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What airlines to choose: How do you fly from Seattle WA to Italy and back???

We are doing the Rick Steves Italy My Way tour in September of 2018 and I am a complete newbie when it comes to flying to Europe. We live in Seattle and would not be opposed to traveling up to Vancouver BC to save $ on a flight. I am all about finding the cheapest possible options available. So far I have found Seattle to Geneva using Icelandic Air and Geneva to Venice using Easy Jet. In total $400 per person. What I am having trouble with is Rome to Seattle, which airlines should I look into and what cities should I check for cheaper flying options. I will say we do have an Alaska companion ticket that can be used as well. My ultimate goal is to try and spend less than $1000 per person for airline travel. Is this even feasible?

Someone asked what our exact dates were and our tour
Our exact dates we are looking at are:
Departing Seattle on 9/14/18 and arrive in Venice
My Way 13 Day Tour starting in Venice 9/16 Ending in Rome 9/28
Departing Rome on 9/29 and arrive in Seattle

Posted by
3165 posts

A couple of weeks ago, I booked two tickets, on United, SFO - CDG - SFO, for September. They cost $667 each. While it’s true that prices vary depending on the airport, we, like you, are on the West Coast. I also found that late August departures were significantly cheaper than after August 29.
I use skyscanner.com to see all the possibilities. Air Canada had lots of flights cheaper than what I paid. Also, we opted for direct flights rather than cheaper ones with changes.
Just a note: you may see some deals at low prices offered by 3rd parties. The received wisdom here is to book directly with the airlines (skyscanner has links to airline websites.). If you don’t know the arguments, you can do a search here to review all the discussions.

Posted by
3469 posts

First off, booking one way tickets can often be much more expensive than round trips. Using the "multi city" option, booking what is called open jaw flights lets you fly into Europe to one city and back home from a different one. While not always the case, be very sure before you book one ways that the prices not lower for a round trip.

I quickly looked on Travelocity and found many flights from SEA to Venice and returning Rome FCO to SEA for just under $1,000 picking random dates. As you get into September, the price goes just over $1,000. Don't see any savings using Vancouver for September right now. Personally from experience, it is too soon to book flights for next September (unless they are mileage redemption) as too much can change between now and then impacting both the schedule and the price for better or worse. If it was me, I would wait until mid spring at the earliest.

The Alaska companion ticket is only good for flights in North America where Alaska flys. It will not help on your European trip unless you use it to book a fight to the East coast and then fly from there to Europe. This however will cause you to have to buy separate tickets for the SEA to East coast flight and then back and forth to Europe. This can cause issues if you are delayed and miss the flight to Europe or from the East back to SEA because when the flights are not on the same ticket, the airlines involved have no responsibility to help you if you miss a connection due to delays of their flights. Unless you hit a really good ticket sale to Europe, I don't think this option would get your total ticket price per person down below your goal.

Posted by
342 posts

I use the Alaska companion fare to get us to Newark. From Seattle there is a nonstop flight. Then I book our European ticket from Newark. I have round trip tickets Newark-Rome (nonstop) for $462 per person flying late January and returning the first of March. We spend the night at a hotel by the airport. It breaks up the flight and helps us adjust to the time difference. See where you can get to the East Coast on your companion fare and then check flights out of the NYC area airports, Philadelphia or Boston, depending on the airline.

Posted by
943 posts

Go to Google Flights and input your dates and airports (open jaw or multi city is the terms used by airlines). Then set up a fare alert for this itinerary. It will alert you when the fare changes and then you can buy it. It should be no problem to get RT for less than $1000 per person to and from Seattle.

Posted by
9 posts

I found by doing a little research that the cheapest airfare is usually found in the lowest tourist periods of the year, running from November 1 to December 14 and December 24 to March 31. Does this hold true to what you all have researched? I would hate to wait till spring and then realize I missed the cheap fares...

Posted by
19203 posts

Pay attention to Mark's warning. If you buy two separate tickets (for example, one between Seattle and NYC and a second between NYC and Europe), the connection in NYC is unprotected. If the flight from Seattle is delayed (it could even be canceled one week after you buy it), you are twisting in the wind, because it is on you to get to NYC to catch that flight to Europe. Yes, you can plan to fly into NYC very, very early, but who wants to add a bunch of extra hours to the misery of an overnight flight? And how early is early enough? More prudent would be flying into NYC a day ahead of time, but have you checked the cost of NYC-area hotel rooms? Some people have been successful with this technique, but I'd want to see really, really substantial savings before I'd give it a moment's thought.

If you miss the outbound flight to Europe, the return flight will also be canceled if they were ticketed together (whether regular round-trip or multi-city). Buying replacement tickets at the last-minute walk-up fare could be a very painful experience.

I'd be even more leery about buying separate tickets when heading to a tour. In addition to possibly getting stuck paying the cost of replacement tickets, you might miss a day of the tour. What's that worth? At least several dollars per person per day, I would guess.

Edited to add: Since you're new to European travel, you may not be aware of what a toll the overnight flight can take on your body. Many of us (even those traveling from the East Coast) arrive in Europe jetlagged and seriously sleep-deprived. We tend to discount our arrival day since experience has shown that we are unlikely to accomplish much beyond wandering around outdoors in an effort to stay awake until an appropriate local bedtime. Some people are still fog-bound on Day 2. You don't want to be paying tour prices when you're not in condition to take full advantage of the tour.

Therefore, you would be very well advised to fly in at least one day early. Having two or three days before the tour and/or staying a bit after the tour would not be a mistake. If you can be flexible with your arrival and/or departure date, you may find at least modest savings on the airfare as a result of a fairly minor change in travel dates.

Posted by
19203 posts

With respect to timing ticket purchases: I'd be uncomfortable making absolute statements, because the airlines use computer programs to tweak the fares based on empty seats and probably other factors. Prices change frequently, sometimes more than once a day. Demand patterns vary, depending on origin and destination, so what I observe for my market might be quite different from what you see. And what happened last year may not be repeated this year. When a new airline moves into a market, that really shakes things up, just for one example.

I tend to fly to Europe in May, and in the last two years there have been some sales in November--though 2016 was quite a bit better than this year for the flights I was considering. For my planned May 2018 trip, I would not expect substantially better fares later this winter or in early spring than I am seeing now, but I also wouldn't be shocked to be wrong.

As you can tell, I consider the situation unpredictable. The one thing I will say is that if you are not ready to buy right now, for whatever reason, there's a good chance you'll benefit from watching prices for a while. You can do that manually, or you can set up fare alerts on websites like Google Flights. By monitoring ticket prices, you'll develop a feel about the normal price range for flights into Venice and out of Rome. Then, if there's a sudden price drop, you'll see it, recognize it for what it is, and know you are being presented an opportunity to save money. If you don't keep up with the way prices are moving, you won't spot a great opportunity even if one comes along.

If you tell us which September tour you're taking and your planned travel dates (and whether you are flexible), maybe someone here will spot a great deal.

Posted by
6570 posts

Check out Norwegian Air Shuttle into London Gatwick. You can switch to Easyjet there to get into any of the Italian airports, large a d small. Both airlines are as inexpensive as they get.
We flew Gatwick to Pisa and took a 1/hour train into F!orence.

Posted by
3547 posts

A mild warning about Icelandic, easyJet and other European-based "budget" airlines: What you see on the opening page of their websites is probably not what you will end up paying. easyJet, for instance, will charge for luggage and many other things, that all add up. The basic $48 fare, with seat selection and a checked bag of standard size, plus a tiny amount for paying by credit card, would be almost $79. Refreshments extra, of course.
Be sure to read all of the regulations on the airline's website and obey them or it will cost you big-time. Norwegian and easyJet don't necessarily have the same regulations for carry-ons and checked luggage, so watch that too.
Skyscanner is good for one-way budget airlines in Europe. Its site connects to the airlines' own for purchase. The fullest trans-Atlantic information, in my experience, comes from matrix.itasoftware.com which serves airlines and does not sell tickets. It is a Google company so Google's own sales site may be catching up.

Posted by
2788 posts

We are doing RS Rome tour this coming May and fly from Seattle to Paris - non-stop - changing planes there and then flying on to Rome. We booked this thru Delta since so many European airlines no longer fly non-stop from Seattle. We go to Europe for 14 of the last 16 years and always flew on SAS/AF/KLM/BA but ever since KLM started putting us on Delta a couple of years ago, we now just book thru Delta. The service we get on Delta compares favorably to the European airlines. I am not able to tell you how much we paid for the ticket since we are flying on from Rome on the same ticket. We will be returning to Paris after our visit to spend one night as to make an early morning flight back to Seattle.

Posted by
16869 posts

I've usually preferred Delta both to earn air miles and to connect within Europe (at Amsterdam, London, or Paris). It's faster but not necessarily cheaper.

On my recent trip using Delta air miles, the SEA-AMS-VCE schedule landed in Venice later than we wanted to. So against my usual rule of thumb, we made a connection on Delta at JFK. My brother said the connection was usually in the same terminal - and in fact, the two gates were directly opposite each other - easy! And the domestic flight was a longer one that now does offer meal service (but not a very good selection of movies).

On the return flight from Rome, connecting within Europe usually means an early morning departure, but also avoids having to collect any checked luggage and go through immigration and customs checks before you get to Seattle (at the first US or Canadian port of entry). Or if you want to spend a night in Amsterdam, for instance, choose a Rome departure that's too late to make the connection to Seattle, so you'll automatically have a one-night layover (hotel fees up to you).

Posted by
8430 posts

I do encourage you to heed what someone said upthread about arriving at least a day early. I would go for 2 days early if you are going to cobble together unprotected flights from different airlines to give yourself some flex time in case a flight is delayed and you miss a segment.

Posted by
3845 posts

We've flown the Seattle-to Venice, Rome-to-Seattle route on a couple of trips. We fly Delta, usually through Amsterdam or Paris. Be sure to skip the really short layovers they offer for an hour at Paris because you won't have sufficient time to change terminals and the customs etc before boarding your next plane.

Posted by
9 posts

Someone asked what our exact dates were and our tour
Our exact dates we are looking at are:
Departing Seattle on 9/14/18 and arrive in Venice
My Way 13 Day Tour starting in Venice 9/16 Ending in Rome 9/28
Departing Rome on 9/29 and arrive in Seattle

Posted by
137 posts

I fly out of Sea-Tac for my European travels and consider aircraft (prefer wide body or multi-aisle jets; my fave is 2-4-2 configuration and I REALLY want that 2-seat row as I am a budget ticket buyer in sardine, er, economy class) as well as route times (no thank you, o'dark 30 outbound flights) when compiling options for a trip. Usually start at kayak.com, enter multi-city info (Google for 3-letter airport codes, e.g. SEA - Sea-Tac, FCO - Rome), and check out shortest trip duration choices. Stringently avoid 2+ flights to my destination regardless of favorable price. My body pays for that cheaper ticket in ways I hate to describe or think about. Prefer international flight at outset (instead of domestic or going cross-country before departing Europe from South or East Coast). Will book entire itinerary with airline directly tho have used Cheapoair and other 3rd party vendors with no problems. Choose flights with less than 2 hr layovers judiciously. Even if airline sells that ticketing (meaning, it is technically doable) I'm more comfortable erring on side of more generous l/o time for peace of mind. It's true this is not as much of a concern for some international airports like AMS-Schipol; I'm thinking of LHR (Heathrow) or CDG (Paris). Airlines can and do change routing times (and aircraft and airport). Periodically check my confirmed res in case of changes so I sooner rather than later, attempt to deal with it to my advantage as much as humanly possible. I sign up for email alerts for airline changes but have found there can be a delay between when change(s) is(are) made; often viewable online before airline's notice of change hits my inbox. On return/inbound trips, pick option NOT to leave 'at the crack of dawn' if avail but recognize benefit of early departure - less chance of delay to 1st flight means less negative impact to connecting flight. Have flown variety of carriers: British Air, AirFrance, Lufthansa, Delta, KLM, United, Alitalia; luckily had consistent service/satisfaction with all. Multiple airline alliances exist and airlines code share with partners; itinerary on Delta has flight operated by AirFrance (or vice versa). Finding roundtrip (1-stop inbound/outbound) airfare for less than $1K from Seattle to Italy in Sept has eluded me tho I've found airfares to Italy in that price vicinity for Feb and Mar dates. I find it fun looking for flights/itinerary I feel advantageous to my preferences and having flights on single itinerary better when unexpected occurs impacting the schedule. When the price is where I'm comfortable, I buy and don't think further about future price changes (should I discover price drop, I check w/airline for potential credit/other adjustment). I wouldn't hassle driving/getting to YVR (Vancouver, B.C.'s airport) from Seattle unless I wanted to include time spent locally (at beginning and end) of my European adventure. Download airline's app on my smart phone at home before departure and where possible, use e-ticketing for its convenience. Cheers to changing your newbie status on air travel to Europe and having a great trip to Italy!!

Posted by
7630 posts

I am truly confused by your post.

You state you are doing the Tour in Sept 2018.

You list your travel dates for November.

Is there a typo somewhere or have I had a severe attack of brain freeze?

Posted by
9 posts

Sorry for the dates typo! I had my 3 year old climbing all over me and it totally threw my attention away from my post. It has been updated.

Posted by
7630 posts

Looking at skyscanner.com there are multi city options ( SEA-VCE, FCO-SEA) offered by British Airways or American from $1045-$1066. One stop flights with reasonable stop over times

The fares skyscanner listed in the $900s typically were 2 stops and 30+ hrs and multiple airlines.

The lowest from Delta is $1372

If anyone had a crystal ball that could reliably predict when fares will be better ( or even if) I suspect it would be better to use it to pick winning lotto numbers.

Posted by
12379 posts

Do not let that $1000 goal force you onto a flight with two stops or a long overall flight time ( more than 20hours). These factors can seriously affect your jet lag experience..

We fly from Seattle to Europe every year and much prefer British Airways. Right now their price for a multi-city flight, into Venice and out of Rome, is $1065, only slightly over your goal, for a good flight combination with a reasonable overall flight time (around 15 hours). But note: almost all the BA flights from Seattle to Venice have you change airports in London, from Heathrow to Gatwick. Do NOT do this. There is one flight, leaving Seattle on BA 52 which departs around 1:20 pm, which gets to Heathrow in time (with a 2-hour connection) to make the morning flight from LHR to VCE. This is the only BA flight I would choose.

Coming back from Rome there should be no issue with changing airports, but make sure your London connection is through the same airport.

If you want to use your Alaska companion fare to reduce the overall cost, it adds some complications. You can fly from New York area airports into Venice and out of Rome on BA for $535 on your dates. Using your Alaska companion certificate to get to New York should cost around $500-600 for two, (I did not check your dates but that is what we generally pay). So the total per person should be around $850. But the risk of flying on separate tickets would not be worth the $200 savings to me. You are adding an extra stop, considerably extending the overall flight time, and subjecting yourselves to the risk of missing your long haul flight. Plus the certificate can only be used on planes operated by Alaska, and their flight schedule between Seattle and New York is limited. You would have to fly in the day before, incurring Hotel,expense, or take a very early morning flight from SEA and spend hours in the New York airport.

So I would advise you to save your companion certificate for other purposes. We only use ours if we want to spend several days on the east coast before flying abroad, such as last March when we went to Key West for a few days before flying out of Miami airport.

Another option from Seattle in the low-cost carrier class is Condor Air. They will fly you directly from Seattle to Frankfurt, where you will transfer to a Lufthansa flight to get to Italy, on the same ticket. They get mixed reviews and we have not flown them yet, but the fare is generally quite low.

Posted by
9834 posts

We have had excellent experiences with Condor and IcelandAir. At least include them in your research as options. From Seattle you can take direct flights to Europe on each, but as noted you must change planes in Reykjavik and Frankfurt.

It is excellent you are arriving 2 days before your tour starts!

Posted by
6570 posts

Norwegian Air Shuttle can get you into/back from Gatwick for $500 in September. Easyjet can fly you round trip GTW to FCO for 72 British pounds or around $100--2 hr. flight.
Let's see you get anywhere close to that on one of the big legacy air carriers. Norwegian is flying brand new Boeing 787s tol. Anytime I can take Norwegian, we fly with them. It is like flying 50% off which means we can go twice as often.

Posted by
12379 posts

Note that the Norwegian Air website states that for those low fares, “restrictions, baggage fees, and credit card surcharge may apply.” In other words, it will likely cost more than that $500David quotes ( and I found the base fare to be a bit more than +$500 for your dates, like $520).

Posted by
11450 posts

Have you looked at Airtransat out of Vancouver , they are cheap , they do fly into Rome , and withy he Canadian dollar being low you may find a great deal

Posted by
1802 posts

I would suggest you do some research, set up fare alerts on Kayak or Google Flights, know what a normal price is and track it for a few months. Then when you feel you have a good or even normal price, buy the tickets. I'm super cheap, look for deals etc. but after a few trips to Europe (from the west coast) I've decided a good route and time is better than cost. Don't over worry about it or over think it. I often buy my tickets 6 months in advance and only once did a better deal come around. It sounds like a wonderful trip, and expensive, so an extra couple hundred dollars isn't going to break the bank. You really don't know when or how much prices will change so it is anyones guess. We all want cheap, but if you are locked into dates then you have less choice. Make it simple with good routes, then relax and enjoy!

Posted by
1028 posts

Aer Lingus just started nonstop flights from Seattle to Dublin for around $800. Dublin is a nice place to get over the fatigue of the overnight flight from the US. We did this on our last trip. Actually, we stayed in Dun Laoghaire, which is a small town outside of Dublin. B&Bs in Dun Laoghaire cost about half of what hotels cost in the center of Dublin.

Posted by
3245 posts

Objection to above about Icelandair: This is not a budget airline, the ticket includes movies, seat selection, one bag in the price, no charge for credit cards, and a good points program (Alaska flights can also earn Icelandair points)-- legacy everything except free food and wine. True, in some markets Icelandair offers a budget no frills fare to compete with Norwegian and WOW, but so does Delta. Condor is more of a no frills airline with only 1 movie, no points program, and no seat selection, but the meals are free which they are not on Icelandair.

Summary: Icelandair is more of a legacy minus experience, and Condor more of a budget plus experience. But neither is a true no-frills-pay-for-everything airline.

Also: I can't imagine passing up Delta and a Schiphol transfer to Air France, Alitalia or KLM with Schengen admission during the transfer, and instead choosing BA and a Heathrow transfer, for the same price.

Or if you want to spend a night in Amsterdam, for instance, choose a Rome departure that's too late to make the connection to Seattle, so you'll automatically have a one-night layover (hotel fees up to you).

If you do this, on Delta at least you can force the layover to not require taking the first flight of the next day by booking multi-city. You will not be charged a higher fee for a 3 leg itinerary if you keep the AMS stay to under 24 hours.