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Is there any substantial disadvantage to booking two one-way tickets, versus a round trip ticket?

Booking vacation travel with family of four for winter, from Northeast US to Mexico. Round trip is pricy and no preferred travel times. Two one ways is slightly cheaper with much preferred timing.

Different airlines there and back, both reputable national US carriers.

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See also: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/11501/… –  Bernhard Mar 24 at 22:02
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4 Answers 4

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Leaving aside the question of round trip versus one-way fares, there are some potential disadvantages to booking your outbound and return flights on separate one-way tickets as opposed to a single round-trip (aka return) ticket— unless all tickets happen to be fully flexible, fully refundable, full-fare tickets, which you won't be buying if you care at all about price.

Using separate tickets for each leg is not unlike booking connections on different ticketsyou assume all risk if there is a problem with one leg that prevents you from boarding the next. If you find you need to fly into and out of PBI instead of MIA, you face two change fees instead of just one. If your outbound to OXR is canceled and you get rebooked to LAX for free, you'd need to change your return in a separate call and pay a change fee with the second airline.

Furthermore, if your first flights gets canceled or you get bumped and they can't reschedule you until after your trip becomes pointless, you won't be able to claim a trip-in-vain refund. And while you might be able to find a sympathetic agent for adjusting two separate one-ways on the same airline, it would be most extraordinary to find an agent sympathetic to changes made by another airline. (Of course, the longer the time between your flights, the less the above is a serious concern.)

Secondarily, you may lose some advantages built into round trips, though this is largely dependent on the particular fare rules of the tickets you do buy. For example, a round trip award ticket on United Airlines allows a stopover or an open jaw in each direction, but no stopovers are allowed on one-way tickets, severely reducing the benefit for travelers like me. Additionally, some coupons and other promotions may require a round trip fare.

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There's generally only one major disadvantage to booking two one-way tickets in situations like this - Change/Cancellation fees!

If for some reason you have to cancel your trip, instead of paying a single cancellation fee you'll have to pay two - one to each airline - and odds are that each fee will be the same as the single fee would have been so in effect you'd end up paying twice as much.

There's a number of other minor disadvantages, such as the possibility of check-in taking longer as you'll potentially need to show proof of your return ticket (I don't believe this is required for Mexico, but it will be for other countries) as the airline won't have the details of your return trip. You may also have additional questions at immigration/customs - but these will be easily answered - Just make sure that you are carrying details of your return flight with you!

A single ticket can also be advantageous in the event of delays. eg, if your outbound flight was delayed by a day or two (eg, due to weather) then the airline will normally be fairly flexible in allowing you to delay the return by 2 days as well to keep the total length of your trip the same. Obviously if you've got 2 one-way tickets this isn't going to happen.

Many travel websites will allow you to book one itinerary with flights from different carriers on it, so you could at least book both flights at once - but keep in mind that many times these will simply be booked as two separate tickets so other than only having to enter your credit card number once you're not gaining much over purchasing the two one-way tickets separately.

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Thanks @Doc. Clearly it is worth extra as insurance to book round trip. Excellent point about keeping itinerary handy at customers. Two really good answers in minutes and can only accept one, I'm deeply grateful for your help! –  user645715 Mar 28 at 4:08
    
I can think of a time where it might be advantageous to book two one-ways: if the trip is fairly long and you might need to be flexible on the return, you could buy a more flexible ticket for the return and still get a good discount on the outbound. –  Michael Mathews Apr 1 at 1:11
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two one ways are definitely becoming more and more the choice to take! With online search engines and direct booking with airlines, it is now possible to re-arrange things on a moment's notice.

But if you bought a return-trip and happen to miss the first leg you are likely to loose return flight, simply due to the airlines' stiff "no show" rules. They do not recognize that severe weather might have been preventing you from reaching the start airport. They do not care that you had a whole bunch of other things on your mind at the time. They just point to your not-telling them in advance. Ergo, the whole trip gets cancelled.

This is the most stupid rule ever. Any other service sector that denies rendering services you already paid for (the return trip) on grounds that you failed to use the first half of purchased services???

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This might be better on the Not flying the first leg of the journey – Company cancels the second-leg ticket question? –  Gagravarr Jun 12 at 12:21
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Because greedy airlines charge up to double the price of a one way than a return. It's unethical, stupid and obviously only benefits their pocket. They should really have some government regulation of major airlines.

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This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post - you can always comment on your own posts, and once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post. –  Aditya Somani Jun 28 at 20:55
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