Olympic Games in London 2012: When to Buy Plane Tickets

Summer Olympics in London 2012

Follow the FareCompare News Blog for continuing updates on travel to the London Olympic Games of 2012.

The 2012 Summer Olympic Games (officially known as, “Games of the XXX Olympiad”) are coming to London and we expect plane tickets to go fast. The Olympics is kind of like holiday travel – meaning that you are going to pay a premium to get there; the question is really “how much?”

Listen: More tips for finding cheap flights to London next summer.

Summer Olympics 2012 Important Dates

Most airlines generally release tickets 330 days in advance of departure dates, so it’s important to know the precise schedule for the coming Games:

  • Opening Ceremonies: Friday, July 27, 2012
  • Closing Ceremonies: Sunday, August 12, 2012

Airline tickets to London for the start of the Olympics will be available around Sept. 1, but if you wish to stay the full two weeks, you will have to wait that much longer before making your purchase in order to get a return ticket (and if you wish to stay beyond the Games, factor in that additional time, as well).

Find out the best London Travel Tips

When to Book Flights

There are a couple of options, but neither are fool-proof or guarantee a flight deal. You can book plane tickets as soon as available just to ensure you have a seat, but you may pay too much simply because you’re buying your tickets so far ahead.  Plus, the Olympic Games take place during one of the most expensive European travel seasons. You can also watch for airfare sales, but you might be waiting for months.

On the flipside, international flights to London will likely creep to $2,000 as the Olympics grow closer. Procrastinators could face the possibility of flying into other cities besides London, like Dublin and Amsterdam. Depending on your travel priorities, the idea of side trips might be positive or negative.

Two low cost carriers to consider for European jaunts from London are EasyJet, which allows you to book tickets 10 months in advance, and Ryanair, which allows booking 5-6 months in advance.

For rail travel enthusiasts, Eurostar’s “chunnel” train connecting London and Paris can be booked from 3 to 6 months in advance, while Eurail passes can be booked up to 6 months in advance.

The Strategy I Recommend:

Book tickets with loyalty miles.

  • Start early: Everyone will be trying to use their miles, so do not delay. Be prepared to pay the “anytime” rate for tickets.
  • Book one-way: Some airlines allow one-way booking with miles, so you may want to jump in and book a one-way loyalty award departure ticket as soon as possible, then wait to book your return. This gives you a jump on those who will wait to book a complete round-trip ticket.
  • Use upgrades: This type of event presents the perfect opportunity for elite travelers to use system-wide upgrades from coach to business class.

Read the FareCompare London Travel Guide for tips on attractions, shopping and dining

What Should I Pay for Airfare to London?

The key prices to shoot for on flights to London vary by departure:

  • From the U.S. East Coast: $1,400 round-trip
  • From the U.S. West Coast: $1,600 round-trip

Again, do not delay. We expect coach prices will near $2,000 round-trip as we get closer to the Olympics.

London MapLondon Airports – Where to Fly

Heathrow (LHR): This is the gateway airport for most trans-Atlantic passengers, and it’s located just 12 miles west of London. This huge facility is the major hub for British Airways and its rival Virgin Atlantic. It’s also served by American Airlines, Delta, United and numerous other carriers from around the globe.

Gatwick (LGW): Located 28 miles south of Central London, Gatwick is the second busiest airport in the UK and another hub for British Airways.

Both airports offer taxis and bus service into London, and Heathrow travelers can find fast service into the city (Paddington Station) via train. Cheapest option: the London Underground.

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Published: August 25, 2011