The Latest Airfare Hack: Booking Flights From Another Country With a VPN

Technology + Gear Airports + Flying
by Matthew Meltzer Mar 11, 2020

Flight booking hacks seem about as ubiquitous as grocery store coupons. From booking on a Wednesday to booking a connecting flight only to ditch the connection, the internet is filled with loads of virtual advice on how to fly around for less. But have you ever considered booking from another country?

Since airfares are notoriously inconsistent, and the person sitting next to you on the plane may have paid half or five times what you did, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that airlines charge different fares based on which country a ticket is booked from. This may have to do with supply and demand, currency valuation, which dart the fare-makers hit on the board that day, or any number of factors. But it is, in any case, a fact.

Much as we’d like to say we flew around the world searching airfares from as many countries as we could, that would kind of defeat the purpose of trying to save money. Instead, we listened to our friends at TheBestVPN, who saved tons of money and carbon emissions by checking some of the most popular international routes from virtual private networks (VPNs) based in 20 different countries. And found, not surprisingly, that you can sometimes save hundreds of dollars by booking from outside the United States.

Almost every flight is cheaper when booked outside the US.

Obviously, this isn’t a foolproof endeavor, but the results of TheBestVPN’s experiment were promising. First, the company selected five routes it felt to be representative of the variety of travel Americans are searching for: Chicago O’Hare to Frankfurt, Germany; JFK in New York to London Heathrow; Los Angeles to Toronto; Seattle-Tacoma to Paris Charles de Gaulle; and Miami to Tokyo Narita.

Then it searched each fare from 20 different countries, including New Zealand, Brazil, Italy, the UK, Australia, as well as much of southeast Asia. And while not every flight was cheaper when booked abroad, more often than not money could be saved.

Overall, Vietnam proved to be the cheapest place to book airfare, averaging $138 savings per ticket. All five routes were cheaper when booked from Vietnam, including a drop of almost $300 from LA to Toronto.

Mexico was next-best with an average savings of $87 a ticket. It also boasted the single largest savings of the study with New York to London flights $615 cheaper, and significant savings for every route aside from Miami to Tokyo. So if you happen to be south of the border this spring break, it might behoove you to do some fare searching.

New York to London flights consistently saw the largest savings, with the most significant price drops from Mexico, India, France, and, surprisingly, the UK. Along the same lines, LA to Toronto was nearly half the price when booked from Canada, at an average of $404 vs. $801.

India followed with an average savings of $82, then Canada with $52. Overall, a dozen countries showed cheaper average airfares when using VPNs from their countries. Only Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, Portugal, Switzerland, and Brazil were more expensive.

That said, nearly every country showed some savings on every route with the exception of Miami to Tokyo, whose vast discrepancies drove up the average everywhere but Singapore. Basically, unless you live in South Florida and are trying to go to the Olympics, you’ll probably save using a foreign VPN.

Granted, airfares fluctuate by the hour, dates you travel, and a lot of other variables that even people who work for airlines can’t explain. So, what we got here was a snapshot of airfares from last December for flights between January 3-10, 2020. Results, obviously, will vary. But the pattern in most cases seems to be true.

Well, this all sounds fantastic. What the heck is a VPN?

If you’re not deeply immersed in the world of torrent streaming or haven’t desperately needed to watch an episode of Love is Blind from somewhere deep in Central Asia, you may not have any idea how to pose like a computer from another country.

Essentially, it’s done via a VPN, which is a server based in another country that your device logs into so it can browse the web from there.

It’s used primarily to skirt geographic internet restrictions, like that painful moment when Netflix says your show is not available in a foreign country, or your in-market games aren’t part of NHL Center Ice. It’s also used to protect against untrusted Wi-Fi connections, or just generally be anonymous online. It can also, apparently, now be used to save money on airfare.

To get a VPN, you go to one of dozens of websites devoted to finding you one. TheBestVPN literally makes a living writing about various VPN providers, so that may be a good place to start your search. Once you’ve found a VPN you like, download the client onto your device, connect to the Internet, and presto! You’re surfing the web from a cafe in Hanoi.

Are there any risks?

Using a VPN is legal in the US and most other countries. It’s still illegal to do, well, illegal things regardless of the country your computer is connected to, like torrenting movies. It’s possible that using a VPN may violate the terms of service of a certain flight booking sites. So yes, there is a risk that your booking wouldn’t be honored. But, as of now, this reportedly isn’t commonplace.

So if you’re looking for a cool new way to save money on airfares and are willing to roll the dice, the VPN hack may prove a useful tool. Or at the very least, give you another way to procrastinate work when planning your next vacation.

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