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Advantage$ of planning early ... cheap flights!

I have been thinking about a trip to England, Scotland and Ireland next May-June, so I started entering airline searches on Kayak from my usual international city, Atlanta. I discovered Turkish Airlines has a direct overnight to Istanbul from Atlanta, and roundtrip fare is less than $700! By switching around my departure cities and dates, I was able to find an open-jaw trip from Atlanta to London, then Dublin back to Atlanta, for $712 round trip. This compares to nearly $1,350 for an Atlanta-Venice-Florence-Atlanta trip four years ago. The only downside is we have to spend 14 hours in Istanbul on the way home, but this might result in a side trip to the Grand Bazaar. I have an app called Hopper that forecasts air fares and the best price it could come up with was about $1,050 for the same trip.

Posted by
6624 posts

The only downside is we have to spend 14 hours in Istanbul on the way home

Unless you're pressed for time, that's hardly a downside. Istanbul is a fascinating city - lots to see there (but you will have to sprint for a $20 Turkish eVisa to exit the airport). I've flown Turkish Air 3 times now and paid between $570-$770 per flight (round trip, off peak fares all routed through Istanbul). I think either the Turkish government subsidizes the national airline to gain market share for Turkish Air, or the airline has a tranche of really inexpensive "loss leader" seats on each flight - either way, they're a solid airline and the food and service is great. Atlanta is a new city hub for them in the US.

Your post is really about the cost savings advantage of a new airline entrant in the Atlanta market (much more so than planning early, which I think everyone does as a matter of course anyway).

Posted by
7205 posts

To be so lucky as to have a 14 hour layover in Istanbul! That's a definite PLUS.

Cheaper airfares, we just booked and paid in full for our group travel for next June and at about $800 less per ticket than the previous year. I'm still waiting for AA to come back and say they made a pricing error. I was almost in shock at the lower price.

Posted by
2186 posts

Just a caution on your time in Istanbul.
We just spent 5 days there, flying in on Lufthansa, and out via Turkish Air to our next destination.. When you arrive in Istanbul Airport, it will take (at least) two hours before you are in the Old Town, between getting to immigration, getting through the lengthy entry line (and this will be longer if you have NOT gotten your Turkish Visa o line prior), and then getting transit passes and the time spent riding in to town. For your return to the airport, you will need the hour to get back, and you really do have to arrive 3 hours early -there is security to first enter the airport, then the exit immigration line, and then the security line. As many of their shorter flights are not gated but entered from bus on the field, they really mean it when they say boarding will be denied at 30 minutes before take-off. So your layover is really only about 6 useful hours.

OTOH, Turkish Air is great.

Posted by
12017 posts

Is the timing of that 14-hour layover such that you can actually use it? Or are some parts of it in the middle of the night?

Posted by
106 posts

The layover is from late evening to midday, so it may not work out as a useful time.

Posted by
6624 posts

The layover is from late evening to midday, so it may not work out as a useful time.

In that case, maybe you can catch a ferry ride on the Bosphorus in the evening or at least get a Turkish bath (those are open quite late). Or you can stroll on Istiklal Street (in the New City) which has a lot of foot traffic well into the evenings. The Grand Bazaar will likely be closed though.

I've had the same layover timing at least once and it was a bit frustrating (but I made the best of it by trying to squeeze in things when they were open).

Posted by
2186 posts

It looks like you arrive 5:20PM, and leave 1:30 PM the next day. That would put you in the city after 7:30 PM, and needing to get to your lodging. You will need to be on your way to the airport by 9:30 the next morning. Not to disappoint you, but this leaves almost no time for anything.

Suggestion: Is it worth the increase in fare to add a night or two in Istanbul?

Posted by
1045 posts

Is it possible for you to alter your flight to have a lay-over in Istanbul of a couple of days?
It's a fascinating city!

Posted by
6554 posts

The Turkish Airlines requires you to stay overnight going one way at least. And it takes a long, long time to get to Europe.

Your other option is to fly B'ham to Orlando on Southwest and take Norwegian Air Express Orlando to London Gatwick. Buy early on Southwest and the airfares are inexpensive.

Posted by
6624 posts

You will need to be on your way to the airport by 9:30 the next morning.

I had the same 1:30pm flight this September. That seems like overkill to leave that early unless you are someone who likes to be at the airport for many hours before your flight. I left Sultanahmet (Old City) at 11:10am and took the public tram from the Gulhane stop (it took about 45 min to get to the airport). I had enough time to make my flight without major stress (caveat: I had my boarding pass printed and had a carry-on only and it didn't take that long to get through security). That morning I got up and got out the door early (before 8am), had a stroll in Sultanahmet and spent from 9am to 11am at the Archeological Museum (it was a 5 min walk from my hotel) so it wasn't a complete waste of time. I did feel rushed at the museum but since I've never been before, I still appreciated the two hours. I agree that, unless you concentrate solely on one attraction that's convenient, you don't have much time to appreciate being in Istanbul...but you have some time to just stroll around and get a feel for the place, if nothing else.

PS. If you need a place to stay very close to the airport, I'd highly recommend Tempo Suites Airport or Tempo Fair Suites (very good value for money; clean and modern; two stops away on the tram or very quick, cheap taxi ride away). Also, check out the Turkish Air website to see if you qualify for getting a hotel room provided by Turkish Air since your layover is more than 6 hours (and they allegedly either give you a free tour if you arrive at a certain time or sprint for your hotel room)

Posted by
5034 posts

I guess to point out a more basic point for others, this is not just a rare deal for Turkish Airlines, to boost tourism, the tickets are subsidized, so deals come up often. Icelandair has some similar deals, and on occassion east european airlines have some deals.

Posted by
7395 posts

It's worth it if you plan to stop over in Istanbul to visit this fascinating place. Other than that, it lengthens the trip considerably to go all the way east to fly back to western Europe. Paris to Istanbul was four hours one way. How much longer does it take to fly from Dublin to Istanbul and all the way back to the States rather than flying directly. It's a trade off of time, hassle, and money. How do the prices compare to Aer Lingus, Norwegian, Icelandic, and other lower-cost airlines now that you know that this has nothing to do with early planning.

Posted by
6133 posts

Yes . . Istanbul seems a long way to go to make it to/from Dublin/London . . . that is a LOT of extra time traveling (flying over your destination to get there and then going to the airport, changing, and flying back in the right direction, or in the case of departure heading east for many hours, then an overnight layover, then finally heading back home from a point much further east (and thus much more distant).

I agree that Istanbul is fascinating, but I don't know that this would be the way I would choose to see it!!

Myself, I would pay the $175 difference each way to save myself the 7 hours or 21 hours or whatever you're going to spend in additional travel time to get to two locations that are among the very closest to the United States!!! (difference between $700 fare on Turkish and the other fare you found for $1050).