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I'm curious about this since I've never seen or done anything like this. I'm trying to travel from SFO to NRT and the price is substantially higher than LAX to NRT, more than double!

I figured I might have a cheaper airfare if I booked a roundtrip from SFO to LAX and another roundtrip from LAX to NRT, which does indeed save me quite a lot of money.

My question is whether or not this would work on same-day flights. If I went from SFO to LAX on Saturday and I wanted to go from LAX to NRT while still at the airport, will I be able to do that? Where would I be able to print my boarding pass and such? Similarly, on the round-trip back, (NRT->LAX), if I want to go from LAX to SFO on the same day, would I have any issues being in the airport on the same day?

TL-DR: I want to go from SFO->NRT but SFO->LAX->NRT is cheaper as separate round trips. Will this cause any issues at the airport?

Thanks for the info!

  • 6
    It might be worth it to see if you can get a travel agent to issue a single ticket for all four legs for something approaching the sum of the individual prices, which would give you a guaranteed connection in San Francisco. (This could well be possible for a travel agent even though the airlines' own websites don't offer it, because the travel agent is selling through a GDS hookup rather than the customer-facing websites). – Henning Makholm Oct 30 '17 at 9:42
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    The important thing here is that, because you've arranged your own connection, you're on your own if the SFO->LAX flight is delayed or cancelled (say, due to fog at SFO) and you miss your flight to Tokyo. You could be out a significant sum of money for a new/changed last-minute international ticket, depending on the airline's policies. Up to you whether the risk/reward is worth it, but you should be prepared for the possibility. – Zach Lipton Oct 30 '17 at 15:10
5

Moo's answer is correct that, due to the separate tickets, you'll likely be out-of-luck on your ticket to Narita if your flight to LAX gets delayed. This is the biggest potential problem in my view, especially for same-day connections. I would personally allow for a long layover if doing this, especially before an expensive trans-Pacific flight that probably only operates once or twice per day. I was very glad I had an overnight layover scheduled the first time I did this, as my first flight ended up being delayed several hours due to weather. Had I not scheduled a long layover, I'd have missed my trans-Pacific flight and possibly lost the ticket, since it was a separate airline.

It's also important to note that, if you do not show up for your second flight (LAX-NRT,) the airline may cancel that entire ticket, meaning you could lose the NRT-LAX return segment, too. The airline might be nice and work with you, but they'd have no contractual or legal obligation to do so. If you see that you're likely to miss that flight, contact the airline ASAP to see what can be done.

Other issues you could run into:

Checked Baggage

If you're checking baggage, you might need to claim it in LA and then re-check it. The exception to this would be if both tickets are on the same airline or airlines that have interline agreements for baggage handling. In that case, you might be able to get them to check your bag all the way through from SFO to NRT. If you want to attempt this, please check with the airline(s) prior to booking your tickets regarding whether this is allowed for the itinerary that you're considering.

If you do end up having to claim your bag at LAX, this adds a considerable amount of time to the connection, as you'll need to leave security, wait for your bag to arrive at the claim, carry it to the check-in desk for your next flight (which will likely be in an entirely different terminal in the case of LAX,) check-in for your next flight, then clear security again before proceeding to the gate for your flight to NRT (which will likely start boarding around an hour prior to the scheduled departure time.)

Checking In

If you don't have checked baggage, there's still a chance that you'll need to leave security and go to a check-in desk for the airline of your connecting flight. Whether this is required will be airline-specific. Many airlines allow online check-in these days, in which case this wouldn't be required. Some airlines may also allow you to check in from an airside airline help desk or transfer desk or at the gate. However, if the airline operating your flight to NRT doesn't allow any of these, you might end up having to leave security, go to their land-side check-in desk (probably in a different terminal,) and then enter security again.

If you can stay airside

If you don't need to leave security to claim your baggage or check in, you might be able to stay airside at LAX. There are now airside connector tunnels and bridges between Terminals 4-8 and TBIT (the international terminal) at LAX, so if you're arriving at LA on American, United, Virgin America, or Alaska Airlines, you can walk to TBIT without leaving security now.

If you arrive at LAX on Delta, there's a shuttle bus that connects the Delta gates (in Terminals 2-3) to TBIT without leaving security until they get the connector between those terminals built.

I am not sure, however, whether there is an airside connector bus between Terminal 1 and TBIT or not. So, if you fly into LAX on Southwest, you might have to leave security in order to transfer to another terminal, regardless of other factors.

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No, you won't have any issues with the airport or airlines as a ticketed passenger travelling a longer routing on two tickets, people do this every day all over the world.

That is, if the flights go as planned...

Your issues start if your first leg is delayed or cancelled - because the second leg is a completely separate ticket, the airline has no obligation to accommodate you should you end up missing it and having to catch a later flight.

Ensure you book with sufficient time to make the connections plus additional wiggle room, taking into account any checked luggage you may need to retrieve and recheck on the second airline. This takes time, so give yourself plenty of it.

  • Thanks, so would I try to print all the relevant boarding passes at the source (SFO)? Or would I be able to land, and then print the relevant boarding passes for the next flights without having to go thru TSA again. – ceejayc7 Oct 30 '17 at 6:03
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    @ceejayc7 I can't find any mention of an airside transfer desk, so you would have to go landslide to check in and get your boarding pass at LAX - so I would recommend checking in online or, if you can (no idea if you can), at your first airport as you suggest. – Moo Oct 30 '17 at 6:20
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    @ceejayc7 if you're checking any bags, you'll probably have to go to baggage claim to retrieve them; then you'll need to recheck them. That requires leaving the secure area and reclearing TSA security. If you're not checking bags and if you depart from the same terminal where you arrive, you might be able to get a boarding pass printed at the gate. – phoog Oct 30 '17 at 6:49
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    @ceejayc7 And keep in mind that at LAX, if your flights are on different airlines (and sometimes if they're the same), you'll have to transfer terminals. At LAX in particular this can be very painful. There are some airports I would be willing to risk picking up checked baggage, re-checking it, and going back through security. LAX is not one of them. – David K Oct 30 '17 at 14:32
  • This is one of those places where paying for the pricier "changeable ticket" fares can be helpful. – Machavity Oct 30 '17 at 15:24
2

Have you looked at https://www.skiplagged.com? This website tries to find such "hidden" tickets where you use segments for your purposes. I've flown domestic and internationally searching through this site, but I have not ended up using a "hidden" segment coincidentally.

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I did that years ago; had return ticket from home to Stansted and a return ticket from Stansted to Italy. I had to go through passport control, luggage reclaim, check-in and security before boarding the next flight.

Worked for me, but you need a good buffer as you're responsible for any delays, which makes it a slow way to travel.

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