This expat attempts the journey home as often as is possible and, more often than not, during the December/January period. Past experience has shown that flights at this time of year are exorbitantly priced, yet I am often advised that, should I book a ticket outside of this peak period, the prices should halve in value. However, this generally isn’t the case. Aside from the fact that holidaying from November to February simply isn’t feasible, your favourite airlines appear to have wised up to the fact that annual travellers look to these 'shoulder peak' times for regular or reduced fares. They, accordingly, refuse to reduce the ticket price. This peak period of the year has therefore grown from a two-week timeslot to almost four months in duration.
Expats also encounter problems with ticket availability for the Christmas period. Flights are often unavailable unless booked almost twelve months prior to the proposed visit, which proves to be impractical to schedule and financially impossible at that time. Thus faced with spending a small fortune on two return tickets to the UK, often months before departure, it begs the question as to whether it’s actually possible to fly home at Christmas without breaking the bank?
One possible solution is to redeem those hard-earned frequent flyer points to gain a free trip back to dear old blighty. In theory, this should solve all problems but the reality can be quite different. Not only are a very limited number of frequent flyer-related seats made available on the airlines but, over Christmas, flights generally require an inflated number of points, in addition to the payment of increased taxes on top. Furthermore, a Qantas representative recently informed me that, to guarantee travel with a frequent flyer seat at Christmas, I should be redeeming points precisely 365 days in advance of my preferred travel date, which is when these flights are made available.
A further option would be to purchase tickets with one of the less respectable airlines, which could result in a cheaper airfare. However, this will also likely result in at least three-four stops on your journey home, reduced leg room, unusual eating options, and a safety track record of some concern.
Booking via the UK offices of airlines is something to consider, given the currently much reduced airfares in those recession-hit countries. Yet this approach is generally frowned upon by the airlines and often not possible as a result. Adopting some kind of flexibility with travel dates and times is probably your best option and travel on Christmas Day itself, whilst completely impractical, will often yield the best results.
Ultimately, national airlines could start offering those expats who regularly travel home a place to sign up and receive discounted travel to their country of origin at the peak times of year. Given the likelihood that this will never eventuate, travelling home at Christmas will remain financially painful yet unavoidably necessary.
Read more from Russell at www.insearchofalifelessordinary.blogspot.com