In the last 10 years, I have been traveling between the US and Tunisia. Many of my friends asked me for tips. So here I am, offering you all what I have learned.
1- Buying your ticket
I usually buy my ticket at least one month in advance. I avoid buying it in high season such as July August and November / December even if the trip is scheduled in low season (ex: avoid buying in christmas time if you want to travel in Februrary).
I usually search for tickets through kayak.com but I recently have discovered Happyroute.com and I kind of like it. I also purchased tickets from Vayama, Orbitz and Expedia et and on different airline sites.
If you buy your ticket out-bounding from Tunis thinking that it is cheaper you are wrong. This myth used to be true in the past but no longer stands in this period of globalization.
I also strongly discourage those who buy two different tickets: Let's say a ticket to Montreal then fly Syphax to Tunis ;-) or a Tunisair Ticket to Paris then another one to the US. This option could be cheaper but visa policies, long layover, inadequacy of luggage allowances and delays could make you loose what you were planning to gain.
2- My take on the most airlines:
I have to say that, in general, I like traveling on Gulf based airlines, mostly Emirates and Qatar but I agree that it is not convenient to fly on them from the US to Tunisia as it takes much longer (30 hours in general) but if you are hungry for miles, movies, excellent food, Dubai duty free, and luggage or love to try Boeing Dreamlimers and A380s. This is an option you may want to consider. I also discovered recently that Qatar airways is unbeatable on one way flights. So if you are looking for the cheapest option especially in high seasons, consider buying one way tickets instead of round trips.
- Turkish airlines is great for those who have time and want to discover Istanbul as the hotel offered for the layover is a great one and the city is very enticing (you can accrue mileage if you are Lufthansa or United frequent flyer). The price is often competitive and the luggage allowance is generous (2 bags - 100 pounds).
- Alitalia is usually one of the cheapest, It has a reputation of loosing luggage and being late but It never happened to me (You can accrue mileage if you are Air France or Delta Frequent flyer).
- Lufthansa is a great option often the cheapest one. Excellent service, good food, wifi, no delays. I would avoid the long layover option and also avoid the 2 stops option ( FRA- Brussels) with the atlantic flights operated by Brussel Airlines).
- Air France not the cheapest and not the simplest layover but usually the shortest option to get to Tunis. CDG is a mess, stopping in Paris is a good idea to meet friends and family (most Tunisians know someone who lives in Paris) but access to Paris takes time. On the plus side, A380 is used for the NYC so more legroom and fancier service is to be expected.
- Air Canada: avoid it if you are not a green card holder as layovers in Canda require a visa.
- RAM: my least favorite as the planes are not new, the layover is not fun. The price is among the cheapest and you don't get to pay an exit tax if you are flying from Tunis (and a Tunisia resident).
- Egyptair: not the cheapest to consider only if you are planning to stop there and visit the city. Cairo airport is excellent but not as convenient as Istanbul. Plan to have a visa ahead of time if you are a Tunisian citizen.
3- Frequent flyers:
I suggest to sign up for a credit card in order to accumulate more miles. My favorites are Alaska Airlines for the Air France/ Alitalia folks, and United for the Lufthansa/ Turkish Fans and Amex for the rest. Having these cards will allow to get free tickets or upgrades faster then just waiting to accumulate enough miles for a free trip.
Take some time to check the plane you are taking. I always look for A380s as they offer more legroom (Air France, Emirates, Lufthansa...) . If A380 is not available then you may want to consider paying for more legroom (special seats on emergency exits or on the first row..). I however find that premium economy is scam.
Emirates has the best inflight entertainment. Qatar airways is great too. Air France is not as good as it used to be and need to improve on that front. Alitalia is not great and Lufthansa and Turkish airlines are ok. American airlines has a 90's feel :-).
Food is excellent on most flights. I stopped taking special meals as I doubt of the freshness and also realized that regular food is much better than the special meals :-)
Emirates has the best crews. Air France folks could be arrogant sometimes. American airline is the warmest. Italians are nice and Germans are kind.
Depending on the season, a cheap ticket varies from $750 to $1000. An expensive one would be above $1400 for an economy seat.
Enjoy your visit to Tunisia! I will try to keep updating this post whenever possible.