However, the tickets situation is utterly absurd. People always told me to go directly to the websites of airlines and try to book through them, and although this seems like sound advice, in the end it simply does not work for us. First, there are far too many airlines to look into, and second most of the time the tickets you are shown on these sites are considerably higher than the ones you find on the search engines.
So this time around, I was searching for tickets from Seoul to ‘somewhere in Italy,’ and then trying to find another destination in Europe to visit, but with the condition that we can get there affordably, stay there affordably, and then return affordably and without any ridiculous connections.
This year, things did not go so smoothly. We almost purchased some tickets that would have us stay for 20 hours in Dubai, but we hesitated and then poof! The tickets were gone. We weren’t quite ready to buy at that time anyway. So when we were ready to purchase tickets, I was faced with a 20-hour layover in Beijing, which is absurd since we would need to add to our costs by getting a visa. No matter what strange things I did with our search, it was always either a long China stop, or it was multiple 4-hour stops.
Now I know there are direct flights, but with engines such as Orbitz and Skyscanner (and through the airlines themselves), those tickets are far too expensive. So finally, late at night… my mind wandering and getting ready to give up… I thought to myself, “Well, if all my flights out of Seoul stop in Beijing, what would happen if I searched as if I was living in Tokyo?”
Tokyo to Seoul, Seoul to Rome, Rome to Bari (there are no direct flights to Bari from this area); and then later in the summer a flight from Bari to Rome, Rome to Vienna; and finally Vienna to Seoul, Seoul to Tokyo. Of course, we live in Seoul, so we are really flying Seoul to Bari and Vienna to Seoul. The beauty of the last flight is that it is direct; we simply have to remember to tell the airline to check our bags only to Seoul.
Now, I wanted to see if I could get some money back from Orbitz for the flights from and to Tokyo that we would not be using, and that conversation was about as convoluted as I sure everyone can imagine. To cancel those seats, I would not have any money returned, but I would have to pay a $100 per ticket (there are 3 of us) penalty fee to the airline in question, and then an additional minimum of $30 per ticket to Orbitz for changing something. So in effect, I would have to pay for the seats, and then also pay for not using the seats.
I laughed, told them I would like to keep those tickets, and just ended things there.
I realize that for some of you reading this, you might think that this little hack is specific to those of us living in Seoul. I agree that geographically, this is the perfect set-up; however it is possible for people in Europe and even in the US. When searching for tickets, be sure to look at your neighboring airport in the opposite direction of your actual destination. Because you never know, perhaps these travel search engines will give you an itinerary where your layover is in your actual airport of origin.
So with your ticket booking, remember to become highly creative and look around at various search engines and to remember that you are not limited to just the nearest airport.