My daughter will be a foreign exchange student in Germany for 11 months, starting in August 2010. Airlines don't even publish their schedules that far out, and I understand that open ended tickets are a thing of the past. The only options I know of are to book both ends one way, or book round trip, then pay $250 to change to a later date, risking getting the same class. Does anyone have any suggestions that I may not have thought about?
First idea: have you talked to an airline human?
I would do some searching and find the best serving airline for your destination. If, for instance it was Delta (since MXP is the former NWA hub) then contact their booking directly and inquire about options. It may be that for instances such as this, they have some options not available in standard booking. It may still be something like a change fee, but probably much cheaper than one way tickets.
Will she be there the entire time or will she fly home (for example at Christmas)?
You might check with a travel agent that specializes in student travel. They often have options for students like one-way tickets and flexible tickets that you won't see directly from the airline websites. STA Travel is one that I am aware of. They have been around for a long time. I have not personally used them recently.
One challenge ... many of the least expensive fares are geared towards tourists (e.g. you will see restrictions like travel must be completed within 30 days). When I was working overseas, my company just bought a R/T non-refundable ticket and then cancelled the second half (and I never used it.) on my first trip over as well as my final trip home. Technically an airline can penalize you for doing this and charge you the OW price, but it didn't happen for me. I got R/T tickets from Europe to States when I came home at Christmas time.
Go to the agency that set up the exchange. They may have some special arrangements. When our son spent 8 months in Spain on a study abroad program, the university had an arrangement with Delta that allowed him to buy a very reasonable RT tickets with an open return date. I believe he had a requirement to give a two week notices for a return date. Worked well because he decided to stay an extra couple months after the semester was open and come home at his convenience.
Thanks for the advise. I've got options to check out. I'll let you know what I find out!
Try STA Travel. All they do is student travel (well, it's their main focus), so I'm sure they'll have some options for you. Is your daughter coming home at all during the trip? (Holidays,etc)