From my friend Whitney Tilson,
The next time you book a flight with an international carrier, try this trick — I just saved 20% on a round-trip nonstop flight next month from NYC to London and back.
If you’re flying a foreign carrier, go to their local web site and see what the rates are in the local currency. You might be able to save a lot of money, especially if you use a credit card that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee.
I’m on the board of a company, Bridge International Academies, that has four board meetings a year in London. For the meetings I attend in person, I’ve always flown Norwegian Air Shuttle, which is the third-largest low-cost carrier in Europe and which, three years ago, started flying long-haul routes like JFK-Gatwick using new 787 Dreamliners. I’ve always had a good experience with the airline, plus I’ve found that its prices are ~25–50% less than other carriers on the NY-London route. For example, for nonstop flights for my meeting next month, Norwegian is $709 roundtrip and the next cheapest nonstop options are $1,814-$1,860 on various carriers (mostly into Heathrow).
That’s a 61% savings right there — but if you use my trick and book on Norwegian’s local web site (www.norwegian.no instead of the US web site, www.norwegian.com/us), the fare drops by an additional 20% — sweet!
The only downside is that I had to muddle through the local website, which is in Norwegian (which I can’t read, of course), so I had two web pages open, one making a booking in English and the other in Norwegian (all of the pages were, fortunately, identical, so it only took an extra minute or two).
I don’t know which I’m enjoying more: saving the money or outwitting the airlines, which are always seemingly coming up with new ways to suck more money from us!
PS-Upon reading this, a few friends had additional ideas:
- If you use the Google Chrome browser, it will translate for you.
- This also works for cruises [and, I assume, hotels, trains, etc. — anything with US vs. local websites], though the more sophisticated websites (like Royal Caribbean) make it hard to get to the local site — they will bounce you back to the US site once they recognize your server location. [Another friend has a solution for this: I have a VPN app, IPVanish, which anyone can get, and then, for a small fee, one can direct the Internet to pretend it’s in any country.]
- Another fun trick is going to Kayak’s site in Hong Kong and Brazil… You can find cheaper fares there too. And better yet, you can search their engines in English, with USD as the quoted fare… though when you book you still run into your translation issue, though I also find that manageable to navigate with google translate.
- You have to look into Autoslash.com. I booked an intermediate car for a week in CA that was going to cost $578 for the week (picking up in SF, dropping in LA). I read about Autoslash in the Times. Plug in your email, confirmation number and car company and this thing will scan every day for discounts and rebook you if it finds a better deal. On the first day, it knocked the price down to $250 (half!) and then last week it knocked it down to $209. Can’t wait to see how low it goes. I was so suspicious about it that I called the car rental company directly and they confirmed it — amazing!
- For flights on domestic carriers, SkipLagged.com is the best way to outwit the airlines. For example, I fly the DC-NYC shuttle a few times a month for $129-$179 each way instead of $429 because I buy a one-way ticket to another destination with a connection in DC/NYC and just don’t fly the second leg. It’s literally the same plane as the shuttle, for 1/3 the price (but you can’t check a bag).