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Today’s question comes from reader J:
“Looking to fly to Melbourne around 20th November returning post-Xmas. Have found the cheapest flights out of Oslo with Etihad sub £2k (which is good).
However, would like to go with Qatar if possible. How do I find the cheapest ex EU departure point? I’ve had a hunt around on Expedia but I feel I may be missing a trick?”
For the benefit of those that have not done an ex EU but may be considering it, I will run through the basics first.
In this post:
What is an EX EU flight?
An Ex EU flight is a flight that starts from outside the UK from a departure point in Europe. You will need to pay to fly to the starting point yourself and it may even involve flying back to the UK on the way to your destination. A typical route would be Dublin-London-New York-London-Dublin for example.
Why fly ex-EU?
The main advantage is often a substantially reduced price. This is for 3 reasons. Firstly you won’t be paying the UK APD tax which can make a big difference on premium classes.
Secondly, the airline in question will be tailoring prices to the market of the country of departure. Therefore many countries will have substantially different pricing to the UK.
Thirdly, they will have to offer a reduced price if they don’t fly direct to the destination as they are competing against carriers which do. For example, if you were to fly to New York with British Airways and start your journey in Dublin, they would be competing against Aer Lingus who would fly direct.
A further advantage is that if you are collecting miles or chasing status this gives an opportunity to maximize your earnings with the extra flights. With Qatar from Helsinki, you could earn 560 tier points plus another 160 if you position in Club Europe versus BA’s 280 tier points for a business class flight to Asia from London.
Where to start from?
- Inverness (not really ex EU but cheap for US flights)
- Jersey (no APD)
- Scandinavia and Helsinki – these are usually the cheapest for Australia and New Zealand, particularly Stockholm and Oslo, but involve a longer flight to get there at around 2.5 hours. Stockholm is handy as there are 2 decent hotels (Clarion and Radisson) in the airport building itself to stay overnight and it is a relatively easy airport to navigate. You can sometimes find cheaper fares by flying into and out of different airports such as Oslo and Stockholm. (see my guide here)
- Amsterdam – one of the easiest places to get to for starting your flights, although changing can involve long walks and you need to allow plenty of time.
- Italy – mainly Milan but worth trying others.
- Sofia – not that easy/cheap to get to
- Germany – easy to get to. Look at Frankfurt, Berlin and Munich
- Dublin – for flights to the US
There are always some more exotic starting points such as Istanbul, Tunisia and Cairo but these may not be the best option for a beginner.
How to search for the cheapest starting points
The easiest way is to search using Google flights initially. Then you can either look further at the rules on ITA Matrix (see Paul’s guides part 1 and part 2 or if you want to book via an online travel agent you can go to their site to compare prices.
Google flights allows you to search from up to 5 different departure points at a time, but typing in a city code such LON will count each airport individually.
This makes it easier to search through various starting points quickly. You can select either specific airlines such as the above example with Qatar or an alliance such as oneworld. There are various other options you can select too.
Once the results come back you can find the calendar of lowest prices by clicking in the date box.
You can also then set up an alert for your search and get notified by email if anything changes. You do this by selecting your preferred flights on the dates selected and then there is a slider you can turn to on to send alerts.
What else to consider
There is a lot to an Ex EU trip such as allowing for disruption, whether you have to fly all the legs and how your luggage will be checked. You can find answers to most of the common questions in this article: Beginner’s guide to Ex EU flights.
Flights to Melbourne
As it is fairly close to the time of departure now there are limited deals likely to become available before then. The next major Qatar sale is not likely to be until Black Friday on 23 November. The cheapest I can find on Qatar is around £2200-2300 from Oslo or Stockholm. Given the short notice and the fact it is a peak travel period and particularly for Australia, this is actually a pretty good deal. Out of London it would be over £4000 on Qatar for those dates.