Don’t know how we managed to miss this so far, but just yesterday we noticed Stack Exchange the question-answering network where we’ve been a Stack Overflow user for years has a travel.stackexchange.com community too!
So we signed up for that and were looking around to see how interesting this community is, when we stumbled across this fascinating question:
I’m planning a trip to the Marshall Islands from Bangkok. My usually travel sites like Skyscanner and KAYAK are not helpful, showing flights either $5,000+ or unavailable.
It was asked 10 months ago, so we probably are a bit late to help out the actual asker, but answers to Stack Exchange questions remain active forever, people can discuss and update and upvote you for years on end.
Besides, not only is it a good example for this post on how to do cost-minimizing flight research, it’s one that, should we stay in Bangkok, we’ll want to know ourselves one of these days when we get around to heading to the Bikini Atoll World Heritage Site!
So, let’s establish a baseline cost between BKK and MAJ (Majuro, the major airport of the Marshalls) with those usual search sites for say a couple weeks before Christmas:
Just as the questioner says, USD $5521 and 74h 40m of travel time. That’s … an expensive trip.
So, the big trick here is, how do we go about looking for flights that don’t show up on those usual search sites?
There are currently two that we recommend:
They work somewhat differently and the information isn’t always exactly the same, so it’s definitely worth bookmarking both.
Flightconnections shows us a map of the nonstop flight routes from the chosen airport:
Very often, that’s all the information we need to start working the search engines. But in this particular instance, nonstop connections are … a little thin.
So FlightMapper, which gives us a list of direct connections, is probably going to be more useful:
Guam and Honolulu are the ends of the United Island Express flight that shows up on the regular search engines, and the Micronesia stops are on the way; we can dismiss those. None of the in-country flights connect to any more major hubs, neither does Kiribati.
Which leaves us the Nauru flight, that just may have some possibilities. Checking the flight number for that
brings us to Nauru Airlines
where we find that return flights to Brisbane are going for USD $1224.62 and take 21h total.
So that’s that leg, now we need a Bangkok-Brisbane flight. Those we can look up on Kayak just fine:
Cheapest $624 is an option if you want a day’s layover in Guangzhou … but for this one, let’s assume we want to get there in good order, so we’ll take the Thai Airways non-stop flights for $828 and 18h 14m. Looks like some 18 more hours of layovers to add, so all told we’re just about $2052 and 57 hours. Not bad savings for ten minutes’ work, is it?
We could take this further and look for a pair of one-way flights to and from Brisbane that arrive/depart at times that cut the cost down, the transit time down — or up, if we want to add a Brisbane stopover — but that’s good enough to demonstrate how you go about finding cheaper flights to out of the way places when the metasearch engines let you down!