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Cheap 2019 flights (inc Feb half term) for those who go more than once

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
I know I've posted this before, but I still think it's worth a reminder particularly as thoughts turn to next season's bookings.

For anyone going more than once in a season, it is possible to bulk buy your flights in advance at a potentially considerable discount.

e.g. I've just booked 16-23 Feb 2019 LGW<->GVA return on BA for £160/person, flexible (date/time changes allowed), inc baggage. The non-flex version is just £125 return/person inc bags. The standalone fare on this route is £850/person!

The way it works is that you book a block of tickets (effectively a coupon booklet in old-style ticketing) that can be used at any time, on a named route, by named passengers, within a booking window. https://britishairways.optiontown.com/ is the link.

I've purchased 8 return tickets valid from mid Dec to mid March (3 months) for 4 named people (me and family) LGW<->GVA. This costs either £997 total for non-flexible tickets, or just under £1300 for flexible tickets. There are various variables (e.g. number of days in advance you will make the booking, whether you want all London airports or only specific ones, how long the validity window will be etc.) which drive the pricing.

Happy planning!
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
That's very interesting. I haven't seen that option.

I just tried the link but couldn't see if you were able to book business class tickets using that system. Do you happen to know if this is possible? The problem with a standard economy ticket with BA only includes a single bag hence the thought about booking club.

At the moment, I am trying to book everything using Avios. For various reasons, I tend to collect Avios at a large rate (circa 150,000 points per month) so that has been my first option. However, those tickets can't be changed and you need to book pretty much when they create 355 days in advance.

Using your option, is it realistic to book on high demand days like the start and end of school holidays? Of course this assumes there are seats available, but I know sometimes an airline will hold back the sale of the cheaper fares for potentially higher yielding, later booking customers.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
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It's economy only at present. Just one bag but that one bag can be a big ski coffin bag with all your stuff in; in addition BA's carry on allowance bag size is so large that it can easily fit a week's ski gear including boots into carryon. Almost every flight I've had in the last year, they have offered free checking for carryon size bags.

If you're accruing 150k Avios a month then you should be Gold (at the very least), in which case you can use Avios whenever you want as long as you're prepared to pay double the normal Avios points. Also, Avios tickets can be changed as long as there is availability on the new flight. I change a lot of mine!

The Optiontown fares that I link to above have last-seat availability. i.e. as long as there is a seat available in your cabin, even if it's a "full fare" Y seat, you can have it. I've successfully booked onto flights where only the most expensive seats were available.
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snowdave wrote:

If you're accruing 150k Avios a month then you should be Gold (at the very least), in which case you can use Avios whenever you want as long as you're prepared to pay double the normal Avios points. Also, Avios tickets can be changed as long as there is availability on the new flight. I change a lot of mine!

Unfortunately my Avios points are accrued with Amex spend, so these don't count to the main Exec Club level, hence no gold level. Which is a pain because as you say with gold you get increased availability of Avios if you pay double points.
snowdave wrote:


The Optiontown fares that I link to above have last-seat availability. i.e. as long as there is a seat available in your cabin, even if it's a "full fare" Y seat, you can have it. I've successfully booked onto flights where only the most expensive seats were available.


That is very useful information and means that Optiontown fares look like a very good deal imho if you want to fly at high/ish demand times.
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can't you only book 90 days in advance at the earliest?
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I think they are minimum booking windows, not maximum. So the answer to your question is no, you should be able to book much further out than that.
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@eddiesteadygo, ah yes, it says "at least" 90 days - missed that
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Just had a look at this again now, but found a query which I wasn't sure of the answer to. It seems on the high demand flights to Geneva (e.g. school half term) BA are only selling "Economy (Plus)". This is of course different from World Traveller Plus which has a different seat type.

So I am wondering does Economy (Plus) on shorthaul qualify as being economy and hence would be bookable with these group buy type of tickets?
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what's the minimum amount of flights you have to buy in order to be eligible for the bulk buy discount?
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I've just been looking and it seems you need to buy 2 return tickets per named passenger. So if there was 4 names passengers you would need to buy 2 return tickets which equates to 16 one way flights.

Depending upon the answer to my last question, that would make it VERY good value for money if you book in peak time.

Just to add, the wording on the site refers to cabin, so I think whilst BA might be selling Economy (plus) on their shorthaul flights, as that is still in Economy cabin, I would presume they are bookable with this type of tickets.

On that basis, this is an excellent discovery by the OP.
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@eddiesteadygo, I think that Economy (Plus) equates to Economy (with a bag)
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@eddiesteadygo, as Alastair says, economy plus is economy with a bag for short haul.

Iíve successfully booked Feb half term with this, on flights that were about £850/person otherwise.

As @mikeycharlton says itís 2 return flights per person as a min, although you can use them unequally so you could do one family trip and 4 weekends for yourself.

Edited to add - the massive bargain is where you can book the flexi fares on the four hour freedom option, for about £20 more than a normal ticket. Then if plans change, so can your flights. That said, at peak periods all flights are full so you wonít necessarily be able to change.
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Just looking at doing this and looks fantastic. Can I just confirm that if flights are showing available to buy via BA app, then I will be able to select and book these via this once I have bought my flight pass? Just wanted to make sure that I have missed something. As I am looking at this for half term flights, even if we donít use the extra flights it is still significantly cheaper than booking onto those flights for the one trip.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Correct, Optiontown (the agent) describes it as "last seat availability" although to be fair, that should technically say "last economy seat availability". If there is a seat available on the flight, you can book it.

There's a number of threads on Flyertalk about it.

The only thing is that you have to select and book through Optiontown rather than BA, and similarly all changes have to be made through Optiontown so it's not always immediate but my limited experience so far is that they are reasonably responsive. It probably took 24hrs for my initial booking to come through the systems, but future bookings were instant. I set up my account and booked my first flight immediately.

Worth playing around a lot with the permutations of options to get the cheapest deals, you should be able to get c. £1k for 4 people with 2 returns each.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
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I have sent you a PM!
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@snowdave, Hello fellow flyertalk..er Happy
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Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
@eddiesteadygo, For you there is another option. You get lots of miles from AMEX but not status due to lower tier points (TPs are only from flights).

You don't fly enough to get status. That is because the TPs/economy flight are 12-20/return. You can get 80 TP's from a business class return/ Therefore 6 direct returns will get you silver status and lounge access. To reduce the cost of the business class flights simply use AVIOS to reduce the price. If like me you are not based in London, a business class flight from GLA-LGW-GVA will get 160 TPs and therefore you only need 4 returns like this to get silver status. I do this every month on GLA-LGW or GLA-LHR (80x 12= 1000TPs) and a few extra flights gets me a Gold Card.

Because I'm gold I get more airmiles and can reduce the cost of my TP tarting.

This yer and next I've been creative and now have 2,500 points which is gold + 2 upgrades (IE book premium economy to west coast USA and get an upgrade for free to a lie flat business class seat).

If you're getting so many AVIOS then you should be in a great position to be creative. BUT you need to think about reducing the cost of a revenue seat rather than searching for "redemption" seat.

Redemption seats are not always available but reducing a revenue seat is always available. Happy

However, this is only good for achieving status. Snowdave's way is better for regular economy travellers.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
@GlasgowCyclops, Hello!

Agreed, your approach makes sense for chasing status, or if you attach a relatively low value to Avios (or high value to status!). My experience has been that you can get max c. £200 off short-haul using part-pay with Avios (using about 40k Avios), so for cheap peak-period ski flights (what I'm mainly focusing on in the OP) there will still be a big cash outlay for the skier.

Personally, if I were earning 150k Avios on a credit card each month, I'd switch to earning Amex Membership Rewards points which have a vastly greater range of use cases.
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We have just booked Salzburg flights for half term for this. Paid £1098 for two lots of return flights for the family Of 4. We set the start date for 15th Feb and the window to use them as 3months. Current prices from BA for those flights is £3500 for the family! The next cheapest options were flying to Munich and meant a lateish flight out and a very very earlier flights home and Munich was a much longer transfer, this option was still more expensive at £1667 for the family.

We now have a second set of flights to use at Easter. We could of set the usage region to 1 month but we would be throwing away the second set of flights and that was going to be £981.

Some observations- you need to have BA Executive club membership for every person flying (including children) thankfully I had set this up a year or so ago Happy, also we couldnít book the flights until i had all the passport numbers to hand.

Will update more when we actually fly as well.
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I have logged into my account via the normal BA app and the flights are showing there and check-in will open 24hrs before the flight as normal
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We have also successfully booked our flights (same holiday as NickyJ) - for two adults and four children. The original price via Munich (so a longer drive for us) would have been around £2400 for middle of the day flights. We now have two sets of return flights to Salzburg, which is half the driving distance, with early morning then late evening flights confirmed booked for £1600 with a six month window to take them. Those same flights would have been £5500, and that's without the bonus ones! It does seem too good to be true, but yep, they're confirmed on BA's website.

We'll probably use our spares at Christmas or even October half term and just visit Salzburg and see what it is all about.

The only thing I'm not totally clear on is whether the same six people have to book the remaining six returns, or if (say) three people could go twice again. Although I suspect I might be sick of going to Salzburg three times in six months by the end of it!
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As long as the people are named you can use those flights in any combination you like. So if you wanted to use them as two lots of three that is fine.
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Glad this is proving useful!

It'll be interesting to see what (if any) the wastage rate is on excess tickets - i.e. whether people use this largely as a cheap way of getting peak flights and discard the extras, or whether it gains traction with property owners etc. who might use many more flights.

In case it's relevant - silver and gold card holders still get their additional bags with these tickets, for all passengers on the booking. Thus if one of your party has a silver/gold card, make them the main account holder and you'll get more bags than you can possibly fit in the Ford Focus you hired...
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Thanks for posting again @snowdave
Didn't know you could do this and it's brilliant to be able to plan next winter!
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Wow, that is a great tool. It wont work for us this winter, but I can see some light for when we don't want to pay full whack.

Is there any way to set the number of passengers to 5?
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I couldnít find one. I guess the choice is set to 6 but only define 5. Or sign up for two lots 3 & 2 or 4 and 1. Even more playing to see which gives the best price required.
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6 pax isnít much more expensive than 4, there is no 5 option, and youíd lose a lot of flexibility by going 2+3. Furthermore if you split bookings, and care about being seated together, you might end up paying for seating.

If you go for the slightly more expensive flexible fares, you can add the names later rather than fixing of them when you buy the pass. That way, you might find a friend (or snowheader?) who wants that sixth ticket.

My pricing, when I ran the analysis, was as follows for LGW-GVA all for 4 pax:

16 flights, 3 month usage window (Dec-Mar), 90 days in advance, £997 all in, £62/flight (=£124 return)
20 flights, 4 month usage window (Dec-Apr), 90 days in advance, £1205 all in, £60/flight

16 flights, 3 month usage window (Dec-Mar), 14 days in advance, £997 all in, £62/flight (NOTE - SAME PRICE AS ABOVE DESPITE 14 vs 90 DAYS)
20 flights, 4 month usage window (Dec-Apr), 14 days in advance, £1205 all in, £60/flight

16 flights, 3 month usage window (Dec-Apr), flexible option, £1269 all in, £79/flight
20 flights, 4 month usage window (Dec-Apr), flexible option, £1505 all in, £75/flight

24 flights, 4 month usage window (Dec-Apr), 14 days in advance, £1325 all in, £55/flight

If you run your own analysis and can post the results in a similar vein, it might be generally useful.
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OK - 24 Flights for 6 people (family of 5 and our 5 year old would object to being left at home) - starting on 20 Dec for 3 months, 60 Day advance I get £272.83 per person to Geneva is £1,637 - a 16 to 23 Feb flight on BA at reasonable hours is £3,401 for 5 of us, plus we can do another trip (even a weekend) for free from a flight perspective.

A couple of questions:

1) Do all travellers have to travel together?
2) How does baggage work?
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You know it makes sense.
1. No
2. Each flight comes with 1 bag at 23kg.
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@FrediKanoute, for that combination, Gatwick only is about £300 cheaper at 1325, and you can shorten the booking window to 14 days albeit I wouldnít risk trying to book at that notice for half term.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
So the only downside I see is that 90 days before the date you want to fly you could find the flights fully booked as everyone who uses this tries to book - is there a way of seeing how may free seats there are on a flight. I recall SABRE previously was able to tell you this (ex girlfriend worked for an airline).

Also, do other airlines operate these schemes?
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Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
@FrediKanoute, I was just asking snowdave about that myself Happy

You can book your half term flights as soon (well about 15mins of so later) as you purchase the Flightpass.

Certainly have worked out the half term flight we are on is now down to 8 seats left!

However the second week we arenít committing to as there looks like loads of seats and we havenít decided yet if we are going to use it for the first or second week of easter school holidays.


Last edited by Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person on Thu 28-06-18 17:46; edited 1 time in total
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@FrediKanoute, just to be clear, the 90 days is the latest you can book, not the earliest. I.e. if you wanted to fly on 16 Feb, and bought the pass today, you could book now or any time up until about 18 November.

Optiontown runs similar schemes for other airlines, but Swiss doesnít have one and thatís the only one that would be useful to me for skiing.

The only 3 ways I know of to get an idea of flight load are
A) dummy booking on BA.com to see if there are still at least 9 seats still being sold, best to do this as a one way fully flexible ticket to look at the highest selling price economy tickets ( y fares).
B) use expertflyer (a subscription service) to check ticket availability by fare class
C) call BA and ask - tho even then they seem only prepared (able?) to tell me it by fare class availability, not true load factor.

Neither of these tell you definitively how many seats are available, just how many the airline is prepared to sell at a given price under given fare conditions from a set location at that moment in time... BA could hold back 20seats to use for very valuable full fare connecting flights, or could oversell in the hope of no shows.

Part of the beauty of the optiontown scheme is that it uses the y fare availability, so as long as BA is prepared to sell any level of economy ticket, even at close to £1k return, you can use your flight pass on it.
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Swiss do seem to.

https://www.flightpass.ch/en

I stumbled across this while researching the optioncity one. Was no good for me as you have to either fly into or out of Geneva.
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@NickyJ, thanks, Iíve never seen that before, tho sadly it is ďtemporarily unavailableĒ if I try and book, which is a pity as the pricing is pretty good.
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@snowdave, shame.
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Just a warning to all. Every person flying needs to have an in date passport at time of booking when booking via this method, which you donít need when you book directly with British Airways.
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Just an update to add- my sister did manage to get these booked with them via the phone eventually
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