Update: Well, we’ve been finding better fares by leaving a day earlier. March 31 departure seemed to knock back fares by about $175 from Medford to Hong Kong. Also, the open jaw trip via Beijing was no more expensive for a return in late April. SFO to Shanghai tickets were in the 700 range. I’m not sure if I just missed these before or if the fares have changed, but I think it is because we were not checking for March departure dates.
After a few months of casual searching it has become clear that the prices for China Airline tickets really do not seem to vary much, and you don’t seem to save much by going from the larger Airports. The lowest I’ve found so far were $928 from Medford to Hong Kong but the trip is longer, via Tokyo and we could not stay there for a few days without spending a lot more. A better route is about $1060 via United, and my friends return via Biejing is costing about the same as my round trip to Hong Kong.
My friend who travels often to China said months ago that $1000 is about what we should expect to pay regardless of other circumstances, and I think he’s right. The market is probably not as competitive as US routes and people going to China are often not shopping nearly as aggressively as they do for US Flights. I exhausted a lot of options but it looks like we’ll wind up with what we could have had with a quick Kayak search.