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My girlfriend was coming to visit me in state a, coming from state b. My plans changed and I will be able to drive her from state b to state a the day before her flight instead. This is the option that she wants. Her dad bought her a round-trip ticket from state b to state a and is unable to cancel the first ticket without losing money.

Will he be notified if she does not use the ticket for the first leg? They don't have the best relationship but she'd rather drive with me than fly and doesn't want to make him that mad.

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    Does she want to use the return part of her ticket? If so, she has to use the outgoing flight as otherwise the ticket will be cancelled. – Willeke Jun 10 '18 at 16:09
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    +1 @Willeke ... and if he bought the tix online, he might be able to log in and see whether the passenger checked in for the outbound flight. – Giorgio Jun 10 '18 at 16:16
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    He probably won’t be “notified”, but he can probably easily find out about it with the PNR (booking reference) or ticket number and name by using the “manage my booking” feature of the airline. But as pointed out, if this is the outbound (first) leg of the trip, not using it may automatically cancel the return leg. – jcaron Jun 10 '18 at 16:58
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TL/DR: They won't tell him, but he can find out.

Be aware: If she expects to fly back using that same ticket, she will have to fly the outbound. If she skips the first flight, the Itinerary will be cancelled. She can apply any remaining fare (minus change fee) to a new ticket and pay any difference.

American Airlines will not proactively notify the purchaser that a flight is missed specifically. They also don't notify the traveler (at least I've never been notified that I missed a flight ;).

However, if he purchased the ticked using his login, it will show on his trips list for some time and (note to the nitpickers: this doesn't happen often so this is admittedly what I think happens) if she skips the flight, the full itinerary will still show, which can be interpreted as it not being flown.

Also, if he has the ticket number (not the record locator), it's pretty easy to find out the ticket status by requesting a refund. If the ticket was over $200, he might get some money back such as airport fees, not any fare though.

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