London, Indeed

“A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.”
Joan Didion

British Airways Flight 274 was an hour late leaving Las Vegas last evening because the inbound flight was late leaving London.  I’ve been on that London-Las Vegas flight twice this year, and both times there was a delay leaving London, so I almost expected it to be late again. Since there was nothing I could do about it, I just tried to relax and stay awake as I was pretty tired by the time we started boarding at 10 pm.  Luckily, we had a strong tailwind, made up most of that lost hour in the air, and arrived only 15 minutes late into Heathrow.

IMG_0527

The flight itself was rather pleasant. No one sat in the middle seat in my row, so the guy at the window and I were not squished. I had ordered a gluten-free meal—as I’ve done a few times now—and received grilled chicken, rice, and a salad instead of some stinky food that I couldn’t identify by looking at the trays around me.  (Side note: If you order a special meal, you get served first.) And, most importantly, I slept most of the flight because I had the greatest neck pillow (more on that at another time) and because the half-Xanax I took actually worked.

UK Customs
Part of the line at the UK Border

The only unpleasant part of the trip over was the one-hour it took to get through immigration in London. Two large flights arrived at the same time, and there were only three windows open in the beginning. At some point, an intelligent manager decided to get a few more agents working, and the line started to flow more quickly.  My time in line was not completely boring, however. I spent a good portion of it watching the gal in front of me take about 500 photos that included selfies, photos of different fingers holding her passport, her feet, her luggage, the rings on different fingers of her hands, and who knows what else that she promptly texted to different people.

But, I digress. A number of people have asked me why I spent the night at Heathrow instead of flying directly to Bologna. It’s not because I like London (I do.) or Heathrow (I don’t.). It comes down to savings.  When I was looking at flights that would take me from Las Vegas to Bologna and back from Palermo to Las Vegas, I was seeing prices that ranged from $1700-1900. I had the same problem when I flew from Las Vegas to Italy last winter for my citizenship residency, and I needed to find a lower-cost flight.

Last year, I discovered that if I split the ticket and flew two round-trip tickets—one to Heathrow from Las Vegas and the other to Italy from Heathrow—I could save a lot of money. A. Lot. And that was even with adding in an overnight stay in both directions.

“What?” you may ask. “How?” Thank you for asking.

Premier Inn
The Premier Inn Hypnos Bed

I booked my first ticket to be, as I said, roundtrip from Las Vegas to Heathrow. I stayed overnight in the Premier Inn at Heathrow and caught an 8:00 flight this morning into Bologna. I could have booked the second fight so that I would have arrived in Bologna last night, but there were risks that I was not willing to take. For example, had the inbound flight’s delay caused me to miss the second flight, the airline would have no responsibility in getting me to Bologna, and I would have to pay another fare to get here. I’d always rather be safe than sorry, and being safe included letting me get some jetlag out of my system.

Walkway
The purple lights indicate the Premier is near.

The Premier Inn is not a resort hotel, but it is comfortable, clean, and convenient to the airport. It has a bar and a restaurant, and if neither is open, you can avail yourself of Costa Coffee which is open 24 hours and has snacks, sandwiches, salads, pastries, and a variety of other drinks and foods. You can get to the hotel from Terminal 4 through a covered walkway (above), or you can catch a bus from Terminal 5 or a taxi from other terminals. (I’ll review it after my next stay.)

Let me tell you what I saved.  The long-haul roundtrip fare was $704. My overnight at the Premier Inn at Heathrow cost a little less than $50.  The second roundtrip ticket was around $150, and the second stay at the hotel was $40. In other words, I saved roughly $1000 on the fares at the time I purchased. If there were any downside to this, it was that I didn’t get upgraded on the overseas portion of the flight, but I am in no way complaining.

Keep in mind that splitting a ticket might not work all the time. A lot depends on the airline you fly, the flight you take, the airports involved, and the date you travel. It takes time to research it, and you may not want to do it.  For me, though, the money I saved just might make another trip possible.

And that is important to me.

Next: Some good news as I arrive…

 

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