How I “Hacked” The Airlines And Booked Cheaper Flights

Okay, so I didn’t really “hack” my way into airline’s websites like black market hackers do. I did however, find a way to exploit some of the inefficiencies and weaknesses in airlines for a significantly cheaper fare through Europe. Hopefully none of the targeted airlines in this post will ever find this post, so they will never do anything about it.

We all know how stressful booking flights can be. Especially international flights. Following up on my most recent post about 2015 being the year for American travelers, what good is a strong dollar is flights cost an arm and a leg? The price of the flight can very well make or break your trip from actually happening. Sadly, the strong dollar doesn’t translate into a cheaper airline ticket. Or does it?

 

Saving money on flights like a boss


Most recently, I booked a trip to Europe over Memorial day week flying into Germany, visiting Berlin and Munich, before taking a train to Austria to visit Vienna and Salzburg, and finally flying out of Copenhagen. A multi leg flight from NYC to Berlin, and Copenhagen to NYC was almost $900 on kayak.com but I had a hunch I could do better.

Turns out, I definitely could. I ended up purchasing my tickets for under $600!

 

Booking cheap flights through Norwegian Air


Norwegian Air is one of the newest of the budget airline crowd in Europe. For anyone that’s traveled through Europe before, Ryanair and EasyJet are likely recognizable names as they  are both pioneers of the budget flight craze that’s commensurate with European travel now (shame America does not have any of these). Norwegian Air is Norway’s answer to help the world travel cheaply to Scandinavia.

For anyone visiting Oslo, Stockholm, or Copenhagen, Norwegian Air will very likely be your cheapest option. I’ve seen flights direct to Oslo for under $300 round trip. Of course, these flights are in the winter time when Oslo sees twice as much moon as it does the sun, but it’s $300! It costs me more to fly to many places in America than to Oslo in the wintertime.

Nevertheless, back to the story at hand, I managed to not only book a cheap flight on Norwegian, but an even cheaper flight than what was advertised.

With these budget airlines, it’s almost always better to search through their website (avoid services like Kayak, expedia, orbitz, etc.) and I initially began my search with these results.

NYCtoBER-0514-USD

NYC to Berlin, in USD.

Okay so the price is $487 one way, which is a bit steep but it’s Memorial day so everything’s more expensive. But wait, there is more to the story. Here is the kicker. What if I change the currency to something aside from American dollars??

Let’s see what Euros gives me?

New York to Berlin, with a stopover in Stockholm. quoted in Euros.

New York to Berlin, with a stopover in Stockholm. quoted in Euros.

Okay, so 414 Euros.

As someone that works in the financial industry, I know the Euro has been plummeting recently and 414 euros is certainly not $487. Doing my research, the euro on that day was exactly 1.07 to the dollar so 414 euros would actually be $442, or about $40 cheaper than what I found two minutes prior!

Okay, this is a bit strange. Could Norwegian air really be this careless with their foreign exchange? I’ve already tried the fare in euros, how about I try the fare in Norwegian Krone, the currency of Norway and Norwegian Air?

NYC to Berlin, stopping in Stockholm, in Norwegian currency.

NYC to Berlin, stopping in Stockholm, in Norwegian currency.

Changing to NOK (Norwegian Krone), gives me 3147 krone.

The exchange rate on that day was 8.24 NOK to $1, so converting this fare, 3147/8.24 gives me $382.

Wow. That is $100 cheaper than what the original fare would have cost me if I had just booked it in US Dollars!! And it took me less than a minute to save that money. Don’t know about you, but that’s a LOT of Bratwurts and beer that I just saved myself in Germany.

Similar thing on my return flight from Copenhagen to NYC, the initial flight in USD yielded me $254.

Copenhagen to USD on Norwegian Air

Copenhagen to NYC in USD

Applying my same trick of converting the fare into NOK (I didn’t even bother with Euros here), I get the following price.

Copenhagen to NYC in NOK

Copenhagen to NYC in NOK

So changing the currency to NOK makes it 1742 NOK.

Converting it at the rate of 8.24 on the day, I get 1742//8.24 = $211! More than 40 dollars cheaper than booking in USD from just the click of a button. To sum it up:

Booking in USD

NYC to Germany: $487
Copenhagen to NYC$254
Total: $
741

Which is about the same cost as flying on a normal non-budget airline and isn’t that bad acutally. My cost in NOK however, which I ended up booking in, yielded a much different result.

Booking in NOK

NYC to Germany: 3141 NOK ($382)
Copenhagen to NYC: 1742 NOK ($211)
Total: $590

That’s 150 dollars saved on a flight just by clicking two buttons. Not bad for two minutes work. While I’ve seen much cheaper flights on Norwegian air than what I paid, visiting Europe from America during Memorial Day will always results in a premium. Don’t believe that I actually booked the flights for this cheap? No matter, take a look at my credit card statement:

chase credit card

The proof is in the writing…

Why does Norwegian blatantly not look after its exchange rates and let people get away with this? I have no idea. But until they do figure it out, make sure to take full advantage of this. I certainly did and I will be enjoying my extra brats and beers because of it.

P.S: I’m using a credit card that does not charge Foreign Transaction fees, Chase Sapphire. Adjust accordingly the foreign transaction fees if you don’t have one.

 

Skip your layover


For most, booking a flight entails selecting your departure city, and selecting your arrival city. Whatever pops up is what it is. Perhaps you might go try another search engine but whatever pops up on Kayak.com or skyscanner.net is likely what you’ll stick with because you think you have no other choices.

Most of the time, this is true but spend a little more time searching, and you could reap the rewards.

For my Europe trip, I needed a one way flight from Munich to Copenhagen and like most people, I searched on skyscanner, and out came these options.

Munich to Copenhagen Direct

Munich to Copenhagen

The cheapest flight was a direct flight on Scandinavian Airways for $220. Not the cheapest flight which I was bummed about. Then, just out of blind curiosity, I wondered where else I could fly to from Munich, and decided to try Riga, Latvia. Out came these results.

Munich to Riga with stopovers in Copenhagen and Stockholm

Munich to Riga with stopovers in Copenhagen and Stockholm.

This flight to Riga on Scandinavian airlines had layovers in Copenhagen and Stockholm, and the first leg of the flight is actually the same one as my initial search from Munich to Copenhagen. Except it’s $160, $60 cheaper than booking the direct flight.

I quickly snatched this flight up and now I will just pretend like I’m flying to Riga from Munich but get off on my first “layover” in Copenhagen.

Make sure you only book this one way, as doing this with a return might void the flight. Also, DO NOT check bags because you certainly won’t be seeing them again.

 

Did it work for you?


Would love to know if this trick worked for you on Norwegian. Please leave a comment!

Showing 9 comments
  • Brenda
    Reply

    This is great information! I’m trying it out right now… but I can’t figure out how to change the currency at norwegian.com without changing the language also. Specifically, the drop-down menu won’t let me change from USD to NOK without changing the language. Perhaps that’s their “fix”? Suggestions?

    • Johnny
      Reply

      Hi Brenda, I just recently helped my gf book a flight on NOrwegian using this trick and I can safely say it STILl works. However, I think Norwegian might have found my blog post and since made it a bit more difficult 🙂 Sadly, you will have to change the language to Norwegian now in order to get the FX discount. Changing the language to Norwegian will automatically change the currency to NOK and then you can proceed with booking the flight. I’d recommend creating an account first in English as that can be confusing, and then changing to Norwegian, logging in, and booking the flgiht. It’s pretty straight forward even if you can’t read a word of Norwegian and if you’re really stuck, just copy the words into Google Translate and that did the trick for us! Let me know how it goes!

      • Caryn

        Hi! I’m a little late to this post, but was searching for information on this exact topic and found your blog. I’m wondering if you encountered any issues at the airport? It looks like you departed from NYC which I’m planning to do, I’m just looking for any information on whether there are additional steps to take to ensure everything goes smoothly through the airport (or is there a way to get boarding docs in English rather than Norwegian)?

        Thanks for an informative post!

      • Johnny

        Hi Caryn! Apologies for the late reply but there’s nothign to worry about. At the end of the day, it’s not really Norwegians administiring your airport experience in NYC, and your boarding docs certrainly will not be in Norwegian :). As for the flight itself, it’s dubbed as a budget airline but it’s better than all the US airlines I’ve flown. Only recommendation is to buy some food to bring on the plane as you’ll need to pay for it otherwise!

  • Grant
    Reply

    Hahaha! Nice work! You’ve hit on a topic that I’ve discussed multiple times with fellow travelers and we never got a good answer. Is it illegal to not take the final leg of your flight? I realize it can be done, sounds like you’ve proved it. I’ve been cautioned that one could get in trouble. Any hard data on it?

    • Johnny
      Reply

      Hey Grant, I’ve this every opportunity I can get. I had first hand experience with the flight in this article, stopping in copenhagen as my final destination when it should have been Riga. Nothing happened to me. No one said anything. I mean how would someone possibly know you’re getting off at your layover stop? I suppose maybe they could have your travel info on file and do something the next time you travel with them? Although I highly doubt it!

  • Clara
    Reply

    Great write up! I would have never thought about doing this but it’s such an easy thing. Does changing the currency work with other airlines in your experience or just Norwegian??

    • Johnny
      Reply

      Clara, I’m glad you ask acutally. Naturally, I immediately tried this tactic on other booking sites like skyscanner and kayak but to no luck. I tried using it on other airlines websites (like Lufthansa and British) and didn’t have much luck either. It seems there’s just an innate inefficiency in Norwegian Air’s system.

      I have had some luck using a VPN (to trick a website into thinking I’m from another country) to get better fares but that is still being tested out by me 🙂

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