Q. I have been living and working in Switzerland since September and I will be returning to the U.S. this July, permanently. While I have found numerous Europe specials (thanks to your newsletter) for flights originating in the States, it has been difficult for me to find a reasonably-priced ticket back home FROM Europe. What's the best way to go about finding the cheapest fare? I assume that round-trip tickets are considerably less expensive, even though I only need a one-way ticket. Would you recommend buying my ticket now or waiting another month or so in hopes that prices will go down? I have even thought about flying back to a large hub city like New York or Chicago and then flying domestically using a budget airlines...is this advisable? Any advice you have would be MUCH appreciated.
A. As you've probably discovered, one-way tickets are often so high that it can sometimes be cheaper to buy a round-trip ticket and only use half of it. There are, however, a few airlines that sell transatlantic one-way tickets at no or little premium, most notably Aer Lingus from Dublin to all its U.S. gateways (incl. New York JFK, Boston, Washington, and Chicago) and Zoom Airlines from London Gatwick to New York JFK. Qatar Airways also offers one-way tickets for as little as $480 on their Geneva to Newark non-stop flights, but apparently only in June and August.
You should have no trouble finding reasonably priced one-way tickets from Switzerland to either Dublin (e.g., on Ryanair from Basel) or London (e.g., on Easyjet from Geneva to London Gatwick, because you don't want the expense or hassle of changing airports there), and at the other end from, say, New York to your hometown, so piecing together your own itinerary like this using 3 different low-fare airlines is by far your best chance of getting a good deal and not nearly as complicated as it might sound. Although E.U. airline liability rules protect you in case of delays that cause you to miss your connecting transatlantic flight, make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to make your transfers.
While all of these airlines occasionally have sales, they also sell out their cheapest seats first, so since you'll be traveling during peak summer season I suggest you forgo the relatively minor savings of a possible sale and instead buy your tickets soon to lock in the best prices.