Sunday, January 31, 2010

Flights From Ottawa (YOW)

Conclusion: Last minute sucks. Book in advance.

The Long Story

I've always wondered why you can't just go to the Ottawa airport's website and ask: "What are all the locations that fly direct from here?". I want to know this because most of the time I'm flying to escape winter and a lay-over in Chicago delayed by a snowstorm can really rain (or sleet) on my parade.

Andy says that he's seen flights from Ottawa to Cuba (Varadero or Havana) for as low as $299 (including tax) via Sunwing or AirTransat, and that at last minute the prices get better and better. James says that WestJet Vacations also flies to Cuba, but the flights aren't on their website. You have to call them to get the prices. When he booked, they had by far the best for Ottawa to Varadero.

Here's a list of direct flights from Ottawa that I got from www.ifly.com. Note that "Non-Stop" means that you fly from A to B without landing whereas "Direct" means that you fly from A to B but may stop at C to pickup more passengers before arriving at B. You don't have to deplane, but there may still be a connection.

# Boston Logan (BOS)
# Calgary (YYC)
# Cancun (CUN)
# Fort Lauderdale Hollywood (FLL)
# Halifax (YHZ)
# Memphis (MEM)
# Omaha Eppley Airfield (OMA)
# Philadelphia (PHL)
# Quebec Jean Lesage (YQB)
# Regina (YQR)
# Saskatoon (YXE)
# Vancouver (YVR)
# Winnipeg (YWG)

It turns out that I don't know where most places are, so I compiled this map of international airports in central ameraica to which you can fly (mostly not direct) from Ottawa.

Here's a list of international flights from Ottawa that I got from www.flylowcostairlines.org. For some of them, I've also provided the www.expedia.ca price for a February 13-20 one-person return flight from YOW booked on Jan 13 2010, with one stop unless noted.

# Paris             CDG
# London            LGW
# Philipsburg       SXM $1,287  (7hr)
# Freeport          FPO   $805 (20hr) (2+ stops)
# Nassau            NAS   $934  (6hr)
# Bridgetown        BGI $1,114  (8hr)
# Puerto Plata      POP $1,505 (20hr) (2+ stops)
# Punta Cana        PUJ $1,010  (4hr)
# Montego Bay       MBJ   $992  (8hr)
# St. Lucia         UVF $1,957  (8hr)
# Providenciales    PLS $1,264  (7hr)
# Cancun            CUN   $897  (5hr)
# Cozumel           CZM $1,354  (7hr)
# Mazatlan          MZT   $783 (22hr) (2+ stops)
# Puerto Vallarta   PVR $1,316 (13hr)
# San Jose Del Cabo SJD $1,011 (10hr)
# Zihuatanejo       ZIH $1,213 (22hr) (2+ stops)

I really like Costa Rica. I've been there once and we flew from Toronto to Liberia with a stop (change planes) in Miami. We booked ~2 months in advance. The flight cost $790.69 return per person, with 7hr 40min duration. The main airport in Costa Rica is SJO in San Jose, and unless you're exploring the western part of the country, it's the logical choice.

Here's a list of carriers that go from YOW to SJO.

# Air Canada
# American Airlines
# United
# LACSA
# Continental
# US Airways
# Delta
# NWA

I've booked flights through www.expedia.ca several times and I've always wondered what cut they are taking. So, I looked up some flights on the www.continental.com website and sure enough they looked cheaper, but once you go through the hassle of half-way purchasing the tickets, they rack on significant extra fees. With zero effort I found the exact same flights on www.expedia.ca for almost the same price. Here's what I found (one-person, return).

YOW to EWR to SJO
CO2892, CO1754
Fri Feb 5th, depart 11:25am, arrive 7:40pm, duration 9h 15min

SJO to EWR to YOW
CO1797, CO2762
Mon Feb 15th, depart 7am, arrive 4:48pm, duration 8hr 48min

Continental Final Total: $1,048.52
Expedia Total: $1,096.24

So it looks like there's a little overhead, but in my opinion it's worth it. I wanted to get an idea of the flight possibilities from YOW to SJO, so I did an expedia search from every day from Feb 1st to Feb 13th with the following criteria: one-person, one-way, YOW-SJO, duration under 11hr, booked Jan 26th 2010 via expedia, cost in CAD$.

mon  1,  6:00 am, 1:55 pm,  8hr 55mn,  $835, Air Canada 479 / 998
mon  8,  6:00 am, 1:55 pm,  8hr 55mn,  $635, Air Canada 479 / 998
wed  3,  6:00 am, 1:55 pm,  8hr 55mn, $1045, Air Canada 479 / 998
wed 10,  6:00 am, 1:55 pm,  8hr 55mn,  $705, Air Canada 479 / 998

mon  1, 12:05 pm, 9:30 pm, 10hr 25mn,  $787, American Airlines 4300 / 1374 / 2141
mon  8, 12:05 pm, 9:30 pm, 10hr 25mn,  $787, American Airlines 4300 / 1374 / 2141
tue  2, 12:05 pm, 9:30 pm, 10hr 25mn,  $494, American Airlines 4300 / 1374 / 2141
tue  9, 12:05 pm, 9:30 pm, 10hr 25mn,  $787, American Airlines 4300 / 1374 / 2141
wed  3, 12:05 pm, 9:30 pm, 10hr 25mn,  $853, American Airlines 4300 / 1374 / 2141
wed 10, 12:05 pm, 9:30 pm, 10hr 25mn,  $853, American Airlines 4300 / 1374 / 2141
thu  4, 12:05 pm, 9:30 pm, 10hr 25mn,  $853, American Airlines 4300 / 1374 / 2141
fri  5, 12:05 pm, 9:30 pm, 10hr 25mn,  $853, American Airlines 4300 / 1374 / 2141
sat  6, 12:05 pm, 9:30 pm, 10hr 25mn,  $787, American Airlines 4300 / 1374 / 2141
sun  7, 12:05 pm, 9:30 pm, 10hr 25mn,  $787, American Airlines 4300 / 1374 / 2141

thu 11, 12:05 pm, 9:50 pm, 10hr 45mn,  $853, American Airlines 4300 / 1207 / 2141
thu 11, 12:05 pm, 9:50 pm, 10hr 45mn, $1314, United & American Airlines 6744 / 1207 / 2141
thu 11, 12:05 pm, 9:50 pm, 10hr 45mn,  $853, Air Canada & American Airlines 4229 / 1207 / 2141
fri 12, 12:05 pm, 9:50 pm, 10hr 45mn,  $853, American Airlines 4300 / 1207 / 2141
fri 12, 12:05 pm, 9:50 pm, 10hr 45mn, $1349, United & American Airlines 6744 / 1207 / 2141
fri 12, 12:05 pm, 9:50 pm, 10hr 45mn, $1349, Air Canada & American Airlines 4229 / 1207 / 2141
sat 13, 12:05 pm, 9:50 pm, 10hr 45mn,  $853, American Airlines 4300 / 1207 / 2141

mon  8, 11:25 am, 7:40 pm,  9hr 15mn,  $648, Continental 2892 / 1754
tue  2, 11:25 am, 7:40 pm,  9hr 15mn,  $628, Continental 2892 / 1754
tue  9, 11:25 am, 7:40 pm,  9hr 15mn,  $628, Continental 2892 / 1754
wed  3, 11:25 am, 7:40 pm,  9hr 15mn,  $628, Continental 2892 / 1754
wed 10, 11:25 am, 7:40 pm,  9hr 15mn,  $838, Continental 2892 / 1754
thu  4, 11:25 am, 7:40 pm,  9hr 15mn,  $628, Continental 2892 / 1754
fri  5, 11:25 am, 7:40 pm,  9hr 15mn,  $648, Continental 2892 / 1754

wed  3,  6:10 am, 2:35 pm,  9hr 25mn,  $984, Air Canada & US Airways 7730 / 2269 / 1707
wed 10,  6:10 am, 2:35 pm,  9hr 25mn,  $976, Air Canada & US Airways 7730 / 2269 / 1707
wed  3,  6:10 am, 2:35 pm,  9hr 25mn,  $986, United     & US Airways 8402 / 2269 / 1707
wed 10,  6:10 am, 2:35 pm,  9hr 25mn,  $977, United     & US Airways 8402 / 2269 / 1707
thu 11,  6:10 am, 2:35 pm,  9hr 25mn,  $997, Air Canada & US Airways 7730 / 2243 / 1707
thu 11,  6:10 am, 2:35 pm,  9hr 25mn,  $998, United     & US Airways 8402 / 2243 / 1707
fri  5,  6:10 am, 2:35 pm,  9hr 25mn,  $835, Air Canada & US Airways 7730 / 2269 / 1707

sat  6,  6:50 am, 1:50 pm,  8hr  0mn,  $805, US Airways 3645 / 1923
sat 13,  6:50 am, 1:50 pm,  8hr  0mn,  $734, US Airways 3341 / 1923

wed 10, 11:54 am, 9:30 pm, 10hr 36mn, $1092, Air Canada 4229 / 1374 / 2141
wed 10, 11:54 am, 9:30 pm, 10hr 36mn, $1092, United 6744 / 1374 / 2141

thu 11,  2:31 pm, 9:35 pm,  8hr  4mn,  $812, Continental 2623 / 1796
fri 12,  2:31 pm, 9:35 pm,  8hr  4mn, $1035, Continental 2623 / 1796

sat 13,  6:03 am, 4:02 pm, 10hr 59mn,  $917, Continental & United & LACSA 2369 / 3714 / 621

So, they're all expensive, but they're not booked well in advance and they're only one-way which presumably doesn't get some kind of return discount. It's important to note that [wed,thu,fri,sat] have arrivals [1:55,2:35,1:50] with [Air Canada, United, US Airways]. Unless you want to spend the night at San Jose or drive in the dark, you'll want these arrivals.

I'd love to go to Costa Rica again, but we're going to just wait until the week prior to our trip and then book (to some place warm) whatever flights are cheap. I've never tried a last-minute vacation before, so I'll let you know how it goes. Hopefully we won't have to take some package-sit-at-a-resort-all-week deal.

On Jan 31st, I checked for flights from Ottawa to the airports on my map for one person, return. When no flight less than $1000 / 11hrs was found, I marked it as expensive.

Feb 6th to FEb 13th

SXM $872, 6hr 55mn
FPO $950, 9hr  8mn
NAS $751, 6hr  2mn
BGI $826, 8hr  4mn
POP expensive
PUJ $488, 4hr 25mn (charter)
MBJ $693, 6hr 56mn
UVF $824, 8hr 19mn
PLS $830, 6hr 50mn
LIR expensive
SJO expensive

Feb 13th to Feb 20th

SXM expensive
FPO expensive
NAS $839, 6hr 2mn
BGI expensive
POP expensive
PUJ $716, 4hr 30mn
MBJ $896, 6hr 56mn
UVF expensive
PLS expensive
LIR expensive
SJO expensive

I found some blog that says that flights from Jet Blue, Southwest, Spirit, and Air Tran aren't searched by expedia. I searched on those sites and the others below but didn't find any good flights to SJO.

Jet Blue (doesn't fly from ottawa)
Southwest (doesn't fly from ottawa)
Spirit (doesn't fly from ottawa, but you can fly very cheaply from detroit to SJO)
Air Tran (doesn't fly to costa rica)
Last Minute Travel expensive
Priceline (us departure only)
Sunquest Vacations expensive
Red Tag expensive
Flight Centre expensive

From Sunwing you can get very cheap round-trip flights from Ottawa to:

Cancun, Mexico
Cayo Coco, Cuba
Holguin, Cuba
Jamaica
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Roatan, Honduras
Varadero, Cuba

On the same site, you can get good round-trip flights from Toronto to many destinations, including:

Cienfuegos, Cuba
Acapulco, Mexico
Cozumel, Mexico
La Romana, Dominican Republic
Liberia, Costa Rica (but you have to travel on monday)
Los Cabos, Mexico
Manzanillo de Cuba
Panama
Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Santa Lucia, Cuba
Santiago de Cuba
St. Lucia

I did some more digging and found these expedia competitors:
www.cheapoair.com
www.flightnetwork.com

I also found this site that lists airlines flying to Costa Rica.
* JetBlue: Orlando, Miami, daily flight
* Air Canada : Toronto
* American Airlines : Miami, Dallas
* Continental : Houston, Newark
* Delta Airlines : Atlanta
* Delta : New York to San Jose (Juan Santamaria) non-stop flight 5 x per week
* Delta : New York to Liberia Guanacaste non-stop flight twice x week
* Northwest: Mineapolis
* Sky Service : Toronto, Calgary (seems to only operate in the summer)
* United Airlines: Chicago
* US Airways : Charlotte
* Iberia - *new ( May 2007 ) 10 direct flight Madrid / San Jose per week

But finally, the gold mine: Charter flights from Expedia, but they're not easy to find. You have to click "Deals" on the right side of top bar, then "last minute getaways", second from top of left bar, then "charter flights" (middle tab). Don't forget to select origin and region in the drop downs. Note that Costa Rica and Mexico are in Latin America, not the Caribbean.

Expedia

Expedia

Expedia

When searching on Feb 1st, I found the following departing from Ottawa.

Feb 12, 7days, Jamica, 616
Feb 12, 8days, Punta Cana, 699
Feb 13, 7days, Punta Cana, 716
Feb 14, 7days, Aruba, 839
Feb 14, 7days, Aruba, 833
Feb 12, 7days, Puerto Plata, 589
Feb 12, 7days, St. Lucia, 608
Feb 14, 8days, St. Lucia, 951
Feb 12, 7days, Jamica, 617
Feb 13, 7days, La Romana, 618
Feb 14, 7days, Puerto Plata, 649
Feb 13, 7days, Punta Cana, 649
Feb 12, 7days, Punta Cana, 649
Feb 14, 7days, Punta Cana, 649
Feb 12, 7days, Bermuda, 912
Feb 13, 7days, Bermuda, 912
Feb 14, 7days, Bermuda, 912
Feb 14, 7days, SanJuan, 915
Feb 13, 7days, St. Martin, 962

But I'm not really interested in any of those destinations.

Search expedia on Feb 2nd
YOW - PLS, Feb 6, $662, 6hr 29mn
YOW - PLS, Feb 13, $1188, 6hr 29mn
YOW - SJO, Feb 6, $953, 8hr 0mn
YOW - SJO, Feb 13, $1239, 8hr 0mn (6:50am-1:50pm, US Airways 3341 / 1923)

Search expedia on Feb 3rd
YOW - PLS, Feb 6-13, $707, 6hr 50mn (west jet YOW-YYZ-PLS)
YOW - PLS, Feb 13-20, $1301, 6hr 50mn
YOW - SJO, Feb 6-13, $953, 8hr 0mn
YOW - SJO, Feb 13-20, $1239, 8hr 0mn

Search expedia on Feb 4th
YOW - PLS, Feb 6-13, $599, 6hr 29mn (connect in philadelphia, westjet is $870)
YOW - PLS, Feb 13-20, $1288, 6hr 29mn
YOW - SJO, Feb 6-13, $953, 8hr 0mn
YOW - SJO, Feb 13-20, $1229, 8hr 0mn

So it appears that you do get a discount when booking the week of your trip. But that same SJO flight booked 3 months in advance costs $987, so the last-minute discount is inconsequential.

The plan: on the morning of Tuesday February 9th, book flights Feb 13-15, either to SJO, PLS, or failing those two, to whatever is available (maybe an all-inclusive in Cuba). Then scramble to plan the rest of the trip that same day.

Charter Flights From Ottawa (searching Feb 3rd)

St. Lucia, 8 Days, Feb 14-22, $736
Jamaica, 7 Days, Feb 14-21, $803
Aruba, 7 Days, Feb 14-21, $833
Puerto Plata, 7 Days, Feb 14-21, $865
Bermuda, 7 Days, Feb 14-21, $912
San Juan, 7 Days, Feb 14-21, $915
Punta Cana, 7 Days, Feb 14-21, $935
Grand Cayman, 5 Days, Feb 14-19, $967

This site says that YYZ flys direct to the following:

iFly Direct from YYZ to:

* Barbados Grantley Adams (BGI)
* Bermuda (BDA)
* Cancun (CUN)
* Hong Kong (HKG)
* Mexico City Benito Juarez (MEX)
* Montego Bay Sangster (MBJ)
* Nassau (NAS)
* San Francisco (SFO)
* Vancouver (YVR)
* Victoria (YYJ)

But that's obviously an incomplete list because WesJet flys direct from YYZ to PLS.

Well, our plan didn't work.

Searches on Feb 9th, YOW-SJO

13-20, $1290
14-21, $1282
15-22, $1427
16-23, $1267
17-24, $1045

feb 20-27, $1005
f/m 27-06, $1240
mar 06-13, $1008
mar 13-20, $1458
mar 20-27, $953

What about St. Lucia? YOW-UVF

13-20, $1336
14-21, $1117
15-22, $1136
16-23, 20hrs
17-24, 20hrs

Okay, what's available on West Jet?

Feb 13-20

YOW-BGI, $1370
YOW-BDA, n/a
YOW-SJD, n/a
YOW-CUN, n/a
YOW-CCC, n/a
YOW-CZM, n/a
YOW-HOG, n/a
YOW-ZIH, n/a
YOW-MBJ, $828
YOW-NAS, $1408
YOW-PLS, $1420
YOW-PUJ, $770
YOW-UVF, $1000
YOW-VRA, n/a

YYZ-UVF
14th 6am-11am
21st 12:30pm-5:55pm
$632

Okay, Air Transat.
Nope.

We just couldn't get cheap flights to anywhere good. So we bought an Air Canada Vacations package (flight and hotel) to St. Lucia (monday to monday when we wanted saturday to saturday, and flying from Montreal when we wanted to fly from Ottawa) for $1,000/ea, but we don't intend to actually stay at the hotel. It's just that the package was the cheapest way to get the flights.

Juxtapose that to the earlier $900/ea for roundtrip flights YOW-SJO on Sat-Sat, if you're willing to book in advance.

Conclusion: Last minute sucks, book in advance (unless you want a flight/hotel package).

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