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Thoughts on Continental's Business Class to Europe? Thoughts on Plan B?

Thoughts on Continental's Business Class to Europe? Thoughts on Plan B?

Old Oct 13th, 2009, 06:37 PM
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Thoughts on Continental's Business Class to Europe? Thoughts on Plan B?

DH and I are looking to get a PHX - LIS; FCO to PHX ticket for 08/10 in conjunction with a cruise we're taking. We would like to stay Star Alliance (which CO is joining) for milage purposes. I gather from the "lie flat" thread, that CO doesn't have the lie flat seats. Right now they are advertising the best fare for a 1 connection flight (PHX-EWR-LIS; FCO-EWR-PHX). So Plan A is to suck it up knowing they aren't lie flat seats.

UA's current fare multi-city is crazy! So we're also considering Plan B could be PHX-IAD-FCO (round trip ticket) and then book TAP Portugal one-way outbound to LIS from FCO. We get a much better rate if we do it this way instead of multi-city and we know that the UA flight has lie flat seats.

Thoughts? Suck it up with CO? Wait a bit and keep tabs on the UA rates?
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Old Oct 13th, 2009, 06:46 PM
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Just a thought, since you are going on a cruise, you may have alot of baggage (casual wear and formal wear), remember the luggage allowance on intra European flights is 20 kilos. If you are over 20 kilos, consider the cost for excess baggage fees which can be hefty.
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Old Oct 14th, 2009, 12:14 AM
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No offense, but your plan B is silly. You will be in a domestic first class seat for the flight from PHX-IAD and a domestic coach seat for the 3-hour FCO-LIS. The extra connection and leg could add 6 hours or more to your travel time. You would probably spend more time in domestic-style seats than in the business class seat.

I'm far from the world's biggest CO fan, but they are alright in BusinessFirst. The seats are comfortable, even if not lie-flat. I wish there was a bit more space between you and the seat in front, but they are comfortable. The food is good, as is the AVOD. And CO's first class from PHX-EWR will be much better than UA's service for PHX-IAD.

If you want flat-bed seats, your best option is BA through Heathrow.
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Old Oct 14th, 2009, 01:58 AM
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UA runs 777s to FCO during the summer, which haven't been upgraded to lie-flat seats yet and probably won't be within a year.
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Old Oct 14th, 2009, 02:04 AM
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I'm a big fan of true lie-flats on long flights, but this itinerary is not exactly New York-to-Singapore.

EWR-LIS is one of the shortest trans-Atl. flights around, and FCO-EWR is a daytime flight.

Sounds like a no-brainer to me.
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Old Oct 14th, 2009, 04:55 AM
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CO's BF is a good product. The seats are very comfortable, even though not lie-flat. {CO is just starting to retrofit with lie-flat but it will take quite some time so I wouldn't count on seeing them any time soon]. The food is good and we've always had very good service. Never had a complaint.

The seat pitch isn't as much as some others, but agree it's more than adequate. And the IFE is pretty good as well.

We've only flown it on 777s. The EWR-LIS route uses a 757 and the FCO-EWR route is on a 767. Not sure if this makes a difference to you.

I agree that these routes are relatively short, so no lie-flat wouldn't be the deciding factor to me, but that's a personal opinion.

Your option wouldn't appeal to me.
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Old Oct 14th, 2009, 05:45 AM
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Thanks everyone for the feedback. As always a big help in trying to decide what we want to do.
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Old Oct 14th, 2009, 11:36 AM
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For what it's worth, not long ago Conde Nast Traveler mag rated CO's transatlantic flight tops.
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Old Oct 14th, 2009, 10:47 PM
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It is too early too book for August, 2010, imo.
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Old Oct 15th, 2009, 07:29 AM
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mrwunfl - You mentioned too early to book, could you discuss further why?

Thanks
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Old Oct 15th, 2009, 09:26 AM
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For the past many years, Continental has pretty good summer BF airfare to Europe. They won't come out until next Spring. Just over $2,000 roundtrip in many cases.
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Old Oct 15th, 2009, 09:38 AM
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<i>mrwunfl - You mentioned too early to book, could you discuss further why?</i>

I'm not mrwunfl but I'll chime in.

I like to joke that airline revenue management is one of the advanced classes taught at Hogwarts.

August 2010 is right at the outer edge of the airlines' booking schedules - they only offer flights 330 days before the flight date, unlike the cruise lines who allow booking up to 18 months or so in advance.

When the fares are first published, the airlines have a tendency not to release their best fares right away. They wait to see how the planes are filling, who among the competition is offering cheaper prices, how the general economy is looking, what's the projected price of fuel, yadda yadda.

Closer to flight dates (say 4-6 months) they will <i>tend</i> to release cheaper seats in order to fill the cabins. However, they will hold some back so that the prices can be raised right before the flight date, in order to extract the highest fares from people that have to fly on short notice. Think of a graph with a line sort of like a "U" - high at both ends, lowest in the middle.

In business class there are often promotional fares for peak tourist seasons in Europe (when business travel tends to slacken for the same reason.) These are booked into "I" or "Z" fare classes, with advance purchase and change penalties similar to discount coach. This year (which was during the depths of the economic slowdown, so not necessarily predictive of 2010) those fares started showing up around February/March for travel in the summer. Not sure what you're seeing for business class fares for your itinerary, but the I/Z fares are typically 40% - 50% less than the "everyday" fares.

Of course things can happen and the lowest fares (in coach or business) never materialize. But in general this is a pretty prevalent pattern. If you want the security of knowing your seats are booked, and are willing to pay a premium for that, go for it. Otherwise my suggestion would be to give it a couple or three months, monitoring it occasionally.
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Old Oct 15th, 2009, 11:40 AM
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Thanks Rkkwan and Gardyloo for the comments and explanation.
Right now the BC/FC on CO is about $3,471 PP whereas UA BC/FC is about $8,000 PP and BA BC is about $5,000 PP for the multi-city route. Guess that's why CO is looking good to us right now!
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Old Oct 15th, 2009, 12:43 PM
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UA's (also LH and US) prices out of either LA or Denver to Lisbon, returning Rome - PHX, are in the $3500 - $3700 range (guessing at exact dates) as of the moment. You could certainly fly one way on a separate ticket to LAX or DEN at the beginning of the trip, in order to save a couple grand.

Do you have any UA or Star Alliance miles?
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Old Oct 15th, 2009, 03:42 PM
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I'll look at the other departure point you mentioned Gardyloo just to see what it looks like. Thanks for the suggestion.

Not enough miles left I'm afraid to upgrade - we've used a slew of them this year.
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Old Oct 15th, 2009, 10:52 PM
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Gardyloo got it right, of course.

Basically, United is not yet in the market for selling that trip right now, but if you want to buy from them you can - at a premium. I would wait until all the sellers are at the market.

Lisbon is not a United destination and it seems like the price on their website is high when the trip includes a foreign partner other than Lufthansa. This is my impression.

I would be shopping now, thinking about buying in January, and probably buying in Feb or January.

But I have noticed low fares on American far in advance (10 months) and to a lesser extent CO. Not united.

I did check the fares last night. I tried Aug 11-15. CO was $1400 (travelocity) and United was $1700 or $3900 (on United's website).

The $1700 fare required two stops PHX-IAD-LHR on United and then LHR-LIS on TAP.

The $3900 fare was the one with the one-stop option outbound: PHX-EWR on USAir and EWR-LIS on TAP. A couple of the fares were Y fares (including the FCO-IAD leg). Like they were selling the trip as two one-ways.

But PHX-EWR-LIS-LHR-IAD-PHX on those dates is $1622 and PHX-IAD-FCO-IAD-PHX is $1600. You should probably be able to get the trip you want for $1600 on United+others at some point. This is maybe what the fare may be for the open-jaw: half the sum of two roundtrips.

Or if you really wanted to give United your money now you could get two roundtrips (one to LIS, one from FCO) for $3200 instead of the one open-jaw for $3900.
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Old Oct 15th, 2009, 11:03 PM
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When you do an open-jaw search at united.com the first results you get are by "Schedule & Price". There is another tab for "Price".

I just checked this trip for January 13-27 to see what the price is during low season. Won't get this for August, but it is a good idea to find out what the bottom fare might be.

The Schedule & Price tab, where you can select the flight schedule you want, defaults on that PHX-EWR-LIS itin outbound because it is the earliest one of the day at 6:40 AM. The default return is UA FCO-IAD, US IAD-PHX. That fare is a whopping $3910 with all but PHX-EWR being a Y fare.

Clicking on the Price tab shows a fare of $771 (and includes the extra stop at LHR).
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Old Oct 16th, 2009, 03:08 PM
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Thanks for the info on getting an idea of the amount of the low fare. I'm remember all these tips for future searching!!

I've run a variety of combinations through several of the airlines (dates are outbound 08/21/10 - back 09/05/10) and one other detail has come up that makes us think we will probably still go with CO - the time the flight leaves out of Rome. While we can add a couple of days at the front end to sightsee and make sure no issues in catching the ship, that's all the time we can add due to DH's job. So we can't stay over at the back end and have to leave the day the ship docks. Given the docking of the ship, the distance from the port to the airport, it looks like CO's flight leaving at at 2:00 p.m. is the best choice. Allows enough time that we're not panicking to make the flight.

Thanks again to everybody for the tips!
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Old Oct 16th, 2009, 10:07 PM
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I also checked 5 and 6 months out. United's fare in March was $1060 and in April was $1170. So maybe the $1400 CO fare is fair enough given that you are working with dates fixed by your cruise.

If you decide to buy sooner rather than later then you might check the CO fares in January, March, ..., to see what it is. If the fare drops then you might recoup some of the difference, minus a change fee which might be $250 (check the change rules on your ticket and check CO's policy).
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