I'm planning to travel from Toronto (YYZ) to the U.K. in Spring 2009, and the first thing I like to do is check out the flights. Once you have your flight set, then you can make a start on booking the hotels, tours and ground and domestic travel.
It's early days yet, to actually book a flight for travel in May or June: Airlines are in a state of flux, not sure how they will come through the recession, or what fuel costs will be; others, usually discount cheap air fare or charters carriers, do not start Summer season flights until May or June; and many airlines will not have their summer fares available yet.
But I can at least check what the scheduled fares are right now, so I have a base to help me choose a flight as I get closer to my travel date.
Travel dates are flexible, in that one attraction I really want to see in Britain is Exbury Gardens, to see the rhododendrons in bloom. That event is very weather-dependent, but rhodos can bloom over a 4 week period; Here in Port Credit, that's usually from mid-May to mid June. I suspect the dates may be a bit earlier in the south of England.
With that in mind, I chose somewhat randomly, May 6, 2009, to go from Toronto (YYZ) to London Heathrow (LHR). For flights TO the U.K., I check the arrival time, first. I like to arrive early morning in London; there's a 5-hour time difference ahead of EDT (Eastern Daylight time) and it's about 7 hours flying time.
So, if I get on a flight that leaves Toronto around 7 p.m. EDT, it's already midnight in London; add 7 hours flying time, and I would arrive around 7 a.m. London time. Good time to get through customs and immigration, and make ground or domestic air connections.
Mind you, a red-eye flight is not a lot of fun, but I prefer it to taking an early morning Toronto departure.
I checked Air Canada, for May 6: All four non-stop direct flights are the same fare at this time. Three flights meet my departure time needs; two have the red star beside them, meaning the cabin interiors have been remodelled. This is good. And of course, I go tourist class.
from the U.K to Toronto, I like to take one that gets me here around 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. This avoids some of the Toronto airport rush hour traffic; if I have been used to U.K. time, then in effect, I am landing in Toronto close to midnight according to my body clock. If I can stay awake until 10 p.m. Toronto time, then I can often get a good night's sleep and minimize jet lag.
Minor points, to be sure, but if I have a choice to better suit my preferences, why not take it? Especially since this fare is showing as just over $1,000 CAD (Canadian. And who knows what the exchange rate will be in a few months?) As I said, early days to actually book. But now I have a base ticket cost to make comparisons.
I checked Air Transat: I am not a fan of charter airlines to other than all-inclusive holidays to the Caribbean or Mexico. Why, you ask? On an all-inclusive, with the one carrier/holiday package, it doesn't matter much if they change the flight times, or dates. I get there when I get there and the carrier is more likely to care about my business.
Book an air-only charter flight from Toronto, to say, Florida, so that you can take a cruise: See what happens when the flight times get pushed around, and you arrive in Florida a few hours after your ship has sailed.
Will the cruise company care if you miss the boat? Will the charter airline care if you miss your cruise? Not likely. Trust me on this one.
So if I were to get a cheap charter fare to the U.K., I'd not book any onward travel for my arrival date. Leave a day or two to explore London, and then hit the road.
BritRail Flexi Pass I plan to use.
Other carrier options include Flyglobespan.ca, recommended to me by Tourism Ireland for flights directly from nearby Hamilton Ontario International Airport. However, Globespan isn't showing any flights at this time. There's also Canadian Affair, for around $650, all told. The flights shown are on Transat, so the rate is a bit lower via Canadian Affair, though the charter airline issues are the same.
Now on to British Airways, to see how those fares compare.
See also Air Canada flight finders and Air Transat schedules.