Today I want to provide you with the background and search methodology I used.
My parents came to Canada from Taiwan before I was born to give their family a chance at a better life. My parents worked their butts off to make sure that my brother and I had the chance to make something of ourselves and with some luck and a lot of perseverance, we were both able to become very successful but it was clearly done off the backs of their hard work.
Even with all my parent’s hard work, they didn’t make much money so we didn’t get to travel a lot of places outside of Canada and the US. This may be the reason why air travel is still magical to me … I didn’t get a chance to do much of it as a kid.
Let me be clear, I’m not complaining in the least. Just setting the stage.
When my parents told me that they were looking to go back to Taiwan for a visit, I decided that I would fly them in Business Class because of everything they had done for me. In their entire lives, they must have been on maybe 10 flights and all of them were in Economy so I figured that they deserved a taste of the good life. So began my search.
Signal Through the Noise
My parents aren’t into the Travel Hacking game so they have similar expectations about travel as most consumers in that they wanted the most direct flights possible but they also wanted to fly a specific airline: EVA, a Taiwanese carrier.
My parents are wildly patriotic when it comes to Taiwan and would rather not connect through the US due to some previously unpleasant experiences with US Customs. They straight up refuse to connect through China because of the ongoing dispute over the ownership of Taiwan. This left very few choices.
Based on my parent’s request, I knew that I would need to fly them from Edmonton to Vancouver then onward to Taipei (YEG-YVR-TPE). Knowing that there are multiple flights a day from YEG-YVR, I started looking for the over-water leg (YVR-TPE) because it was the most difficult availability to find.
I first looked to FlightConnections to see which days of the week the flight was available and found out that there were flights every day of the week except for Wednesdays and Fridays. This set up my expectations so I would not waste my time hoping for availability on those days of the week.
Because my parents had some flexibility in their dates of travel, I searched for the flight within a 30 day window using Award.Flights.
I did this for a couple of days and then thought to myself, why not keep track of these searches and plot the actual availability to see if there were changes in award availability over time. If I could see patterns, perhaps I could use that to help me better understand whether or not availability would open up for my parent’s prefered date of travel. Even if the availability did not open up, I could at least see the pattern forming and then focus my search on a date that would likely have availability.
After a few days of plotting this availability, I started to realize that this could be valuable information for other Canadians looking for close-in availability, so I expanded my search.
As I mentioned earlier, I was searching for Business Class (J) for my parent but as I was searching, I could see availability for all classes so I kept track of Economy (Y) and Premium Economy (W) as well.
I decided to make things consistent so that I could eliminate as many variables as possible in order to truly see a pattern if it existed. With this in mind, I used the following criteria for my searches:
- The search would begin the day after the actual date of search in order to avoid any issues with spurious results that might come back due to limitations within Aeroplan’s search. So if I was searching on August 31st, the first day I would search would be September 1st
- The search would span a 30 day time period, so ((SEARCH DATE + 1) + 30 Days)
- Flights would be through Aeroplan and would use Star Alliance Partners
- The Star Alliance Partners used would be ones that had no or low Fuel Surcharge (based on the research detailed in my post The Comprehensive List of All Star Alliance Partners and Their Fuel/Carrier Surcharges).
- The flights would be TransAtlantic or TransPacific (no TransContinental)
- The flights would be to hub cities to allow for ease of onward connection
Routes and Airlines Chosen
Based on the methodology detailed above, I searched for the following routes:
- Vancouver to Taipei on Eva Airlines (YVR-TPE on BR)
- Montreal to Zurich on Swiss Airlines (YUL-ZRH on LX)
- Calgary to Narita on Air Canada (YYC-NRT on AC)
- Montreal to Istanbul on Turkish Airlines (YUL-IST on TK)
- Toronto to Warsaw on LOT (YYZ-WAW on LO)
- Montreal to Beijing on Air China (YUL-PEK on CA)
Results and Analysis
I don’t mean to stretch out this series but the more I write about it, the more it seems that it is too much to cover off in a single post. I will continue the series tomorrow to provide you with the patterns that I found using my methodology and at the end of the series, I will provide the raw data so you can parse the data yourself if you so choose.
I realize I’m a nerd but I’m betting there are more of you out there too.