One of the points to clarify in planning the air portion of your journeys is what destinations are "common rated" by the airline you'll be flying.
Common rated means that the air fare is the same to or from two or more fairly close destinations, although the degree of closeness can vary considerably. In this fashion, you may be able to go to a farther point at no extra cost.
For example, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in Brazil are common rated by Varig on flights from LAX on its regular and 30-day excursion fares. After arriving in Rio de Janeiro you can continue south to Sao Paulo.
Generally, you have to change planes in such situations. Sometimes you can change carriers, but in other instances you have to stick to the same airline.
West Coast Pairings
Domestically, LAX and San Francisco are often common rated. It costs the same for an LAX-London flight aboard British Airways as a San Francisco-London flight. And on some regular fares, an airline might pick up your LAX-San Francisco air fare, even though it flies out of both gateways.
Other cities, like San Diego and even Tucson and Phoenix, may be common rated with LAX by carriers for certain destinations and at certain fares. It would cost the same for a San Diego-LAX-Frankfurt flight of Lufthansa on its regular and promotional fares as an LAX-Frankfurt flight. The airline, in effect, picks up the cost of the round-trip flight to and from the common-rated city to LAX, from where its flights depart.
Varig common rates San Diego with LAX (but not San Francisco) on its flights to Rio de Janeiro from LAX on regular and 30-day excursion fares.
In such domestic situations, check if a stopover is permitted in the city you're flying out of.
Element of Competition
Creation of common-rated destinations is an element of competition between airlines, and bilateral treaties between countries get into the act. Domestically, foreign carriers may react to what U.S. airlines do. Overseas, the situation is reversed. Moreover, the extent of common-rated points is far from constant, changing with new airline filings.
Accordingly, common-rated points lie embedded in fares. Generally, you're more likely to be able to use common-rated destinations on regular than promotional fares, but there are exceptions.
A key aspect to explore is how many stopovers, if any, you're allowed on your fare, as this can affect your use of common-rated points. In some cases, once your gateway city becomes a stopover (a stay is usually considered a stopover internationally once you're there for 24 hours), you would no longer be able to fly to a common-rated point without extra cost.
But in other cases, it doesn't make any difference if your stay is classified as a stopover. You can sightsee for several days, for example, then fly on to the common-rated city at no extra cost.
Australia, New Zealand
Here's a sampling of some common-rated cities around the world:
Qantas recently announced the common rating of Melbourne with Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns on its excursion fares. Air New Zealand common rates Melbourne and Brisbane with Sydney on some fares (you first have to go through Auckland in New Zealand and then pay extra for the continuing flight to Australia).
In Europe, SAS common rates its gateway of Copenhagen on its regular and Super APEX fares with Gothenberg in Sweden; Bergen, Oslo, Stavanger and Christiansen in Norway, and all the cities in the Jutland portion of Denmark.
Stockholm, however, isn't common rated with Copenhagen; you have to pay an extra fare to get there from Copenhagen. But there are five common-rated cities with Stockholm in Sweden--Vaxjoe, Vasteras, Kalmar, Norrkoping and Jonkoping.
"Common-rated cities are prevalent in Europe," said Anders Bjorck, regional director-Southwest U.S. for SAS. "They're used mostly with regular fares and not as frequently with promotional fares."
Lufthansa common rates Bonn, Cologne, Duesseldorf, Hamburg and Stuttgart with its gateway city of Frankfurt on regular and promotional fares. Moreover, this common rating extends to Lufthansa's rail service to Bonn/Cologne and Duesseldorf.
With U.S. carriers such as Pan Am and TWA that serve many overseas destinations, the possibility of using common-rated destinations varies from country to country and fare to fare.
TWA, for example, common rates New Delhi with Bombay in India. Genoa, Bologna, Turin, Pisa and Venice are common rated with Rome in Italy.
In some instances it may be possible--subject to fare and mileage limitations--to visit several common-rated destinations. But in other cases you might be limited to one common-rated destination on each leg of a round-trip flight.
If you're thinking about visiting many places, especially within one country, it might be worth it to fly on a regular fare rather than a promotional fare to take advantage of common-rated destinations that might not be available with discount fares.
More Work, Same Fee
Such common-rated cities are not always uppermost in a travel agent's mind; getting up such flights involves more work but no extra commission. Still, a service-minded agent will bring these possibilities into play.
"Common-rated cities can provide travelers with the opportunity of seeing other cities at no extra cost, as well as more convenience, in some cases," said Martha Wood, manager of Glendale Travel in Glendale. "Travelers should find out what their latitude is in this area. An agent, through the use of tariff specialists, may come up with some interesting possibilities."
It might be a good idea to have your ticket written to the farthest common-rated point while still in the United States. While you could probably have your regular fare ticket rewritten overseas to go to a common-rated destination at no charge, the situation might be different with a promotional fare.