For those of you who have attended my lectures, classes or public events in the last few years you may recognize a term I coined; The Hopper Flight Scenario. I believe this method of researching your airfare may be the most important part of planning a trip and will yield the highest savings of any one thing you can do. I don’t believe I invented the process because professional travelers like myself have been using these methods for years; but as far as I know, no one has packaged it into a process which anyone can follow.
Lets start where 99% of people begin; airfare. Just after your voice box utters the phrase “lets go to… ” ” then the wheels begin to spin on where to get the best price for a ticket to get to ” ” Most of us go immediately to the internet to websites like Orbitz, Expedia or a favorite airline site such as Delta, American or British Air. We begin the random placement of dates, departure times, cities and such, and continue to spin the roulette wheel of entries until a price, departure time and date seems to be what we are looking for. Many people “site hop” to cross compare trying to beat the last site they visited lowest price. Others go to their trusty travel agent who will do exactly the same process with slightly different search tools and may or may not come back with a lower price. All in all the airfare search process is a game that most of us hate to play. The majority of these searches produce a combination of airlines, connection cities and layover times to get the price low. Many travelers just use their favorite airline to get frequent flyer miles but may pay more for the few miles they gain and can never, ever redeem when they want, due to blackout dates or random policy changes.
The Hopper Flight Scenario applies to Europe, but can be applied to regional airlines in the US as well. For this example, let’s say you want to go to Rome from Seattle. The first step in the process feels a little out of whack but will make sense later. Go to your favorite source for air, no matter if it’s the airline website, mega travel site or local travel agent and ask for the price for round trip from your city, in this case Seattle to one of four destinations in Europe; London, Amsterdam, Dublin and Paris. From those locations pick exactly what you want in departure times, travel time, layovers and connection city; get it the way you want it. Pay attention and keep the overall cost as low as possible but keep the details of the trip as close to ideal for you as possible.
The second part of the puzzle involves the use of one of the most successful concepts known to travel today; the low cost carrier. For some reason Europe knows how to do it right offering flights between major cities for mere pennies. Europeans have been savvy travelers using these options for years to hop between places like London to Amsterdam or Paris to Rome. These flights sell all day long for usually under Euro 100. How do they do that you say? Well the pricing structure is quite complicated and prices can range between one cent; yes one cent to several hundred dollars depending on the time of day, season (high or low) or if you are trying to fly on a holiday. The carriers also use the no frills model with no first or business class, no seating assignments, no complementary drinks or snacks and strict luggage weight requirements. All the restrictions and lack of creature comforts means deep savings when traveling within Europe. Many times it is less expensive to take a flight than it is to take the train. One of the major players is Ryan air which is the most profitable airline in the world. The Dublin, Ireland based airline operates new aircraft to hundreds of destinations within Europe for fares as low as one penny each way during one of their online sales. One thing you can’t do is get any of these tickets from your local travel agent. Fares are only sold online and fares change not every day but every hour so you must be on your best trip planning game when attempting to find the lowest price.
Putting the pieces of the hopper flight scenario together to save you money takes a little homework but will pay off big. To give you an idea what it looks like when it’s done correctly here is an example of the Hopper Flight Scenario at its best.
Major Carrier vs. Major Carrier + Hopper – Seattle Washington to Rome Italy
Seattle to Rome on one carrier, round trip– June 2009; result: Northwest Airlines price USD $1724 per person – source orbitz.com
Seattle to London on one carrier, round trip – June 2009; result: Northwest $985 RT pp + Hopper Flight, London to Rome RT € 116.00 = about USD $150.00. – source easyjet.com -Total Price USD $1135 per person
SAVINGS of $589 PER PERSON!
So as you can see The Hopper Flight Scenario pays off big time if you are willing to put in the time and energy to put all the little bits in place. Needless to say its not all good news; there is a downside to taking hopper flights that is worth telling you about.
The majority of low cost carriers do not fly into the major airports but secondary, smaller airports like Ciampino (CIA) instead of the major Fiumicino (Leonardo da Vinci) (FCO). This means a longer trek to get to or from when flying in or out.
Low cost European carriers have very low baggage weight allowances. Luggage allowances are 10kg (22 Lbs) for hand luggage and 20kg (44 Lbs) for items checked on most carriers. To Americans; 44 pounds is just the shoes we are bringing and with some airlines charging up to 10 euro per kilo over the allowance; your budget ticket can soon turn expensive.
Lastly the low cost carriers offer a limited number of flights per day so making them work with your arrival or departure times, connection times and layovers takes some skill. On average there are two flights per day; morning and evening.
As you can see the hassle factor is quite high when using The Hopper Flight Scenario but the payoff can mean the difference between having to watch your pennies during the trip or “waiter another bottle of your finest please”
If you like the results but don’t want to deal with all the homework; my USA office would be happy to do it for you. Give them a call at 425.355.3711 or [email protected], www.italy4real.com.