. And since BA does not fly to PDX, your journey will start with a flight on Alaska to an airport served by BA, such as Vancouver, SFO, or LAX.
If you can get to any major city in Europe that you'd like to spend a night or more and use miles, do it! You can book inexpensive flights from wherever you land to Lisbon. We did that this past summer, flying into Gatwick, then EasyJet to LIS.
Andrew's advice is generally spot-on.
A couple additions...
- Alaska's "companion fare" deal is only available on their own flights (and they don't fly to Europe - at least not yet - I think they will some day...one can dream...). You could fly on Alaska to an east coast city (Boston, NY, etc.) using the companion pass that far, then catch a flight to Europe. Personally, I try hard to get a non-stop from the west coast to Europe whenever possible - connecting in an east coast city breaks up the trip into two hops, neither of which is long enough to get good sleep.
- Lisbon is not very well connected to a lot of cities in North America (although TAP, the major Portuguese airline, does fly to Boston). Your best bet may be to just find a flight to Europe (hopefully one from somewhere in the Northwest) then catch a cheap connecting flight to Lisbon.
- There are not many non-stop flights to Europe from the Northwest. Delta goes from SEA and PDX (to AMS, CDG and LHR). You will have many more options if you connect in Chicago, New York or Atlanta. But I greatly prefer having a long flight to improve chances of getting some sleep.
- If price is your only (or primary) consideration, look into the new low cost airlines (eg Norwegian and others). More connections and other issues there, but low prices.
Portugal is great - It hasn't been spoiled by mass tourism crowds (yet). You will love it. Good luck.
Not sure if this is helpful but we just booked a flight from Spokane to Lisbon on Delta. It goes thru Amsterdam and the flight times and layovers were really good. Spokane is not a major hub so it's hard to get international flights from here. You should have lots of choices out of Portland.
You guys are the best! I'm researching and using all your tips. Lots of possibilities here. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge.
Suggest you search the trip as one-ways, i.e PDX-LIS and OPO-PDX. Looking at 'late May' there are choices that will get you to/from using miles and not buying a ticket to east coast and using miles from a gateway city there to Portugal.
You may get a tolerable/usable booking now and if at some later date a better routing/schedule comes up, you can re-book just one segment and not have to deal with re-doing the entire trip.