When You Can Throw Away Segments of Your Airline Tickets–And Why You Want to

Reader Paradocs asked,

If I book a trip as two one ways and skip the final destination on the outbound is my return affected? Thanks for your help Gary!

As long as you’re only skipping the final segment of the ticket you’re not going to cause problems for your return.

What Paradocs is asking about is throwaway ticketing (not using the last flight coupon of a ticket). If you skip any other segment, you risk having the rest of the unflown segments on your ticket cancelled.

This is useful, most of the time, with paid tickets (although I’ve also explained how to use this to get lower award prices and also to save on fuel surcharges on award tickets). With paid tickets you’re using ‘point beyond ticketing’ where you’ll fly from your start city through a hub to a third destination.. and generally get off at the hub.. because it’s a less expensive ticket than just flying to the hub.

There’s a fundamental difference in perspectives between what most airlines think they are selling from what most passengers think they are buying.

  • Airlines seem themselves as selling transportation between A and C at a certain price. That the itinerary stops at B is immaterial.
  • A passenger believes they are buying a seat on a flight from A to B and then on to C. So it’s ok to use only the seat from A to B.
  • But the airline thinks travel between A to B is a totally different product with a different price.

Fundamentally the issue is what you are buying when you buy an airline ticket, whether it’s what the contract of carriage says or whether it’s what a common understanding reflects.

To learn more you may want to check out my guide to Using Hidden City and Throwaway Ticketing to Save Big Money on Airfare.

Here are the risks:

  • Do this only as the last segment of a reservation. As I say, only throw away the final leg of a roundtrip or book two one-ways if you want to do a throwaway in each direction. When you miss a flight, the airline is likely to cancel the rest of your itinerary.
  • Don’t check luggage. Most airlines used to let you ‘short check’ baggage, or check it to an intermediate stop and not your final destination. Your bags will go to the final city on your ticket, you will not. So this only works with carry-ons (except for international flights arriving in the U.S. and a few other countries where you have to pick up your bags on arrival and walk them through customs and then drop them back off).
  • Don’t gate check luggage. If you do, make sure they only tag it to your next stop and not your final destination. Best to board early enough to get overhead space though.
  • There’s still a risk of irregular operations. If your flight cancels, the airline might offer to send you to your ‘final destination’ via some other connecting city. You’ll need to negotiate not just to get to your ‘destination’ but also for your original routing.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’m always amused by stories (especially from bloggers) about missing flights in the middle of a trip and everything turning out okay. I’ve been a travel agent for over 20 years and never saw such a situation turn out okay. But apparently bloggers are magical wizards.

  2. So airlines think that A-B-C = A-C? If the stop at B is “immaterial”, maybe they should run the flight non-stop A-C instead?

  3. @A.S.-

    What article did you just read? He clearly stated only skip the final segment of a ticket.

  4. I recently missed the last sector on my return CX ticket (which wasn’t HK). CX refused to credit me my miles for the long haul sector of the trip and insisted I needed to re-price the entire ticket if I wanted the miles. Anyone heard of this happening?

  5. Gary, have you ever heard of an airline charging a no show fee or charging a customer who fails to show up?

  6. John, Southwest Airlines operates similarly. There’s no option to reprice, but you won’t get any FF credit for your flight (including the other half of a round trip) when you no-show any part of it. This is a simple penalty for airlines to assess. I predict most large US airlines will follow suit over the coming years.

  7. @Patrick -not as a one-off, they’ve sent debit memos to agents who systematically issue these tickets. and some serial users of the technique have had their frequent flyer accounts closed.

  8. @A.S. I read dozens of blogs and have never heard of this. Do you have an example?

    @John HCT is prohibited by all CoCs. The airline could actually charge you the difference (debit memo), cancel your FF account, and/or ban you. As for ticketing, any changes made require “refaring” to ensure compliance with the fare rules (tons of legalese). So I think it’s fair to simply deny you the miles.

  9. @Eddy: Southwest does NOT prohibit hidden city. Their Customer Service Commitment used to state this non-prohibition explicitly; now it is silent. Southwest does not publish its new policy that hidden city tickets cannot be partially refunded, the funds cannot be re-used, and no points credit will be awarded.

    Clearly this is different from the old days of explicit approval of HCT, but it’s not a prohibition.

  10. @Sam — You misunderstood (or I wasn’t clear): I wasn’t talking about this article. I am AGREEING with article that missing a segment mid-trip cancels out the rest. And I’m stating that other bloggers (see below) tell of tales of the opposite, which is amusing to me.

    @Eddy — Yes, two recent examples: @Lucky (from One Mile at a Time) overslept for an Etihad flight and — although I don’t remember the details off the top of my head — was re-accommodated. A second recent example was from a blogger from the UPG group. Again, don’t remember off the top of my head, but he was on a long trip around Asia and missed a positioning flight (I think it was to take that cheap First fare out of Vietnam or something) and again was accommodated. There were others, too, but I’d have to remember.

  11. @nsx True.

    @A. S. Sounds like both were flying the segments as ticketed and missed the first leg. Certainly nice of the airlines to reaccomodate (e.g. flat tire rule etc.) but unrelated to HCT.

  12. Why not check luggage? Even if the airline won’t short-check, you can be sure, that your suitcase won’t fly without you. Yeah, can be a bit of a drag to get it released, but they cannot hold on to your property.

  13. @Eddy — It’s not unrelated. While their intention was NOT to execute HCT, a no-show is a no-show and the airline doesn’t know your intention. The “flat tire” rule only applies if you advise the airline prior to departure, i.e., they’ll “try” to let you change a non-changeable ticket to accommodate an impending missed flight. But once you no-show (which was the case here, if I recall — and again, there were others) then you’re SOL.

    I think we’re having to different conversations here, you and I. I’m not equating what the others did to HCT. Not sure how to better explain it, so I’ll just let it go. 🙂

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