T he European long-haul air travel market is unique with a high concentration of major carriers in a relatively small geographic area. Competition among European airlines is fierce, especially for lucrative high revenue passengers.
European carriers will try to poach passengers from neighbouring countries by undercutting the local airline on many long-haul routes worldwide. What this effectively means is that British Airways will often charge less for flights originating at various European hubs than for flights departing London even though they include an extra sector.
Other Euro airlines (such as Lufthansa, Air France-KLM, Alitalia, Finnair) also regularly undercut their homebase flight prices. A KLM flight from London (via Amsterdam) for example, could be cheaper than the ex-Amsterdam flight.
This phenomenon is a market reality either the airlines are offering a rebate against the inconvenience of making a connection or charging a premium for a non-stop flight.
If you are based in Europe you can potentially reduce your premium class airfare significantly by taking advantage of such price differences especially if you are tied to your home carrier through its frequent flyer program. It does take a bit more legwork than usual, but it can save you thousands of pounds or euros.
In the past the airlines used to try and restrict their home nationals from purchasing these types of fares. However this is now officially against EU rules and such tickets are straight forward to buy online.
Example: London to Tokyo in Business Class with BA
Say you wish to travel from London Heathrow to Tokyo Narita in BA Club World (business class) on a 2 week trip in 2012. Lets compare prices from London and other European cities in the region:
As you can see, the ex-Istanbul flight (Istanbul-London-Tokyo return) is cheapest saving some 49% off the ex-London Club World fare.
Important, you cannot just throw away the first sector and get on in London. If you miss the first flight the airline would cancel the entire reservation. You must book a separate positioning return flight to/from the starting point. Always allow enough time for connections. You should also complete travel for all sectors.
From London the traveller may choose to originate in Amsterdam (which still saves 41%) as it is cheaper and easier to reach. The complete journey via AMS would have 6 segments like this:
1. Fly (cheaply) from starting point to Amsterdam
2. Fly BA Club Europe AMS to LHR
3. Fly BA Club World LHR to NRT
4. Fly BA Club World NRT to LHR
5. Fly BA Club Europe LHR to AMS
6. Fly back to starting point with return (cheap) flight
You are flying more segments here and have to decide whether the savings are worth the extra time and travel inconvenience. This strategy can work for first class fares as well, though note that there are very few intra Europe first class flights. It can also work on select high fare economy routes.
Apart from BA, you will find geographic price discrepancies from other major EU airlines such as Air France-KLM and Lufthansa. Booking can be made on major online agents or local country sites of the airlines.
This strategy can make great cost savings and also gain you cheaper status miles/points to help you reach or retain elite frequent flyer status.