Cheap First Class Fares Out Of Colombo, Sri Lanka?

Airline pricing is incredibly complex, as the airlines have put a lot of effort into ensuring that they’re maximizing the revenue they earn from each seat.

While it makes sense to maximize revenue as much as possible, at times it just seems laughable. For example, it can be cheaper to fly from New York to Los Angeles to San Diego than just from Los Angeles to San Diego. Try rationalizing that!

Along those lines, airlines do publish different fares depending on where you’re originating. This is especially true in international markets. For example, an airline might charge a lot less to fly from Cairo to London than to fly from London to Cairo (the assumption being that someone originating in London is more willing to pay a higher fare than someone originating in Cairo).

Cheap first class fares departing Cairo

I just flew the Qatar Airways A380 inaugural flight in first class from Doha to London, and I actually booked it using an ex-Cairo fare.

Cairo to Doha to London costs ~$1,800:

Qatar-Airways-First-Class-Fare-1

Meanwhile just that same Doha to London flight costs ~$3,800, which is more than twice as much:

Qatar-Airways-First-Class-Fare-2

Lastly, booking London to Doha to Cairo costs ~$6,100, which is more than three times as much as the same ticket in reverse:

Qatar-Airways-First-Class-Fare-3

Cheap first class fares departing Colombo

As you can see, where you originate really does make a difference. But perhaps even more lucrative than Cairo, Egypt is Colombo, Sri Lanka, which has long been the airport with the most reasonably priced premium cabin fares.

For years there was a first class fare published by American between Colombo and many points in the US, for a little bit over $2,000 one-way. Early last year I took advantage of it, when I flew from Colombo to Singapore in Cathay Pacific business class, Singapore to Dubai in Emirates first class, Dubai to London in Emirates first class, and London to Seattle in British Airways first class.

Unfortunately as of last March that fare was finally pulled — it had been around for a long time and I had written about it for years, though I guess it just got too popular at some point.

I’ve received a lot of questions about whether there’s a comparable first class fare from Colombo still available.

The answer is yes, sort of. Assuming you’re willing to fly roundtrip.

This fare is published by British Airways, and is $3,500++ roundtrip (so that doesn’t include taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges).

CMB-Fare-1

For example, you can fly from Colombo to Abu Dhabi (either on Etihad or SriLankan), then Abu Dhabi to London on the Etihad A380, and then from London to Los Angeles on the British Airways A380. The routing is the same on the way back.

Colombo-Fare-1

The fare is ~$4,700 roundtrip, so ~$2,350 each way. That’s the same as the fare that used to be available, except in this case a roundtrip is required. A similar fare is available to many other markets in the US, many of which are a bit cheaper (though I prefer the British Airways flight to LAX since it’s operated by an A380).

~$4,700 is still a lot of money, though let’s look at the same routing in the other direction, originating in Los Angeles and terminating in Colombo. That fare is ~$23,000, which is nearly five times as much.

Colombo-Fare-2

Bottom line

I do what I can to redeem miles for my international premium cabin flights. Fortunately a vast majority of the world’s best products are attainable on miles, from ANA to Asiana to Cathay Pacific to Emirates to Etihad to Lufthansa.

However, when a product isn’t realistically available on miles (as is presently the case with the Qatar and Etihad A380s), these fares originating in “cheap markets” can be a great way to try new products while picking up some miles along the way.

First-Apartment-Etihad
Etihad A380 First Apartment

Have you ever booked a cheap paid premium fare out of one of these markets?

Comments

  1. “For example, an airline might charge a lot more to fly from Cairo to London than to fly from London to Cairo (the assumption being that someone originating in London is more willing to pay a higher fare than someone originating in Cairo).”

    Did you even proof read this?

  2. We just flew Cairo-Philadelphia through Doha on Qatar for $1200. Given we would have paid for a seat for our infant if we were in economy and we had heavy bags, it ended up saving us money! Not on Qatar’s newest business product, but good enough for the price! I definitely resonate with this post. It just takes a little research to find these things sometimes (the same is true in the US on a lesser extent).

  3. From an airline’s perspective, a RT fare ex-Sri Lanka makes more sense. Now all of us would have to find a way to CMB not once but twice 🙂

    FWIW, I see CMB-AUH-LHR-IAH for $4,613 (last leg on BA’s 747).

  4. I just hope these are not mistake fares. I just tried a CMB-LAX r/t booking on the BA site and it couldn’t price it out. Does one have to get a travel agent for the BA r/t ex-CMB fare?

  5. @ Joey — Definitely not a mistake fare. Keep in mind BA and Etihad don’t partner, which is why their website wouldn’t show the option. They publish the fare, but it allows travel on any of a number of airlines. You’ll need a travel agent or OTA to book this.

  6. Oh and one more question — which frequent flyer program would you earn your miles on if you were to take that BA r/t fare from CMB? Avios? AAdvantage? Etihad guest? After all, that’s over 21,000 miles of butt-in-seat flying!

  7. @ Joey — That’s a toughie. Personally I’d credit the BA segments to AA or AS, while I’d credit the EY segments to AA, I think (though you don’t earn EQMs for those segments).

  8. Lucky, thank you so much for both responses!!! I tried having a connection on DOH just to see if it’s possible to do this on QR/BA metal but sadly that did not work. I doubt I’ll actually buy this fare but good to know this option!

  9. The difference on the first class ticket one way to London V leaving from Cairo and connecting onto the same flight makes me laugh. Its just insane it can differ that much and you getting an extra flight in business class also.

  10. Hi lucky,

    Do you know the fare rules?
    Is a lobg stopver allowed in london or woudl that trigger more costs?
    Thanks for the tip!

  11. If you are willing to fly Malaysian, there are very cheap fares from Asia to the US in business class. Interestingly, since Malaysia doesn’t fly to the US, only the first leg is on Malaysian. For example, DEL-KUL-NRT-JFK where the last two segments are on JAL is only USD 1425. That’s 12,500 miles. These only work one way ex-Asia since business class is generally cheaper from that direction anyway.

  12. @ Eric — It looks like it is allowed, though you’d of course have to pay the UK APD to do so ($200+).

  13. @_ar – tried pricing out the itinerary you posted… and cannot replicate those fares even searching segment by segment, they come out to around $10.5k in J… doing a generic DEL to JKF search doesnt even present the MH/JAL 2-stop option, and other options are pretty crappy for ones that offer low fares (like Uzbekistan airlines LOL) … searched on ITA and not sure where you searched to get those kinda fares.

  14. Ben,

    Quick question: Once you’ve identified the fare from Expertflyer, how do you identify the route? i.e. Which routing is compatible with this fare?

    I’ve reviewed the Fare Rules on Expertflyer and it makes specific reference to a “route map” as follows:

    “THE FARES ARE ROUTE BASED ACCORDING TO SPECIFIED ROUTE MAPS.”

    &

    “THE FARE COMPONENT MUST NOT BE ON ONE OR MORE OF THE FOLLOWING
    BA FLIGHTS 6100 THROUGH 6199
    BA FLIGHTS 4000 THROUGH 4129.
    NOTE – TEXT BELOW NOT VALIDATED FOR AUTOPRICING.
    PERMITTED CARRIERS / AS PER ROUTE MAP.”

    Where can I find this route map?

    I did a search for the following parameters:

    Departing BKK on 15/05/15 for LHR
    Fare basis code CFTH
    Flying QF
    Routing via Eastern Hemisphere

  15. lucky, This fare has been around for a long time and you act like you found it.
    Bloggers suck. Try to actually find something instead of stealing other peoples work.

  16. @ TheRealBabushka — In this case it’s really just trial and error. The CMB fare is MPM based, so in theory as long as you stay under the mileage you should be fine. But in practice that’s not totally true.

  17. @ John Doe — Don’t think anyone claimed it was new. Was simply answering a question I frequently get.

  18. Hey Lucky,

    Bumping the thread. Is this fare possible to book? And is it even around anymore? I was messing around on ITA and getting nothing remotely close. I actually could use this fare, oddly enough.

  19. Do you have to call to book this or can you get this type of routing on a website? Also is it possible to stay at each destination for a couple of days rather than just connecting?

  20. Hi Ben,
    Can you please tell me if the F cabin return fair from Srilanka to U.S.A. @ 4700$ still available.
    Also as I am new in Miles game I do not have much miles as of now, can your award booking team also do above booking if available for us?
    Thanks in advance.
    Lov Agrawal

  21. hello. i live in Colombo, Sri Lanka. been here all my life.. i want to be like you Lucky to be able to travel all the time, any time, anywhere, with my family if possible, in Premium Class cabins. So considering that I am in a place on the other side of the world from the USA, can you tell me how to set about getting the points and miles, to be able to generate sufficient mileage to enable not only myself but my wife and family also ( 3 small boys) to be able to travel often and in comfort..? Appreciate any advice and i will be following your posts.

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