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Legal ramifications for booking return as a one-way

Legal ramifications for booking return as a one-way

Old Jan 11, 20, 9:31 pm
  #1  
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Legal ramifications for booking return as a one-way

Hi,
We are travelling internationally as a family of four and need to fly back to the US from South Africa. However, the difference between a round-trip and one way fare is significant (several thousands of dollars). I am tempted to just book the return and not use it and book it 3 months later to save the money. I have read reports of airlines coming after the passengers for the difference of fares. Do you think this is worth the risk? We do not live in North America anymore if that makes any difference.
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Old Jan 12, 20, 11:45 am
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Technically you would be breaking Contract of Carriage, which is not a legal thing per se, though airline can take legal action by taking pax to court, which would be a legal action.

Perhaps the most famous case was United (IIRC) v. Skiplagged.com, where UA got spanked and Skiplagged is still going strong. I also recall Lufthansa actually winning, but IIRC losing on appeal, but that too was for missing last leg, not return journey. They did win the case against the guy buying refundable Biz tickets and using the airport lounge to get free access before cancelling the tix, but that's something entirely different

Lots of discussion about that in various airline fora, mostly under "missing last leg of journey," or words to that effect. I recall much less discussion about your particular situation, but it has come up.

Things change in three months, sickness happens, family crisis happens, and especially with a one off there probably isn't much to worry about, especially if you don't use your Frequent Flyer account. Not much point in that these days as earnings from flights are minuscule, and elite benefits are pretty limited even if one has elite status.

One thing to consider is open jaw, in case you can find a different destination where you would actually want to go (and potentially get back from).

Now that I think about it, saw that at least on some routes, United (having lifetime UA status I tend to try to stick with them for the Int'l travel benefits, i.e. lounge access) had some flights to Asia for half the price of r/t Also, Google Flights is your friend.
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Old Jan 13, 20, 10:36 am
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Originally Posted by snowbeavers View Post
Hi,
We are travelling internationally as a family of four and need to fly back to the US from South Africa. However, the difference between a round-trip and one way fare is significant (several thousands of dollars). I am tempted to just book the return and not use it and book it 3 months later to save the money. I have read reports of airlines coming after the passengers for the difference of fares. Do you think this is worth the risk? We do not live in North America anymore if that makes any difference.
The risk of a family being hounded by an airline over throwaway ticketing (for the return portion of a restricted ticket) is extremely low. I would say that the average US person no-showing for a return part of a ticket has a far greater probability of being hit by lightning than to be hounded by an airline for no-showing on the return half of a roundtrip ticket.

I would probably book the return portion out as far as possible on the calendar and hope for an airline schedule change to hit and benefit me.
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Old Jan 13, 20, 4:28 pm
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Originally Posted by GUWonder View Post
I would probably book the return portion out as far as possible on the calendar and hope for an airline schedule change to hit and benefit me.
"...as far as possible " is about 330 days. Something could change in that amount of time, and you'd be happy to pay change fees to get back home. Or even be lucky with the airline schedule change GUWonder mentioned and get to do it for free.

I also liked EmailKid's suggestion of the open-jaw ticket, with the return to someplace entirely different you'd like to visit. Could work.

While one never absolutely knows, I agree that the odds of getting hounded for not using a return portion are really low. I've personally done it with no problems.

Last edited by Romelle; Jan 13, 20 at 4:35 pm
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Old Jan 13, 20, 10:17 pm
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Great, thanks for the responses. How would I book an open-jaw ticket? I don't seem that feature available on most airlines sites. Different than multi-city right?
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Old Jan 14, 20, 5:13 am
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Originally Posted by snowbeavers View Post
Great, thanks for the responses. How would I book an open-jaw ticket? I don't seem that feature available on most airlines sites. Different than multi-city right?
You'd use the multi-city tool to book an open-jaw (or a stopover). And really, in this scenario a stopover could be enough for getting an extra trip out of a single ticket, specially considering they are more common than open-jaws.
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Old Jan 14, 20, 8:05 am
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Yes, the open-jaw ticket would be booked using the multi-city option, as opposed to the one-way and round-trip options.
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I'm sure somebody here will refine my understanding, but just to get it started...

Assuming the ticket is A-B, and then B-C, I think A and C have to be in the same continent?
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