Building A Buffer Between Flights On Separate Itineraries

One of the worst things about being a frequent flier in London is the frustrating ‘Air Passenger Duty’ Tax, which the UK Government imposes on all flights leaving the UK as follows (from 1 April 2018):

Shorthaul economy: 13 GBP
Shorthaul business: 26 GBP
Longhaul economy: 75 GBP
Longhaul premium (business class and first class) : 156 GBP

(Shorthaul is for a flight of less than 2,000 miles in length, longhaul is for a flight of more than 2,000 miles)

The worst thing about this is that it is also applied to award tickets, meaning your ‘free’ flight can suddenly become quite expensive. For this reason, while I’ve flown into London on longhaul premium flights plenty of times, I’ve never actually flown out of London longhaul premium because I can’t abide by paying for this absurd tax.

This does mean missing out on the ‘divisive’ British Airways Concorde Room and ‘impressive’ Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, which is frustrating, but I can’t justify 156 pounds for lounge access no matter how good the lounge is.

Direct premium flights are also usually expensive, because of the demand and convenience for high-paying business travellers.

‘Ex-EU’

Fortunately there is a solution, although it is not ideal.

Longhaul flights departing from mainland Europe are usually significantly cheaper as there is no APD payable (on a revenue or award ticket), even on British Airways, meaning you would fly via London anyway.

Qatar Airways regularly has extremely cheap business class sale fares from Scandinavia (especially Oslo) to Asia and Australia, from as low as 1,000GBP vs. often double that if leaving from London instead.

So I’ve used this trick several times to save significant money, usually flying from Germany. Using multi-city ticketing options, or open-jaw award tickets, I can often fly back into London directly for the same price, as remember, no APD is payable on flights to London.

A return flight from Europe to Asia in Oman Air’s excellent business class is much cheaper leaving from Paris than London on the exact same dates

The problem with ‘connecting’

I need to book a ‘positioning’ flight from London to my European origin city to commence my ‘ex-EU’ journey. This can usually be cheaply done either using 4,000-4,500 British Airways Avios as a Reward Flight Saver, or using one of the dozens of low cost European carriers to get there. If I’m positioning on Airline A and then flying on with Airline B and those two airlines are at least interline partners, I may be able to check any luggage all the way through to my final destination.

But the bookings are still on two separate itineraries, which means there’s no protection if the first flight on Carrier A causes me to miss the first flight on Carrier B.

Even if I was positioning on British Airways and then flying on with them (say LHR-AMS // AMS-LHR-SFO return), if I had booked the LHR-AMS leg separately to take advantage of the ex-EU no-APD discount, British Airways would not assist me even if their delay on the LHR-AMS sector caused me to miss my AMS-LHR sector, because I booked them separately.

If you hold British Airways (or oneworld) status they may take mercy on you and move you onto the next flight.

However if you do not hold serious status I would not be confident that they would give you any assistance, instead telling me ‘you should have just booked a flight from London), as it would be fairly apparent that I had picked this bizarre routing to save money and get around the APD.

The solution

The easiest way to avoid the chance of a missed connection on a separate itinerary is to build in a sufficient buffer/contingency between Flight 1 and Flight 2 to minimise the chance of anything going wrong.

And the level of buffer will depend enormously on your level of risk acceptance, the airport you will be connecting at, the weather and time of year, the airline’s punctuality, and so on and so on and so on.

There are 100 different factors you cannot control that could affect your ability to make this connection.

Ideally I would allow 24 hours. As these are separate tickets there are no rules about maximum transit times — you could have a week if you wanted to. A 24 hour buffer would allow you to even experience a new city, which I’m always supportive of!

However, while premium revenue fares from Scandinavia can be very affordable, accommodation is not. You may well end up spending more than the APD amount on an Oslo hotel, and if you add to that the cost of the positioning flight, it could cost you more than you are saving.

If your flight was leaving Oslo at, say 8pm you may be comfortable with a positioning flight arriving that same day, perhaps at midday. I’d be comfortable with this level of risk. It allows some time for contingencies.

But what if your flight is leaving Oslo at 11:30am? There may be a flight leaving London that morning at 6am but it may not land until 9:30am. That only leaves a 2.5 hour buffer which, for me is too risky. There’s too much chance something could go wrong and not enough buffer.

Especially if this was during winter, which can play havoc with flight reliability.

A humorous alternative

I’ve never actually done this myself, mostly because I don’t think I could keep a straight face with the crew (as I’ll explain in a bit), but hardcore British Airways Executive Club status runners often use a technique called an ‘immediate turn.’ Using the cheap BA AMS-LHR-SFO example above, these members will determine which BA plane will operate the AMS-LHR flight, and then separately book that same plane from LHR-AMS where the members, like the plane (and crew), will immediately turn around and head back to London.

Most British Airways shorthaul flights are same-day returns from London to mainland Europe, where the plane ‘turns’ in Europe and then heads straight back to London.

The rationale with this is, that not only does it require the minimum amount of time to position (as there is almost no buffer), if there is a delay with the plane operating the LHR-AMS flight, then there will be that same delay on the AMS-LHR flight and they won’t miss that flight. This means the best way to make it onto that connecting flight, is to already be on the plane as it flies to the mainland Europe airport.

The passenger isn’t allowed to remain on the plane, despite having a ticket for the return leg. But they would usually be travelling Hand Baggage Only, and would have already checked in online for the next AMS-LHR flight, meaning they can go through transit security with their onward boarding pass and head straight back to the plane where boarding may have already commenced. They are then subject to the double-take the crew is likely to give them and a possible question of ‘weren’t you just on the flight from London?

Humorous answers could include:

‘I don’t care for the weather here’

‘This place is so five minutes ago’

‘I think I left the stove on’

or more accurately:

‘I’m doing an immediate turn to position for an ex-EU premium cabin Executive Club status run to avoid the UK APD’

There’s even a dedicated FlyerTalk thread listing the process and ease of doing an immediate turn at every single European airport that BA flies to (which is a LOT).

My risk level

I don’t mind taking the odd risk when travelling, which has led to some fantastic adventures, but I’m also terrified of losing an entire carefully constructed premium fare because of a missed connection. I’ve never tried an immediate turn, although I’d probably be more comfortable trying this than building a buffer, provided I was familiar with the transit process at the airport.

I’m comfortable with overnight ‘buffers,’ and for same day connections I’d be happy with at least a 6 hour buffer, provided it was a time of year with reliable weather and not any major holiday period.

During peak winter or school holidays I’d want at least 8 hours.

In Shanghai last year I allowed 6 hours for this and it was ample time, even allowing for the fact that the transfer desk could not issue my Qatar Airways boarding pass, so I was required to go through immigration on a ‘transit without visa’ landside, obtain my boarding pass with Qatar, and then head airside.

Amsterdam Schipol airport

What you can do to minimise your risk

Short of booking the flights as one itinerary there is no fool-proof way to completely protect yourself, even with an immediate turn.

You could be bumped from that first flight for example, or the airline could decide to use another frame to operate your return service because your first flight is so delayed. Where you have a buffer you are comfortable with you can assist yourself by doing the following:

  1. Taking your first flight with a full-service carrier with plenty of flights on that route that day;
  2. Taking your first flight on an airline you have status with as they will be more helpful if something goes wrong.
  3. Monitoring the performance of your first flight on something like Flightradar24, to be certain how reliable it is at that time of year;
  4. Travel Hand Baggage Only so you do not have the added step of having to check in luggage;
  5. Reading up on transit procedures in case you are pressed for time when you land; and
  6. Notify cabin crew on your first flight if you are delayed and may miss your connection (they will not have this information if you booked separately).

Bottom line

The savings that can be had by positioning to start a flight can be huge and well worth the hassle in positioning. But the stress of potentially missing your unprotected connection is also huge.

I haven’t had any disastrous positioning experiences yet (touch-wood!), but that is largely due to the risk assessment I make before deciding to do it.

What buffer do you build in between flights on separate itineraries?

Comments

  1. Bro, if you keep writing 27,000 words a day you’re going to burn out!

    Don’t get me wrong, this is GREAT stuff, but there’s no way it’s sustainable. Is Lucky holding your family hostage?

  2. Re: “I’ve never actually done this myself, mostly because I don’t think I could keep a straight face with the crew […].”

    With a very expensive homebase (ZRH), I do immediate turnarounds quite often. The crews I’ve spoken to have always been used to it, and even if they weren’t, I don’t see the need to come up with any excuses.

  3. I have bought a flight Amsterdam–London-Dallas-Honolulu-Dallas-London-Amsterdam for around 300USD with BA, I was based in London living almost walking distance from London City Airport, I bought LCY to AMS with points and paid around 22 USD tax, I spent around 2-3 hours at AMS and took flight back to London LHR and connected to BA to US, on my way back I get off at LHR without going back to AMS,

  4. Great post and all that but, really, you should learn about this thing called the subjunctive. So it should be “If I were” and not “If I was . . . .”

    On the merits, though, your posts are a real bright spot here. Great work.

  5. I like the immediate turn idea the best. Even if the plane goes mechanical you have a good chance of still making the flight. I doubt the crew would be surprised even if you book the exact same seat 🙂

  6. last year on the QR SGN fare I booked CX PVG-HKG-SGN that arrives 2.5 hr before QR flight departs. I had never been to SGN before. 3 days before the flight, I realized CX PVG-HKG had been having 2+hr of delay for 2 weeks, and my connection in HKG was barely 2 hours. You can imagine the stress I had during the day I had to fly all the segments, especially captain came up to the PA after we had been sitting on tarmac at PVG for 40 minutes. That was the day I contracted chronical heart disease.

  7. I had positioning flights from Reagan National to Atlanta recently for a great business class fare on Turkish to Berlin. I wanted as much of a same day buffer as possible. I flew to Atlanta on Southwest on a 6 AM flight. The Turkish flight did not leave until 10 PM or so. I also familiarized myself with Delta and Southwest’s Washington to Atlanta schedules in case anything went wrong. On the way back I considered flying back to DC the same evening I arrived back to Atlanta on Turkish. However, I was not comfortable with a less than two hour turn, so I stayed at a hotel and flew back the next day. I also recently flew back from Singapore to JFK on SIA. I found a Delta flight to get from JFK to Reagan. Even though this was in Feburary I was comfortable with just a 3 hour window since there are multiple transportation options and the cities are so close. I was pleasantly surprised to be in the same terminal for arrival and departure at JFK.

  8. So basically you are adding an extra day of travel and added stress to save 130GBP ($180USD). No thanks. It sucks to pay the fee, but my time is more valuable than that. I’d rather fly a long haul in economy than have a three leg journey in J or F.

  9. @ Tom

    I’m not so sure. You’re right for formal writing but subjunctive use in speech seems to be changing, and it is arguable that a blog post should be written as “chatty”, informal prose rather than as formal writing.

    I quite like James’ informal writing.

  10. BNA is really expensive for international, so most of my trips involve positioning. If I am positioning to a NY airport like I am next month, I sometimes catch a direct flight in the AM, but ideally go the day before. I usually have to stay a night on the return as well. I try to use points for airport hotels.

    I am positioning from Berlin to FRA for my return flight, and am doing it the same day.
    The TATL flight is in the late afternoon, I am flying TXL to FRA on Lufthansa, and they have hourly flights, so I gave myself 5 hours.

  11. I live in the UK as well, and did ARN-SIN-SYD (and back MEL-SIN-ARN) in SQ J. Decided to book my separate return flights between LHR and ARN on SAS, as 1) same alliance, so more likely to interline luggage to LHR from MEL, which they did (I stayed in Stockholm overnight on the way out so didn’t check bags through to SYD from LHR) and 2) SAS and SQ both use T5 at ARN, whereas BA use T2 so no need for an terminal transfer at ARN.

    So something thing I’ll definitely keep in mind when booking separate tickets in the future is to try and stay within the same alliance and terminal (if possible of course), it can make a big difference.

  12. Love your original posts—it’s a breath of fresh air from the rehashed blandness that fills most points/miles/travel blogs.

  13. @ Tom – its not an extra day of travel – depending on your level or risk acceptance you can leave from an airport an hour away and including the buffer it can be only a few hours extra.

  14. This is why have FWB in each European city and go visit them two days in advance of your trip.

    But who travels hand bag only to US? Why even go?

  15. I always figured to claim bags (if checking), pass through customs, re-check in, clear security to get back airside we’re looking at 4 hours minimum to be safe. Most airlines aren’t letting you check your bag more than 4 hours in advance anyways so you’d be stuck waiting to drop a bag if you have more time than that.

  16. @Tom–My understanding of the subjunctive is that for realistic situations “if I was” is used, and for unrealistic situations “if I were” is used. I think this is what the Chicago Manual of Style stipulates. So that would mean James’s use is correct.

  17. Here @SFO, we watch YVR (Canada) for deals to Asia. Luckily, there’s a great Fairmont adjacent to terminal and many flights on UA & AC for stress free night b4 positioning. Saves $1000-1500 USD or more. // Posters beware about posting SkipLag return routes online (whereby dumping final destination). Airlines take this seriously after 1 or 2x/yr. Some threaten to revoke elite status, etc. //

  18. I position the day before on outbound flights (on separate itineraries) from the US, utilizing free nights at airport hotels. Inbound to the US, I take the risk knowing that I can easily find another flight (either inexpensive or using miles) to my home base if things go sideways. Within the EU, I position a day or two ahead to avoid certain airlines and airports (i.e., BA, LHR) and try for cities that I either have business at or in which, I would enjoy spending a stopover.

    I’ve never actually screwed up one of these by misconnecting but would rather not face the unpleasant feeling of forfeiting a paid long haul flight, be it miles, points or cash.

  19. I like these practical posts…. especially important for newbies. Here are some pieces of advice I would recommend having now been in this situation a few too many times for my liking…
    Perhaps you can do a piece on what happens when you miss you connection (due to separate bookings)….

    1) If there is a delay with your first flight, deal with the situation as early in the day and have a back-up plan. As the day gets later, the options become much less… exponentially so (e.g. fewer remaining flights = fewer award seats, fares tend to get more expensive as you move into peek commuting times). I have sat at the gate watching my flight get pushed back further and further… and instead of jumping on using miles, or buying a cheap ticket.. have waited in hope that the plane would leave or I could get a better deal. Almost destroyed the whole trip. Deal with it early!

    2) For the long-haul you are about to miss… hang up and call back many many times. I was quoted to move my ticket a day $14,000 fare difference with the kind gesture of waiving the change fee. Hung up. Get an agent who can help. 4 different agents and all gave me different “offers”

    3) Hold the airline accountable for what you can. I was once told I was going to have to pay an astronomical change fee since I missed the flight. I remembered there had been a schedule change on my itinerary. I said (nicely), “It is very frustrating to me that I had to accept your schedule change with no accommodation and now that my schedule changes you aren’t showing me the same courtesy.” Boom… she moved me to the next flight.

    4) Worse case…. go to the ticket counter. I have found they have far more abilities than the phone agents. Me standing there in almost tears… has gotten me on the flight when the phone rep said it was impossible.

    Just a few of the war stories I can share… and yes war stories… I was almost put in prison in Cairo and had to bribe my way through the airport due to doing one of these turns.

  20. Note that APD is not based on flight distance, but rather distance to the capital city of the destination country. Direct flights to Vladivistock would be charged at the lower rate…

  21. Thanks for the post.

    I am considering ways to reduce the cost of a US to London trip. The probable solution is to fly to London then return from Brussels or Paris. I haven’t seen Paris is over a decade so that is long overdue. Even 24 hours in Paris would be a treat while lowering or eliminating the cost of APD, depending on if I took a train or plane.

    One possible plane trip would be LCY-ORY so that I could experience London City Airport and Orly, two airports that I’ve never been to. ORY, I could miss, but LCY is an oddity that I want to visit. Landing in LCY would be better but you can’t have everything in life.

  22. What would be helpful is a list of departure fees from various European cities. They vary a huge amount. I have to sit and change departure cities to see the different fees. No where have I found a list.

    Like many others I do open-jaws and one-ways, often flying into but not out of London.

  23. @ derek – unless you are booking 2 separate one-ways the cost of a US-UK return shouldn’t be that much more than a US-EU return. It’s one-ways or returns commencing in London that tend to be more expensive.

    London City airport is great – flights have a 20 minute check-in deadline as its designed to be a business airport passengers spend as little time as possible in.

  24. What a shame there are more grammar lambasters than interested travellers commenting today!

    Immediate turns are a good idea for getting those very advantageous fares. I booked AMS-LHR-SIN in J with BA for about half the price of the LHR-SIN fare. They are also a chance for extra tier points, because, status and all! The only downside is they don’t really work with checked luggage esp where BA is concerned (no interlining).

  25. When i lived in London I would take the train to Brussels and then fly. Never had a problem with the train

  26. On par with what @Donna mentioned above, I quite like it when awards (or cheaper) flights leave out of a city that’s not my home airport (SAN and LAX) because I use the extra day to work remotely and explore a new city or a city I don’t visit frequently. Recently did this on BA flights out of DEN, SJC, and PHX where F/J space was available. Arrived the afternoon/evening before the flight but after my work day, tooled around the city a bit. stayed the night at a budget airport hotel (either cash or on points), then worked from the hotel/airport lounge up until boarding time. Was kind of like a mini-vacation.

  27. At least to me, it seems like a direct turn would be safest if the airline only has a single daily flight to the city that you’re doing the turn in. That way, they have no other frame on the ground there that they can use for the return if the outbound is delayed.

    Thoughts? Has anyone tried the above and had it not work out?

  28. I normally position BEFORE and AFTER a ticket. Before, I go for direct turn around OR otherwise 3-5 hours. After I take 3 hours normally if there is a flight but sometimes fhe flight just goes after 4. Missing that one isnt a big deal as it doesnt cancel my longhaul return just that position flight.

    Worst direct turn around was to get *A gold on aegean. I had amsterdam athens thessalonki first. Next day thessaloniki heraklion and then same plane back. Deplane WITH BUS dropping wrong side terminal and had to redo security (handluggage only). That sucked as the plane had to leave just 25 min later. But i was on time as its a very very small airport.

  29. Star Alliance flyer in DTW – Always fly to ORD and book ORD-DTW separately. I usually leave 6 hour or more in case something goes wrong. Otherwise a complimentary same day flight change would do it.

  30. Funny you should write about this, because I’m doing a separate tickets itinerary leaving Thursday. I have to position from DFW to LAX on AA to connect to AF. This is on the low end of what I’m comfortable with, but a) there are multiple alternatives on multiple airlines between DFW/DAL on LAX if something goes wrong, b) I’m traveling hand baggage only, and c) T4 to TBIT is probably the easiest of the LAX connections, even if I end up having to re-check in with AF, so I decided to cut it a little closer than I usually would.

    Usually, I’d be more comfortable with 6-8 hours between legs, or, I’ll just book an overnight in the intermediate city. I don’t view it as the hotel cost eating up the fare savings (or APD, fewer points used, whatever). I just really enjoy the chance to spend some time exploring the city before or after embarking on the “big” portion of the trip. That’s worth it to me, even if the savings are negligible.

  31. I like these posts. They are a really great change from the usual posts which basically seem to be Lucky recurgitating the latest tabloid news story about aviation. The one you did on DY, for example, was one of the best posts I have read online Ina while.

    Although please can we stop with the UK bashing. We all know Lucky hates BA and LHR but there is no need for you to continue that stance. By continuously criticising it detracts from your refreshing writing style. Save the bashing for when it is actually worthy (like Rob at HFP does).

  32. @Will – Just yesterday @James trashed (pun intended) the Philadelphia airport – there’s plenty of bashing here to go around. No lounge, airline, hotel, airport, etc., is spared. Some of my favorites have been repeatedly assailed (Alitalia, for example). This is an equal opportunity bashing environment. And I say, bring it on!

    Your idea of bashing is to many of the faithful here, exposing the warts and educating. @James – good job!

  33. Same applies to any other connection (not just flight-to-flight)… booked 1st class TGV from Paris, and gave myself luxurious 5 hour buffer (train leaves from same airport terminal). But short (and intense) summer storm at flight origin diverted incoming Air France to a different city, then to the actual airport, so all in all, 5 hour delay in outbound flight. Even with pedal to the metal, we landed mere 15 minutes before scheduled train ride, and landed onto congested/cancelation airport (as most of AF personnel were on strike). Worst of all, there were NO train tickets left, as French also started their vacation. Some 300EUR later, we managed to find last two seats on the train leaving from the middle of Paris, just a “short jog” from CDG. That taught me the value of all those trip insurance offers from credit cards that I never wanted to pay the annual fee for…

    Even worse is when you schedule enough buffer, but then Airline A loses your luggage… where do you say they should deliver it to? Yes, I built a big 22-hour buffer (including an overnight in good hotel), but I need the necessities before my early morning departure, as I’m not going to go around Maldives looking for toothpaste? And if you miss me there, should I list the Bejing as a delivery option? Is luggage going to chase me around the world?

  34. @James,

    Using your ‘AMS-LHR-SFO return’ example, what’s your opinion on not completing the last leg on the return (i.e. LHR-AMS), rather than going all the way to AMS and then taking a positioning flight back to London?

  35. In May I have a domestic flight to BOS in Delta then a 3.5 hour gap until a separately-booked flight on BA to LHR. I feel comfortable with this until I read this article. Can anyone offer any thoughts about whether I’ve been overly optimistic here?

  36. Two summers ago I booked THREE itineraries to Kathmandu from the US. UA from DAY-ORD-IAH, SQ from IAH-DME-SIN-BKK and TG BKK-KTM. I had given myself two nights in Bangkok since I wanted to see the city anyway so something going wrong there wasn’t a concern for me, however, the transfer in Houston was far more stressful for me when I booked it. I gave myself a little under 6 hours between my arriving United flight and my departing Singapore flight. Since Chicago and Houston are United’s two largest hubs, I was banking on the fact that even if I had a flight canceled, I could get on the next flight that would still get me into Houston on time. In the end, everything went smoothly, although for some reason the agents in Dayton could not check my bags through on SQ despite them being in the same alliance. That meant I had to go landside and pick up my bags and was then stuck there until SQ’s check-in opened up, which made for a very dull few hours spent on the couches in the check-in area.

    Last summer, I was going to Amsterdam to see some friends (Whom I met on my aforementioned trip to Kathmandu) and also booked multiple itineraries: OZ from NRT-ICN-FRA and LH from FRA-AMS. This time I gave myself a 4 1/2-hour buffer between reservations. Thankfully this time the Asiana agent in Tokyo was able to check my bags all the way through so I got to spend my layover in the lounge. I even got upgraded to biz on the return FRA-ICN flight!

  37. @ Katie – google your Delta flight number and check how it has been performing against its schedule on something like FlightRadar. If it has mostly been on time the last few weeks I’d be comfortable.

  38. @ Luke – I’d be comfortable doing it once or twice, but if I was doing it repeatedly there’s a change BA could audit your account for fraudulent behaviour.

  39. @James taxes out of London may be high, but if you live in London, and have a full time job and not much time to lose it may be convenient to pay them and take the direct flight…

  40. Reminds me of the nested roundtrips I used to do in order to skip the now mostly retired “Saturday night stay over”. In the pre-online check in era, I confused the hell out more than one agent.

  41. @Luke, in my case, I would use the stopover if it’s allowed. For example, if I’m flying SFO-LHR-AMS and I’m based in LHR, I would stop in LHR for as long as it would allow and use the LHR-AMS on my next trip, granted the next trip departs from AMS.

  42. Do you think these long layovers are needed if it’s within country?

    For instance, we position MSP to Vancouver, SF, LA for Asian/ Australian flights
    I usually give myself a 4 hour layover (we only fly with carry-on bags)

    (Vancouver is out of US but you land and go right to international departures if you’re transiting. So no customs, immigration. There is never a line)

    But you suggest overnight?

  43. I have extensive experience with this James so its great to see a relative post. I usually transit through Singapore every 2 weeks from flights between Perth and Bangkok. Sometimes i go via KL or HK depends on fares as
    being a FIFO worker I pay the fares myself.
    Beautiful thing about Changi airport is without checked bags you can check in another flight/airline inside the terminals without going through immigration. I have a few times flown SQ booked in return with an 8 hour layover on the way over and have seen fares with Jetstar from SIN to BKK for as low as $27.
    Once when i was a noob instead of waiting the 8 hours i thought id be tricky and do and the jetstar flight in the much shorter window. BUT on check in at Bangkok for my return SQ flight back to Perth, for dumping the flight they cancelled the return leg. Being SQ gold they showed mercy luckily and they were able to re-instate my original fare. I said i “missed” my SQ flight thats why I flew with another carrier although i had already made to Bangkok before the other flight had taken off. I have never dumped a flight on an outbound leg ever again but wouldnt hesitate on a return leg here and there.
    I’ve tried some risky experiements with mixtures on different airlines in relatively short timeframes and frequently operated routes over the last 4 years primarily through SIN, BKK, KUL, HGK and even DPS. I have found Asia in general to be pretty forgiving and flexible and I must say Ive also been lucky, Singapore is a gem for not having to clear immigraton and the 10 minute before departure gate closing times. BKK and DPS can suck with immigration, Most officials Ive dealt with don’t comprehend/like transiting passengers for some reason from my experiences.
    Once I flew J on Alaskan miles to HGK from Perth on Cathay and had an onward ticket to BKK with Qantas points, 2 seperate award tickets but same airline. First flight was cancelled causing me to miss the connection but Cathay were nice enough to re-accomodate me.
    Some great learning experiences out of this and fun had out of pushing the limits.

  44. I love this. I do the same thing and get big “discounts” by avoiding business class tickets starting in London. My biggest phobia is if the first airline loses my luggage. What assurances are there that it can be reunited with me after I’ve left Europe on another carrier?

  45. @James,
    Say instead of doing LHR-JFK, you do LHR-AMS, 6 hour buffer, AMS-LHR, connection time, LHR-JFK. That is 1h20 of flying each way, a 6 hour buffer and a 1h30hour connection time. That is an extra 10 hours of travel to save $180. I personally don’t think that is worth it.

    Put another way, if you wanted to take the 8pm flight from LHR-JFK, you’d have to arrive at LHR for a 10am flight to AMS. In my book, that is wasting a full day.

  46. Out of interest when interlining which airline is responsible if luggage doesn’t arrive at the final destination? We have a 5 hour connection in Singapore EK to QF on separate PNRs. Assuming no delays (storms/fog/mechanical/etc) that should be enough time for us to collect our bags and re-check them so undecided on if I want to take this option.

  47. You can dodge APD by flying from Inverness, Belfast or the Channel Is. However, BA’s actual fares are necessarily much lower out of Continental cities in a desperate effort to lure customers to connect via the LHR hellhole.

  48. Using BA for tight connections or any departures from LHR is like playing Russian Roulette with BA’s computer which is programmed to automatically offload latecomers. Often it decides you’re going to miss the flight even when you have every chance of making it – and no comebacks, even if you can see the gate and there’s no plane there yet, the BA stooges will block your path at security and demand you buy a new ticket for a later flight.

  49. Time vs. Money. By each person’s opinion on this topic or is clear which one is of more value.

  50. Did someone mention the fairmont at YVR? You can tack on another $350 for one night into your “great deal” staying at that hotel.

  51. @James: I enjoy reading your articles. I think that you’re a valuable addition to Onemileatatime

    My rule for transit on two tickets: Is it winter? Maybe don’t do it. It just takes snow (or fog) in Amsterdam on one day and snow in London on the following day to crush any 24h puffer. I was delayed 48hours after BA couldn’t figure out how to deal with deicing airplanes. The folks in Scandinavia must have laughed their arses off reading about the snow chaos in the UK

    Is it summer? I do overnight breaks to leave enough time. If everything goes smoothly => city tour. If it goes south => There’s still enough time to make the flight.

  52. Kens Stories- How I saw Malta .
    Great posting James , here is a story about giving enough time between flights when booked on separate tickets.
    In 1965 ,I booked a cheap London/Malta/London return and a separate cheap Malta/Tripoli/Malta return. My parents were working in Libya and I was a student in London.
    This was not permitted ,but 2 such tickets were considerably cheaper than one UK/Malta return ticket which routed through Malta anyway.
    I allowed one hour ransit ( I was 19 years old and inexperienced ) the flight was late and I missed the connection.
    No internet in those days and no assistance in Malta to find a hotel for one night. I slept on a bench in the carpark ( it was summer ). The next day I toured Malta on local buses and back to airport for the daily flight, and all was well. Since then (53 years ) I always give myself plenty of time , there is always something to do in an airport for 3 or 4 hours .

  53. @malc

    The rule is for the conditional subjunctive:

    – for situations where the proposed condition is not possible in reality, it is “were”
    i.e. if I were a dog, I would prefer to be a smaller dog

    – for situations where the proposed condition in the past could have been a reality, it is “had been”
    i.e. if I had been in London earlier I could have met him

    – for situations where the proposed condition in the past could not have been possible in reality, “were” is the rule but “had been” is often acceptable
    i.e. if I were on the moon in 1969 when the landing happened, I would be famous; had I been on the moon…

    “If I was” is generally not correct grammar in any case as “was” is a condition of reality, not a conditional situation. One was.

    German, French and Italian are even more precise.

  54. Loved this post and the comments.
    And if I had been awake in school, I wouldn’t need the grammar lessons. But I really enjoy them.
    Will position MUC-MXP tomorrow to fly MXP-YYZ the next day.

  55. I’ve done this many times. If you live in a hub city, you frequently pay a premium (sometimes very heavy) for air travel. When I lived in Dallas, I traveled to London frequently. Roundtrip prices could easily be double that of a roundtrip ticket from a nearby connecting city (like Tulsa). I would buy a cheap, one way ticket from Dallas to Tulsa, and then get back on the exact same plane to begin my onward journey to London. With the advances in reservations systems, I am not sure you could still pull this off without getting in trouble for not taking the last flight of the roundtrip ticket.

    I also did an immediate turn traveling to Zurich to deliver some parts. I exited the plan, went through security, met my colleague in the Arrivals Hall, and then went right back through customs to re-board the same aircraft. Makes for a great story.

  56. I don’t think I would take an extra flight I don’t need to, plus many more hours, plus extra costs like meals or a hotel room, just to save 150 pounds

    Indeed, I will happily pat 150 for a non-stop flight from London

    Why is the Concorde Lounge “divisive”? Surely having premium cabins is “divisive” by that standard?

  57. @ Tom – some people like the Concorde Room, many people find it really disappointing. I’ve seen more negative reviews than positive ones.

  58. @ Michael – I studied English in my final year of schooling and received a perfect 20/20 score but even I’m learning about grammar from the readers!

  59. @Tom. I think that given the liberties taken daily with the English language by the American team of writers on OMAAT, picking up James on a common and scarcely noticeable grammatical error is churlish in the extreme.

  60. @Pauly–Thanks for the clarification. I checked my Oxford, and it seems you are correct about was and were. I also did a bit of a Net search and couldn’t find any evidence of “had been” being acceptable for hypothetical/unreal situations. Is that something one would find more in American English? Are there any authorities you could direct me to?

  61. I know he noted the possibility… but this does seem remotely worth it to save $150. Even for someone of humble means. If you have enough resources to gather the points for a premium flight you can pay the fee.

    Especially risk adjusted, whole point of the article is it risky. The extra flight costs you points or cash, have to buy hotel or crappy food (yes lounge, have to eat etc). You could do it well 20 times to save $100, mess it up once and lose double all your savings missing your flight. All for the privilege of an extra crappy flight and sitting in Oslo airport for 6 hours again.

    The overall topic is more important to me; as sometimes awards only take you so far and you have to get another ticket. Could have spent all these words on that; making a plan, finding terminal in and out… do you have to clear immigration or is it clean? How clean? And yes… plenty of people have to check bags… cant carry on a surfboard!

    Not trying to just hate tho, thanks for writing.

  62. Actually the way how AMS is designed makes it very convenient for immediate turns on EU carriers. When arriving from a country with a high security level (all Schengen countries, all EU countries, the USA and I’m not sure about Canada), you leave the plane straight into the departures area, literally next to the queue of boarding passengers.

    This is done for the convenience of transfer passengers from the UK, Ireland and the US as they will net require a security check when connecting. See: https://insideflyer.nl/schiphol-central-security/

    Only when arriving from a non-treaty country (non-EU, non-Schengen, non-US), you need to clear security again and that increases the risk of missing the connection.

  63. The nice Paul:

    In England we do use the subjunctive in speech, not only in written English.

    Unless – and this is important if you want to sound like a native – you come from Yorkshire. Then the ‘grammar’ rules go into reverse. Instead of saying ” I was there yesterday”, the Yorkshire person would say ” I were there yesterday.”

    There is a further complication. Some Northern Irish dialects would render the sentence thus:
    “I was there yesterday, so I was.”

    Additionally, some Geordies might say ( and yes, Geordie dialect varies across the region ):
    “I was there yesterday, me.”

    The English language is easy when you know how!

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