How To Find Cheap Flights Between USA and UK

As a British expat living in the USA, one of the biggest questions amongst expat groups is how to find the cheapest flight to the UK.  So in this post I’m going to share with you my tips and advice on how I find the best flights.  These tips aren’t just applicable for USA to UK flights, I use these techniques for ALL of my travels.  There are ways to travel hack such as collecting air miles with credit cards or signing up to error fare sites, which require being in the right place at the right time or being flexible with travel dates.  These are tips that anyone can use!

There are so many different flight booking websites but my personal favourite is:

Google Flights

I love this site to pieces!  You simply type in your departure and arrival airports, I normally select ALL when it comes to the cities.  For example, Chicago has several international airports, although O’Hare is more than likely to be the ‘selected’ one, but London has 6 (Heathrow, Gatwick, London City, Luton, Stansted and Southend).  Heathrow has the best transport connections to London and the majority of American carriers will fly into Heathrow.  However there are budget carriers that offer cheaper flights into the other London airports.

So going back to the search panel, a really handy feature is the monthly view.  Not only does it show the cheapest flight options (displayed in green) but you can quickly see how flying on certain days or during certain weeks may affect the price.  Looking at the table below, you can see that the cheapest flight is $340.  When you click on it, you can see which airline it is, flight times, if there are any stops etc.  You CAN filter it out to only show non-stop flights if this is something you prefer.  I also recommend clicking around because sometimes a flight that is displaying $500 COULD drop depending on the return flight.

Google Flights

The part I like the most is that I can then book directly with the airline.  I just find it easier to deal with the airline direct.  Being able to view and edit my booking on their website, if there are any problems with the flight you deal direct rather than through a third party etc.

I find it best to book at least 6 months in advance.  The gap between Christmas and end of January often has great deals!

Ways to make a flight cheaper

There are different factors and ways of making a flight cheaper.  If you are really desperate to spend the least amount on a flight, you may have to make some compromises.  While researching for a recent post, I did some market research with readers and I got back things like: “I only want to fly from THIS airport, into THAT airport, it HAS to be direct and I only want to fly on THIS day”.  Being brutally honest, you’re a lost cause if you are that restricted, it could well be the difference between finding a flight for $300 or a flight for $800.

So as mentioned above, the DATE and the AIRPORT plays a part in searching for cheap flights, here are some other tips!

Stopovers

Stopovers really aren’t THAT bad.  Yes, if you are pushed for time they are a bit of a pain. For example, I’m flying home at the end of March for just 5 days and having stopovers would obviously limit the time I get to spend at home (plus I was flying over Easter which also hiked up the price slightly anyway).

But in the summer I saved myself over $200 flying through Dublin AND after I had booked a hotel during the stopover, compared to the price of flying direct into London.  I had to be crafty for this one, it wasn’t actually on Google Flights as Google will only show airlines and connections that are part of the same ‘alliance’.  I booked 2 separate return flights with 2 different airlines.  I flew United from Chicago to Dublin and then Ryanair from Dublin into London Stansted.  You have to be smart travelling this way though because if you miss the connection, the airline will see it as YOUR fault for not being there on time (I will not be held responsible for missed flights if you choose this method).  This is why I opted to spend the night in a hotel one way and for the other I gave myself a 7 hour connection.

Dublin Airport Ireland

The perk of flying through Dublin is that on the return flight to America, you actually cross the American border IN Ireland!  This means that when you arrive in America you are treated as a domestic arrival and can literally just walk out of the airport…no standing in the immigration line for hours on end.

What to Expect: Clearing US Immigration in Dublin, Ireland

Another popular choice for a stopover between US airports such as: Chicago, Washington DC, LA, San Francisco, Detroit, and London is Keflavik Airport in Iceland.  Wow and Icelandair will always have a stop in Iceland, they don’t have any direct flights between the US and England.  Another example is that Dallas, Texas has cheaper UK connections flying through Calgary (YYC) Canada.

Some US airports have REALLY cheap flights (in comparison to direct flights from the same airport) if you fly through Istanbul in Turkey.  The Turkey route seems crazy because it’s SO FAR in the wrong direction to then double back, but if you’re an adventurous traveller you could easily take advantage of these layovers to explore another country for no extra cost!  Some cities (such as Istanbul) even offer FREE city tours during a layover!

Know Your Airline

Sometimes the prices listed on Google Flights can be a bit misleading for people that may not know much about the airlines from just the name.  Carriers such as: American Airlines, Delta, United, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, will usually have all the extras included…free onboard meals, alcohol, seat assignments, free checked bags etc.

Wow Air Cheap Transatlantic Flights

Budget airlines such as Wow and Norwegian fly into London Gatwick, rather than Heathrow, and have hidden extras that CAN be avoided, such as: pre booked seats, on board meals and checked luggage, you don’t NEED these.  You can save money by being assigned a free seat during check in (no problem if you are a solo traveller), you could take snacks on board with you (because lets face it airline food isn’t exactly filling)…putting this into perspective, if I remember rightly, the 2 meal package PER FLIGHT on Norwegian was $40…I can eat a large meal in the airport for a lot less than this.  And lastly…

Travel with Hand Luggage Only!

It may sound ridiculous…hand luggage?! For a long haul flight?!  The budget airlines don’t often include a checked bag, but you’d be surprised by just how much you could fit into hand luggage!  I travel with just a regular backpack (and a smaller shoulder bag with my passport and money in etc)…the type you’d send a kid to school with, and you’d be shocked by just how much I could fit into a small backpack.

This isn’t even maxing out the cabin baggage allowance!  There are plenty of suitcases out there which will give you every inch of the allowance.  If it gets turned away at the gate due to too many ‘wheeled bags’ already being on board, guess what, BOOM you’ve just got yourself a free checked bag because they’ll put it in the belly of the plane without charging you extra (as long as it IS within the dimensions).

Best Backpack For Weekend Travel

There’s then no hanging around baggage carousels waiting for your luggage and at some airports, like Chicago O’Hare, they even have immigration lines for people travelling with only hand luggage, that will skip the baggage hall.  These lines are often A LOT shorter than the regular immigration lines.

If you are an expat especially, hand luggage travel can be easier.  Chances are you may be staying with friends or family who would have washing facilities.  I have a drawer with some clothes in at my home in England, which I’ll use if I need and then keep there when I leave.  This is helpful for bulky items such as hoodies or even a spare pair of jeans.

*PERSPECTIVE CHECK*

Flying return on the same dates in April, travelling Chicago to London:

$410 basic fare (no extras) – Norwegian, direct to Gatwick

$609 (all extras included) – United, direct to Heathrow

You have saved $200 just by being flexible on the arrival airport, travelling with hand luggage, not being assigned a seat and by skipping a meal which is probably smaller than a McDonalds Happy Meal.

Current examples of the cheapest flights between the USA and London

CHICAGO NEW YORK SEATTLE WASHINGTON
MAY 2018

$420 – Stansted 1 stop KEF

WOW

$340 – JFK/Stansted 1 stop KEF

WOW

$689 – Heathrow

Virgin Atlantic

$351 – IAD/Gatwick 1 stop KEF

Icelandair

JUNE 2018

$590 – Stansted 1 Stop KEF

WOW

$351 – Newark/ Gatwick, 1 stop KEF

Icelandair

$689 – Heathrow

Virgin Atlantic

$422 – BWI/Gatwick 1 stop KEF

IcelandAir

JULY 2018

$694 – Heathrow

American Airlines

$550 – JFK/Stansted 1 stop KEF

WOW

$709 – Gatwick 1 stop JFK

British Airlines

$610 – BWI/Stansted 1 stop KEF

WOW

(KEF – Keflavik, Iceland)

If you’d like any assistance on finding a particular flight, please feel free to send me a message and I’d be happy to give you a hand!

Kylie Signature

How To Find Cheap Transatlantic Flights between USA and Europe

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11 thoughts on “How To Find Cheap Flights Between USA and UK

  1. Excellent recommendations. I flew Norwegian for my trip to London in 2016 and thought it was pretty good for the low price of the ticket. Totally agree about limiting the luggage too. I wouldn’t want to drag a ton of bags around the UK anyway!

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    1. I’m flying with Norwegian for the first time next month! They start their new Chicago – Gatwick route the week before I fly! I avoid travelling with checked luggage at all costs (literally)! Half the time I pack a case and it’s half empty anyway haha

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The only thing to be beware of with Norwegian is that it occasionally switches out its service with another airline. I was flying back from New York last year and got a text the day before saying this was happening and would I like to take the flight, rebook or have a refund. My husband had to get back so we had no choice but it was the flight from Hell. It was a Spanish airline with staff who didn’t want to be there, it was an uncomfortable plane and the only inflight entertainment was three screens hung from the ceiling as they used to do in the 1970s! This has never happened to me on the LAX-London flight but even Norwegian wouldn’t dare put people on an 11.hour flight in a plane that you wouldn’t want to do a city hop in! Oh and yes, the food on Norwegian is awful!

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      2. Oh wow! I’ve been on a few American Airlines flights that still have the overhead tv! I just read instead of even trying to strain over the seat back to see! Thanks for the heads up!

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  2. I just got back from a week in the UK after seeing your post about WOW airlines cheap flights, i was amazed at the price, $339.00 return via Keflavick in Iceland. the layover was not bad it was only 2.5 hours and for anyone that smokes they have a smoking area in the Terminal. I vape so it was nice having somewhere to go. the airport is nice and clean although you do have to keep an eye on the boards as they are prone to changing the departure times if the weather is getting bad. which isn’t too sad as they left Iceland half an hour early. i then had Gatwick Flyer pick me up from the airport which took me all the way home to Basildon Essex for 65 pound return. Thanks for the info as i wouldn’t have know about this without your blog.

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    1. Yay! I’d been watching your trip on facebook Russell! I’m glad it all worked out well for you!! (Chose a crazy week to return though with all the snow!!!)

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  3. HI there Kylie!
    Your website has been incredibly useful to me as another Brit immigrating to the US for my husband, so Thank You!

    Like

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