Q: What is the best way for me to get to Chicago?

I need to travel from Geneva to Chicago soon. Can you please suggest the best itinerary?

Astrigh Lindemann, Lausanne, Switzerland:

A: You have many options: You have to count 12 hours from Geneve to O'Hare; an important consideration is ease of transfer at connecting airport; then you need to weigh up the best value for money, depending on whether she wants the cheapest 'cattle class' flight, or business class. 'Premium economy' can be a good compromise, but not all carriers offer that intermediate cabin. Prices vary according to flexibility. Are frequent flier miles a factor?

Expedia suggests a Delta/Air France routing through Charles-de-Gaulle for around £609. There is also an option of returning on KLM through Schiphol. I suggest visiting AF or Delta Web sites. SR will route you through Zurich, which may or may not be convenient.

Another option is British Airways through Heathrow for around CHF481 return; flight time 13 hours.

Derek Dickins, Athens:
A: That’s a good question, as they say. The stark fact is that in these dire economic times, companies are seeking to claw back miles on company travel without alienating their employees. According to Ravindra Bhagwanani, managing director of Global Flight (www.globalflight.net), companies can save about 10 percent of their air travel costs by using miles for corporate travel. There was a court ruling in Germany declaring miles the property of companies; in Austria, companies have to pay tax if traveling executives use their miles for personal trips.

The bitch of it that most airlines only allow upgrade awards on the most expensive fares in each class. A round-trip upgrade typically often costs more miles than a round-trip business class ticket! This applies especially with Star Alliance carriers.

For example, on short-haul flights in Europe the price of a fully flexible economy (Y) fare is typically only about 10 percent less than a business class (C) fare. Only buy the full Y fare if you want to use it to upgrade; otherwise, if you’ve got to travel in cattle class, shop around for the cheapest ticket.

It’s a similar case in North America. So, if you want to upgrade, check out airline policy and try to buy a ‘qualifying’ level ticket in the class in which you’re allowed to travel in compliance with company travel policy.

Copyright 2011 Roger Collis



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