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This is not the first time I've seen this so it seems to me that there is some reason for this.

I am trying to set up an itinerary in the following fashion:

  1. Start in New York.
  2. Fly to some city in Europe let's say: ABC
  3. Get by some means to another city: DEF
  4. Fly from DEF to New York.

What I am finding is that if I buy an Open Jaw itinerary NYC-> ABC and DEF->NYC the price is about $500 more expensive then if I add a flight from ABC -> DEF.

Is there any reason for this? Or am I just imagining patterns where there are none?

Clarification

This is not exactly connection situation. The more precise itinerary:

  • Flight NYC->ABC
  • Spend 1 week in ABC
  • Get from ABC to DEF
  • Spend 1 week in DEF
  • Flight From DEF to NYC
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How far apart are the cities ABC and DEF? Some fare rules allow open jaws, but typically with restrictions on how big the jaw is vs the out/back flights –  Gagravarr Jan 24 at 14:44
    
@Gagravarr In this particular case: ABC = Barcelona, DEF = Madrid, so about 300 miles/450km flight. –  Karlson Jan 24 at 14:47
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I had to visit 3 destinations in Europe, starting from San Francisco, and after hours of looking at flight prices, I ended up flying A->B->C->D->C->B->A (all round trips) instead of A->B->C->D->A. I saved nearly $1000 by having more flights. –  user14742 Jan 24 at 20:00
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2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Welcome to the wonderful world of airline pricing!

Exactly how trips are priced will depend on a number of factors including the airline and the exact time you're flying, but as a generic answer...

Flights are normally prices on a per-leg basis, and then the price for each leg is combined to make up the total trip price. When you fly a round-trip, the prices for each leg will often be cheaper than if you just buy a one-way ticket. Open-jaw trips are normally priced at the same price (per leg) as round-trip trips, so normally you'd expect the overall prices to be similar for a round-trip as they are for a open-jaw.

So, when you buy NYC->ABC and DEF->NYC, it's fairly simple - it'll be the round-trip/open-jaw price for each of those legs combined.

However if you buy NYC->ABC, ABC->DEF, DEF->NYC there's a number of ways it could be priced.

The obvious way is that the prices for each of those three legs could be calculated and added together. This is normally referred to as a "circle fare", and obviously it is always going to be more than paying for the open-jaw as it's basically the open-jaw plus an extra flight.

However, it could also be priced as NYC-ABC, ABC-NYC with a stopover at DEF. Or as NYC-DEF with a stopover at ABC, and DEF-NYC.

Picking the first of these an as example (NYC-ABC, ABC-NYC with a stopover in DEF), you're now no longer purchasing a ticket to DEF, but a return trip NYC-ABC. If flights to ABC are cheaper than DEF - which they could be for any reason including more competition on that flight, a sale on at the moment, etc, then you're obviously going to pay less. Some airlines will charge you a little more for a stopover along the way whilst some will allow a single stopover for free - but even if you have to pay for it it's generally going to be cheap.

Most good travel booking websites will automatically look at the options available and work out the cheapest option for you. ie, they will compare the prices for the circle-fare option, the NYC-ABC return with a stopover, and the NYC-DEF return with a stopover options and then allow you to book the cheapest of the 3.

As an similar example, I recently had to book a ticket SFO-LHR which was going to cost around $1200. However I decided that I wanted to spend a few days in Istanbul on the way back, so I decided to try and book SFO-LHR-IST-SFO (with multiple days in both LHR and IST). You would expect that this would cost more, as clearly it's a much longer flight, however it actually cost only $1000 - cheaper that the direct option.

The reason was that it actually priced out as being SFO-IST, IST-SFO. ie, technically I bought a round-trip ticket to Istanbul, and just happened to have a stopover in London on the way. Airfares to Istanbul at the time were cheaper than airfares to London, so even after paying ~$100 extra to have a "stopover" in London, it still came out $200 cheaper!

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Segmentation fault brain dumped... –  Karlson Jan 24 at 18:21
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In my experience, any time you can add a connection or layover, the price comes down. This is not always the case, and it is not consistent. However, I used to add a short vacation in Orlando when flying to Guatemala, simply because it was cheaper for me to add that stop than to fly directly to Guatemala City. The same held true whenever I flew to Thailand. I always added a stop in Taipei just for a break and for cheaper fare.

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Please see Clarification. This is not exactly a single flight from NYC -> DEF it's 3 separate flights made into a closed loop. –  Karlson Jan 24 at 14:28
    
@Karlson that is the way I understood the initial question. My point is if you can find a connecting flight with that airline from ABC to DEF, then you likely will save some money. If no connecting flight is available, then don't worry about it. Have fun in DEF. –  Jonathan Landrum Jan 24 at 16:28
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