Four one-way tickets to Canberra, please

It should have been a big moment. We’d imagined it for years. That fateful, symbolic, final act of booking our one-way tickets to Canberra.

We’d imagined the parallels with those migrants of long ago, booking their steamer passages in steerage, not knowing what would await them in a land that promised a new start, a new life, a new future.

In the end, exhausted by the many permutations of price, flight connection times, baggage allowances and time of arrival, we just pressed click on Expedia option number seven, and our travel confirmations quietly appeared in my email inbox.

We’d talked about making far more of the trip. Perhaps we could cruise to Australia, savouring our seafaring connection with the pioneers of the first fleet, eliminating the possibility of jetlag, and enjoying an extended period of family time before the demands of starting all over again took hold of our time. That was nixed on the basis that, being out of contact for a period of six weeks or so might confirm to my freelance clients that I really had disappeared forever, thus cutting off an income stream that may be important during our first months in Canberra.

Then we (briefly) considered flying business class. Marking our move with a splash of opulence that would confirm that we really were embarking on journey of special significance. The temptation of a flat bed, extended leg room, and those quiet, luxurious lounges in between flights wooed us for a while, until we realised that the price of the flights would buy us a new car on arrival and we decided that several years’ transport was better value than that of several hours.

Then we ranged to the opposite end of things by looking at whether we could make the journey for free, using the frequent flyer miles I amassed during a particularly travel-heavy few years with a former employer. I’ve kept hold of them for years, partly out of some vague recollection that it was all a bit difficult to book the actual flights you want, on the actual days you want them, but also because I’d always thought that the day was coming when they really would be useful, rather than just a means of hopping away on European city breaks. Anyway, my first recollection proved the more relevant. My SAS miles had some value, although not enough to get the whole family all the way to Australia, while my British Airways miles proved as useful as glass hammer – “no flights, not there, not on those dates” – or any other, in my experience.

There were some bizarre vagaries that I uncovered in doing all of this research. First, that one-way tickets cost pretty much the same as return tickets. Second, that the web travel sites – Expedia, Travelocity and others – will often sell you a ticket for a flight that is much cheaper than the price offered by the airlines themselves. Third, that British Airways will offer you the same trip at a price that is about 30% higher than any other airline, with a 30% smaller baggage allowance. And finally, in our case, a Qantas ticket on a code-shared Emirates flight, is about 20% cheaper than the price offered by Emirates on their own aeroplane.

Now you can see why, in the end, we just pressed click.

An Emirates aircraft at the airport gate.

Flying Emirates on a Qantas ticket proved cheaper than booking direct with Emirates.

We’re flying Copenhagen to Dubai, with a two-hour connection to a flight to Sydney. That gets us in late at night, so we’ll overnight at a Sydney airport hotel before arriving in Canberra early the next morning and picking up a hired car for a few days while we settle in. Oh, and the hotel and hired car? Turns out those BA miles were good for something, just not for flying BA.

By the end of all this, the symbolism of booking a one-way ticket had pretty much passed us by, but now, a few days later, as I print everything out and put it into a travel folder with our passports, I find myself staring at the paperwork a little longer than I would for any other trip. Copenhagen to Canberra, one-way. And the date is getting ever closer.

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