Cheap airfare from Boston or Montreal to London?
August 5, 2007 11:34 AM   Subscribe

Please help me find super-cheap round trip airfare from Boston, US (or Montreal, Canada) to London, UK for a 2-week trip during the winter holiday season (Dec 15 - Jan 15, dates flexible).

I have tried "discount" fare aggregators like Travelocity and Expedia; I've searched American Airlines, United, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Air France, and Air Canada directly; based on a previous AskMe thread I've tried discount air carrier Zoom. The lowest fare I've been able to find is on Air Canada: Boston -> Heathrow, $517.54 USD -- ALL taxes, fees, etc included, with one stopover in Canada. (Virgin was next best with a direct flight for $570.25 USD, all taxes/fees included.) Is this the best I can expect, or is there some super-awesome, uber-cheap ticket service/airline that I have not found yet? I am willing to use a travel agent if that is a cheaper way to go. I live equidistant from Boston and Montreal, so either airport is fine. All suggestions appreciated, no frills expected. (I would book myself cargo-class to save money if I could.) Thanks!
posted by turtlegirl to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I've had the best luck finding low fares with

You are, as you note, traveling during holiday season, so don't expect ultracheap airfares. Peak travel season is when airlines make their money, and they are seriously disinclined to discount as significantly as they will in, say, February.

That said, for that time of year, under $600 for a direct roundtrip to London on Virgin is a pretty fine deal. (Flying coach in Virgin is almost pleasant compared to most other airlines.) Unless you get something WAY more compelling, I'd jump on that now.
posted by enrevanche at 11:45 AM on August 5, 2007

Most airlines have a mid-winter "shoulder season" where fares will be higher. It varies by airline, but it can include dates as far out as 14DEC-03JAN. If you focus your search on "low season" before or after these points you might find something cheaper.

Fares are going to be higher than in previous years because the dollar is weak, the UK government has added a big new duty on intercontinental travel (~$80), and fuel is expensive, adding surcharges on some airlines or fare increases on others.
posted by grouse at 11:48 AM on August 5, 2007

aer lingus. It'll get you rt for under 600
posted by Large Marge at 11:52 AM on August 5, 2007

The reason I think you're encountering higher-than-expected fares is, I'd guess, taxes and fees. British and Canadian taxes, airline "fuel surcharges", and high landing fees at Heathrow on long-haul airfare add nearly hundreds of dollars to the price of a round-trip ticket: here's the breakdown of a Virgin fare from Boston to Heathrow I found for the same days, relevant sections bolded:
Fare (A1): VS BOSLON XLWAP fare (rules) $203.00
Fare (A2): VS LONBOS NLXSL fare (rules) $142.00
Tax: US September 11th Security Fee $2.50
Tax: US International Departure Tax $15.10
Tax: US Passenger Facility Charge $4.50
Tax: US International Arrival Tax $15.10
Tax: United Kingdom Passenger Service Charge £14.10
Tax: United Kingdom Air Passengers Duty £40.00
Tax: US Customs Fee $5.50
Tax: US Immigration Fee $7.00
Tax: USDA APHIS Fee $5.00
Tax: VS YQ [fuel] surcharge $122.00
So I would suggest flying to Aer Lingus to Ireland from Boston and then flying Ryanair to London Gatwick: the Aer Lingus website quoted me a grand total of $436 taxes/fees included for a round-trip, non-stop fare from Boston to Dublin leaving Dec 16 and Jan 15; a Ryanair ticket between Dublin and London Gatwick was just €20 taxes/fees included. Ryanair charges you for everything - checked baggage, etc. - but it's still cheaper than what you found.
posted by mdonley at 11:53 AM on August 5, 2007

Zoom occasionally has a sale price of $99 each way, but I don't know how likely it is that they'll have a sale that will apply to Christmastime travel.

Also, when airlines do have a sale, it's almost always applies to travel within the next 45 to 60 days. If you wait for the sales, you might find that the regular price has gone up in the meantime and the sale doesn't apply to your ticket.
posted by winston at 12:03 PM on August 5, 2007

(I would book myself cargo-class to save money if I could.)
I second mdonley’s suggestion, but be aware that Ryanair is damn close to cargo-class. If your plane from Canada is late, they don’t care, you’ve missed your flight. If you have to wait at Dublin for your luggage to catch up, they don’t care, you’ve missed your flight. If you check baggage, you have to pay for it, and if it’s anything vaguely heavy, you pay a shitload for it. In your position, I’d book a couple of days of tourism in Dublin or environs, to double as elbow-room in case things go wrong.
posted by Aidan Kehoe at 12:14 PM on August 5, 2007

FWIW, Zoom has a price-match guarantee for identical itineraries within 12 hours of the Zoom flight.
posted by winston at 1:03 PM on August 5, 2007

Try flying over on christmas day. Seriously. It used to drop a bundle off fares a few years ago but last time I looked, there wasn't that much difference. Worth a shot though.

Oh, and at the difference you say between one stop and direct, I think you'd be better off going direct. Fifty bucks is definitely worth a no-stop flight.
posted by humuhumu at 2:59 PM on August 5, 2007

Always remember that in the airline industry "direct" means "same flight number" not "non-stop." For all practical purposes a "direct" flight is not any better than a one-stop, since the different sectors can be flown by different planes, and the second one can take off before the first arrives. I don't think Virgin Atlantic does this, though.
posted by grouse at 3:04 PM on August 5, 2007

It's generally known in Canada that you can get cheaper flights to London from Toronto and to Paris from Montreal. Also, Aer Lingus does not fly out of Montreal at all.
posted by zadcat at 3:49 PM on August 5, 2007

Should Ryanair be beyond the pale of acceptability (and with an international connection and heaps of luggage, it might be), the Dublin Airport Wikipedia page says that the following airlines fly between Dublin and the following London airports:

Aer Lingus: Gatwick, Heathrow
BMI: Heathrow
British Airways: Gatwick
CityJet (part of Air France): London City (good if you're heading east of Central London)
[Ryanair: Luton, Stansted, Gatwick]

Since you're going for a month, you could also do a train-ferry combo between Ireland and Britain if you weren't pressed for time, though that would almost certainly be more expensive; The Man in Seat 61 has a good summary of cheaper ways to make that journey.
posted by mdonley at 5:05 PM on August 5, 2007

Also on the ferry + rail option, this says €41 gets you from Dublin Ferryport to London, which is pretty good.
posted by mdonley at 5:32 PM on August 5, 2007

my favorite!

a quick check shows boston - london
Dec 20 - Jan 3

$642 total roundtrip including taxes, fees etc...

in 2003 i flew $503 total round trip from Cleveland to London by using this site, unbelievable!!!!

but in looking at your post, it looks as if you're looking for something below $540 or so...i have found a lot of variation on airlineconsolidator by messing with the departure and return days - you may find something more in the 500s...

but really, $540, that's a pretty damn cheap flight to london!
posted by Salvatorparadise at 8:16 PM on August 5, 2007

Have you checked AirIndia? I was surprised that I could go to and from Chicago (RT) in October for $500 (including tax.)

I've never flown AirIndia, so I have no idea if their service is worth a damn. But if cheap is your deciding factor, they might be another airline to check into.

Let us know what you find! I'm planning a British honeymoon, so transcontinental flights are something I'm keeping an eye on.
posted by santojulieta at 11:45 PM on August 5, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! Some great advice, and a lot of new-to-me information here. We decided to go with Virgin in the end, because the price difference of $70 was offset by some of the comforts that they offer even to the "economy" cabin customers. Based on some of the fares that I saw outside of my holiday-season target dates, there are some very good deals to be had if you book far enough (at least 4 months) in advance of your trip. Now to double-check my passport to make sure it is machine readable...
posted by turtlegirl at 5:59 PM on August 10, 2007

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