Airfare to Europe - Going up, up, up?

I have been watching Expedia fares on a roundtrip for family of 5: O'Hare to Florence on July 28th, returning from Zurich to O'Hare on August 6. It's creeping up every day - now a hundred dollars more each ticket than when I started checking 6 weeks ago. Does anyone know of any sales? Should I just book it and forget it? Three years ago I was watching and suddenly, one day, it dropped hundreds per ticket and I booked on the spot. Maybe those days are over! Thanks!

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

Have you compared flying into Pisa instead? It is a bigger airport with more flight choices? As fare as fares going up, I have been watching BritishbAirways fares in July from Seattle since December. They dipped briefly before New Year's, but then climbed right back up and have held steady. I am just curious if they will ever go back down.

Posted by Michael
Des Moines, IA
2155 posts

I track this stuff all the time and have for years, and the best piece of advice I can give you is to start with a fare in mind that you're comfortable with. Know your options regarding airlines, departure and arrival airfields, your timeframe, etc. Then, track fares for a while using your favorite websites. As soon as you see a fare that meets all of your criteria, including price, jump on it without delay...it may be gone in the time it takes you call your traveling companion to ask what they think. That's it. Bottom line is nobody knows for sure what will happen with fares...it's way too complicated. There certainly are trends (like seasonality, etc.), but nobody really knows for sure. And it's hard to explain sometimes. For example, flying out of Des Moines is often verboten due to high cost, so for an international leisure flight on my own dime, I'll fly out of MSP or ORD, but I just booked flights a few days ago that were $500 per ticket cheaper from DSM than from ORD. That's bizarre, but I snatched them right up instantly. I really don't know, but that fare may not have been available two hours later, and I would still be looking at fares today if that were the case. As it is, I'm done, and I will never go back and compare fares after I have purchased. In this case, I know for a fact they will never be lower than what I paid. In other cases, I may not want to find out that I paid a bit too much if it's cheaper later. Either way, I never go back when I'm done, and I never, ever have buyer's remorse. Good luck...I probably wouldn't wait too long.

Posted by Ken
Spring, Texas
599 posts

A lot of what you are seeing now is the increased crude price and higher jet fuel (light diesel) margins due to refinery shutdowns. Even though your flight is in July the airlines tend to follow current prices. The traditional sweet spot for buying tickets is around 6 to 8 weeks out when airlines have to fill a plane or, if nearly full, they will maximize their profits. I suggest you watch the prices and see how full the flights are. As long as they are not real full, you can expect/hope to see a price drop. I've seen the sudden (but temporary) price drops and they are good to pounce on if you are ready to commit. FWIW -- Crude prices are pulling back right now and some of the refinery shutdowns are ending.

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1960 posts

Marie: Airlines are getting better at analyzing the demand of customers, and controlling the supply of seats to maximize profits. We're simply seeing record prices. Unfortunately, a dollar spent is x 5 for you. You might check the Chicago Tribune Sunday Travel section to see what's offered. Large cities sometimes have consolidators that price flights well. Budget carrier Air Berlin starts flying into Chicago on 3/23/13, and they have an elaborate European flight network. They're probably your least expensive. Flights through Dublin on Aer Lingus is second most inexpensive.
Another suggestion is to look into alternative airports. Italy and Switzerland are often higher cost, and less expensive flights can be found into/out of Amsterdam and the German airports (like Munich.)

Posted by Robert
Portland
629 posts

I wouldn't wait too long to book. We generally travel to Europe in early Spring, and in past years I would wait until December or January and prices would generally drop significantly for the Spring. Not this year, though. I waited awhile, saw that about the only movement was up, and then booked when I saw a modest drop one day a couple of weeks ago. It was hundreds more than I've paid in the recent past, but it's only gone up since.

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1586 posts

What price are you seeing on Expedia? Do they show Air Berlin? They do fly from Chicago, and also to flroence and Zurich, so all that will work. For your exact dates, they show $1486. Come home a day later, and it drops to $1363. That is $600 less for a family of 5, enough to pay for a night in Zurich and have something left over.

Posted by Steve
Gaston, Oregon, USA
869 posts

Ditto Ken and Agnes. We "usually" find the best deal 8 to 12 weeks before we go. And "furgitabout" picking certain dates and making them absolute. On our trip to London Ireland this May I found that if we changed our trip by just one day we saved hundreds! Yes, we had to get special authorization from my wife's boss, but we got it...and a geat deal on a flight. Many of the search engines (Orbitz, etc. )let you search 3 days before and after your preferred dates. Do, and do it often. You can find some great deals doing this. And yes, don't get married to just one airport; seek other that can still get you close tpo your destination. I bet that the sme thing will happen; one day the prices will drop while they are tying to fill a plane...be ready!

Posted by Carol
Atlanta, GA, USA
679 posts

Another problem is the 5 seats. The way booking engines work they look for 5 seats in the same fare bucket. So if they have 2 seats at "lowest", 2 seats at "low" and 10 seats at "high" when you ask for 5 they don't give you a quote with 2 at "lowest" and 2 at "low" and 1 at high, they give you all 5 at high. Try checking just 1 seat if that has crept up it may be a sign they are selling out of cheapest. If you give the airfares you are seeing some posters might have some ideas

Posted by Stacey
Kansas City
112 posts

If you have a Visa Signature card (it will say signature under the Visa logo) you have access to a concierge service. You can have them search for flights with your parameters and ask them for the lowest prices. Within I think 2 days they will get back to you with what they have found. They search as a travel agent and might be able to find something lower priced. You are not obligated to book anything they find, but if you do, there is a $10 fee (at least that is what they charged me) per ticket. I found cheap tickets on the matrix site, but could not recreate the fare anywhere. The concierge was able to find the same price and book it for me. Just an option for looking. If nothing else, you get verification that you have found the lowest price.

Posted by Marie
Northbrook, Illinois, USA
181 posts

Wow - this is why I never make a move toward Europe without checking in with this website. Thank you all for your great advice. I am, unfortunately, looking at specific dates: outbound from ORD July 28 and return Aug 6 ZUR to ORD. I keep checking seat maps and the cheapest flights are still wide open so I may see a down-tick at some point...maybe when Air Berlin starts up next month from O'Hare. I have been taking the advice here and will keep plugging away. Wonder if the kids would mind swimming the last leg? Just kidding!

Posted by David
Florence, AL, USA
1960 posts

Don't expect to see any lower fares for this summer. If there are any less expensive fares, they'll pop up and disappear as quick as they showed up. Sales are less frequent now than 3 years ago.
Fares for your itinerary may have gone up somewhat the last couple of days.

Posted by Compay
Estes Park, Colorado, USA
34 posts

For Ken - How do you check to see "how full the flight is" before buying tixs and getting seat assignments?
Also, I agree the sweet spot is usually 10/12 weeks out. I think in part because tour operators that had been holding seats on popular routes have to let them go 12 weeks out, if not booked.

Posted by Frank
Oxford, MS, United States
26 posts

Can you add a couple of days to your vacation? United Airlines currently is offering round-trip fares from New York to Dusseldorf for less than $750 all-in. My guess is that this is about half or less than the numbers you are coming up with in your airfare search. I find that Kayak is great for finding low fares; better than itamatrix. Yes, you will have to drive 12 hours, but my wife and I have done the same many times. For a family of five it means a savings of more than $4,000. Isn't $4,000 worth a 12-hour drive? You will need to get train tickets to and from your final destinations, but if purchased in advance they are extremely cheap, particularly in and out of Germany.

Posted by Love to Travel
San Diego, CA
126 posts

Try skyscanner.net I believe it's a European website and they will give you different options of dates, airports, etc. If you click on "Flexible?" after you've done your search it can show you various other airports that you wouldn't consider. also may want to look into what a round trip to zurich is...might be a bit cheaper to take a train or budget flight to italy from Swiss.

Posted by Carol
Atlanta, GA, USA
679 posts

If you are using the "Seat" assignments on the airline web site to determine "is the plane" full, that's a bad method. If an airline charges to seats, large number of folks won't pay to . If a tour group, has booked a block of seats those seats may not show blocked. There are ways to look at the airline inventory. I believe ITA software is "open" (not sure I don't use it) I use a tool called Expertflyer.com but it's a "fee" service so it may not be worth it...