Old Feb 1, 10, 2:59 pm
  #4  
Grand Union
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 100
The ULTIMATE ex-EU Travel Guide

This guide is based on what was written by dnw who pioneered the use of ‘ex-LIS’ fares (i.e. fares which began by flying from Lisbon) on the BA Board a few years ago. The ex-LIS deals themselves have now ceased to be so attractive but the principle remains and does apply to other European cities. Thanks to a tool posted by pauldb and a process honed by Raffles, this guide should still explain everything you need to try and take advantage of this (perfectly legitimate) approach to getting cheaper premium travel.

What's all this about cheap BA premium fares from Europe?
What is the catch?
How much/when/where?
What are the rules and restrictions?
So how do I find/book these fares?
But I want to book further ahead / I'm worried they won't renew the offer?
But I have a UK/other credit card and ba.com wants a local one?
Can I do the EU part of the trip back2back?
Can I use Miles to upgrade the trip?
Will I ever be able to go back to Economy?



What's all this about cheap BA premium fares from Europe?
The worst kept secret on the BA board…if you want to save thousands (literally!) on J (Club World) and F (First) travel on BA to a number of destinations just by doing a quick roundtrip to somewhere in Europe first, read on…

Although this guide will often use LIS (Lisbon, Portugal) as an example, the principle applies to many other cities. At present, the cheapest starting point for an ex-EU trip is often Milan or Amsterdam – but where you see the word LIS here, substitute wherever is currently cheapest. You’ll learn where to find the cheapest point later.
Whilst the increased strength of the Euro has diminished the general savings to be made from starting on the Continent, BA still offers some very good deals to those starting from European destinations when travelling long haul – primarily to entice them away from more direct options.



What is the catch?
There isn't one! Instead of paying, say, 3000 for a semi-flexible Club World ticket LHR-BKK-LHR, you can buy one for 1700+ if you start your journey in LIS instead of LHR. You simply need to buy a cheap one-way ticket to LIS first. You can also, for a fee, build in a stopover in London – so you could, for example, fly to LIS for a weekend break in August (using the first leg of your BKK ticket for the return) and then do the LHR-BKK leg in September.

The only catch is that you MUST MUST MUST start your journey in LIS! You CANNOT discard the LIS segment and just turn up for the longhaul at LHR – BA will automatically invalidate your entire trip (and don’t go crying for a refund either, this is just one of the rules!)

However, you don't need to take the final segment back to LIS if you don’t want to. If you are on a J ticket (where stopovers are chargeable) and are worried about BA wanting to check your bags all the way through to LIS and you’re coming off a longhaul flight at LHR, then book your return segment back into OPO or FAO which go from LGW instead. In these cases, the LHR/LGW transit means they CAN'T through check your bags (the same principle works particularly well for AMS too, which is served from both airports). Booking the last leg ex-LGW will make the ticket slightly cheaper as the airport service charges are slightly lower than LHR. Conversely, booking the last leg ex-LCY will make the ticket slightly more expensive. If you cannot book your last leg from the ‘other’ airport, you may want to book it for the next day (but less than 24 hours from arrival, so it is not treated as a stopover). This gives you far more leverage with BA if check-in at, say, BKK try to insist – incorrectly - that you must check your bag to your final destination.
That said, BA do appear to audit the use of tickets, and may get in touch if you’re doing this a lot. Once or twice in a while should be fine, but if you plan on doing this frequently then you may wish to use all sectors in your ticket (if nothing else to start your next trip off!).
If you are on an F ticket then a neat trick is to take advantage of the free stopovers and book your final LHR-LIS segment a long time in the future – you can then use this to get down to LIS to start your next trip!



How much/when/where?
Following the steps below (idiot-proofed by FTers for some years now!) to find the cheapest starting point for your trip.

(1) Go to http://matrix.itasoftware.com

(2) Complete "From" as
Code:
AMS;ARN;ATH;BRU;BUD;CAI;CPH;FRA;HEL;IST;LCA;LIN;LIS;MLA;PAR;VIE;WAW :: BA+
Be careful - if you can see gaps between any of the three-letter airport codes above, they shouldn’t be there. This is an FT formatting error and you will have to remove them manually..

For completeness, you may want to do a second search on the rest of the EU and potential EU member states:

Code:
BTS;DUB;LJU;LUX;MAD;PRG;TLL;OSL;OTP;RIX;SOF;VNO;ZAG :: BA+
Do also bear in mind that some of the airports there are quite far way from London (e.g. ATH, CAI, IST, HEL, MLA) and you may not want to have the hassle of such a long flight to begin your journey. If so, you can come up with your own list based on the above with airports (or others) that suit you best personally.

(3) Complete "To" as:

YYY :: BA+

Where YYY is your destination - if you don't know the airport code, use the glossary under 'Search' on FT.

(4) Enter rough dates which suit you and LON as "sales city" to get GBP prices

(5) Click "More Options", change cabin to "Business" or "First" and uncheck "Check seat availability"

This will bring up the cheapest listed fare for the route on that day, although it does not necessarily mean that tickets will still be available at that price. You can use dnw's method below to find days with actual I (Club) or A (First) availability. You can also use a tool such as www.expertflyer.com or KVS, though these are not free.

If you're looking for WT+ pricing (e.g. to MFU), set the cabin as "Cheapest" and add " / F BC=T" to the "From" & "To" lines. The results will say "Coach", but it will be a WT+ T class fare. You will need to delete a couple of cities from the list to fit in the extra bit of text.

When comparing WT+ prices for potential MFU's, don't forget that MFU's from countries further away from the UK ('Europe 2' zone in BA terminology) require more miles than MFU's from 'Europe 1'. You should factor in the worth of the extra miles needed when considering which fare offers best value.

(6) Click "Go". Scroll down the results if you don't fancy the first options (usually TIP/CAI/IST) or just delete them in the first place.

Note that you may need to click on 'Cost' to reorder your results in price order, as the default is to list CAI flights first as they offer Club and First on all legs, not just the longhaul one. If searching for First flights, be careful as it sometimes lists itineraries where only one longhaul leg is in F and the return is in J.

Now that you know what the cheapest fare is, you need to find days on which it is available. In order to get a special fare you need availability in the following booking classes on your required flights. Again, taking LIS as an example:

LIS-LHR segment I-class (sometimes D on First fares but we'll say I to be safe)
LHR-<DEST>I-class for Club, A-class for First

You can use expertflyer.com to check availability by I/A code. Once you have found the right flights you can put them in to the ba.com site with your departure location set as Portugal and it should price it up perfectly. If you have problems, you may like to go directly to the local BA site in question (for example, for ex-LIS bookings the Portugal site at: http://www.britishairways.com/travel/fx/public/en_pt) but this has not been an issue of late. Also note that the ‘feeder’ flights more regularly tend to book in J class now – this is better since J is nearly always available, meaning less ‘hunting’ for availability on your part.

For example, I want to go to Sao Paulo in F and I want to go on the 20th Dec and back on 2nd Jan. So I check the following (hypothetical results) using the link provided:

LIS-LHR on 15th Dec I9 - OK
LHR-GRU on 20th Dec A5 - OK
GRU-LHR on 2nd Jan A3 - OK
LHR-LIS at some random date in the future - I9 - OK

So I go to ba.com and using the stopover section on Fare Explorer plug in these dates:

LIS-GRU
Departing on 15th Dec, returning on 2nd Jan
I want to make a stopover on my outward Journey
I want to stop in LON and leave there on 20th Dec
I want to make a stopover on my return journey
I want to stop in LON and leave there on <some random date in future>

Hey presto the nice F fare I want comes out. If it doesn’t, and you don’t know what you have done wrong, then please post all the key information and someone will try to help you!



What are the rules and restrictions?
Cancellation penalties and stopover fees change from fare to fare and from country to country, although stopovers are usually Euro 200 each-way if you break your journey in London for > 24 hours. Also remember you need to factor in the cost of getting to your point of departure, and potentially the cost of a hotel if you are travelling too far to return in a day (e.g. Cyprus, Athens). whichbudget.com lists budget airlines flying to all major cities, and www.skyscanner.net may also be useful.

In general, you will see the rules are much more flexible for the equivalent fare bucket ex-UK. Again, taking ex-LIS as the example at the end of 2005, the rules were:

First fares:
- Unlimited free Changes
- Unlimited free Stopovers*
- No cancellation penalty
- Return within 12 months

Club fares:
- Changes charged at E200 each
- Stopovers* charged at E200 each
- Cancellation penalty E250
- Return within 12 months

*A stopover is a transit of an intermediate point that exceeds 24hrs.

A neat trick for the Club fares – if you time your arrival into London and the departure of your longhaul segment right, you can essentially have a free nightstop in London without having an 'official' stopover. For example, you arrive from LIS on a Monday at 2115 and you can then book your longhaul flight the next day (Tuesday) at any time up to 2114 (<24hrs) and it is NOT charged as a stopover. Book it for 2115 or later and that'll be E200 please!

Note: BA seem to have clamped down on stopover rules, potentially in light of more widespread use of ex-EU fares. Check your fare rules carefully – lots of fares (except seemingly on the JSA routes like SIN/SYD) now limit you to a month’s stopover in the UK at most in either direction.



But I have a UK/other credit card and ba.com wants a local one?
If you are booking on ba.com from your home country and just varying the departure city on the front page, all should be well – BA will quote your fare and advise you of the estimated GBP price but your card will be charged in the local currency (typically EUR). If you are booking on ba.com and using the local site directly (e.g. the BA Portugal site as in dnw’s method), then you have two choices:

1) Just put your number/details in anyway. It has been reported to work but the choice is yours.
2) Call the nice folk at the local BA office in question. For example, at BA in Portugal, they speak perfect English, are very helpful and well used to people phoning up for the cheapo J/F fares. They'll be happy to take your card. Their number is: +351 21 415 4151. Telephone numbers for all other BA overseas offices can be found at ba.com.



Can I do the LIS part of the trip as a turnaround/”out and back” trip?
Yes you can. However, if you plan to return on the same plane you arrived on, then you MUST ensure that you arrive at an airport where departing and arriving passengers are not separated. Because turnarounds are so short these days, it will often not be possible to go through passport control and back through security before the gates are closed, even if you are already holding a boarding pass.

Destinations where a back2back is possible include AMS, DUS, FRA, LIS and BLQ at least



Can I use miles to upgrade the trip?
In short, yes provided (a) there is availability (always a tricky one!) and (b) you booked it correctly. The MFU ‘rule’ is that you can (in theory) only upgrade tickets booked in your registered membership country – if you book directly on ba.com (using the standard MFU engine from the start) this works fine (but you may have to play around with a few dummy bookings and dates to hit the right availability and price you expect). The only stumbling block may be if you use the ‘old’ method above and phone the local BA office to issue the ticket then subsequently try to phone BA and MFU (if, for example, availability opens up later on). In this case, the ticket would have been issued outside your member country and the MFU will probably not be possible.

As with ‘normal’ ex-LON bookings, the best use of MFU is usually WT+ to Club World. Using the ‘new’ method above to isolate the cheapest T class fares, you can then play around trying to find award availability for the trip to match those flights. Doing this, we have seen it possible to MFU a journey like EU-JFK for as little as 650 UKP (ex-BUD at the time of writing). Generally, an ex-AMS MFU routing consistently prices up at around 750UKP.



Will I ever be able to go back to Economy?
What’s Economy?

Last edited by Prospero; Oct 20, 10 at 5:08 am Reason: minor format adjustments
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