Here's one, I was recently in the US,

and was traveling to Canada for a few days and return.

I have a "green card" for US use, and of course I got a Canadian eTA.

Now at the local US airport I walked up to the Delta checkin counter and the lady of course checked my green card and (I guess automatically) the eTA. No worries.

However, she then said "I need your return itinerary".

By coincidence (I had no clue) Expedia had booked me Delta one way and AA the way back.

So Lady couldn't actually see my return itinerary.

{The AA counter was 3 feet away. Since this was AA, I don't even need to mention that, of course, they were utterly unable to find my itinerary. Humorously, I had to remember my idiotic Expedia passwd on the spot and log in using someone's phone, and get the return AA itinerary!}

Anyway this raises some questions:

  • I have never, ever, ever been asked, on checkin, to show a return itinerary traveling to anywhere I can think of. (Indeed, I habitually travel just on one way tickets for convenience, so I can buy a return whenever it is needed.) Sure, going to Russia or something it may be a Timatic requirement, but Canada from the US??

So as a factual matter:

  1. Question 1, in that situation (US, off to Canada and return), does Timatic tell Delta that the person does need return tickets??

  2. Or is it purely a Delta thing? Maybe you get flagged as suspicious if the system sees you're not a customer of theirs both ways? Or??

  3. Or was it just "on the day" the lady (who was otherwise very polite) just got confused or whatever and felt I should have a return itinerary before stamping me DocsOK? Or she was just plain wrong?

  4. As a factual matter, does Canada in fact literally require return tickets? (As frequent travelers will know, most countries say you should "have evidence" of onward travel, so of course a return ticket will do that, but in practice it's totally OK if you just rock up and obviously look like you'll be leaving.)

  5. Could it be that ... notice I mention by coincidence Expedia put me on different carriers. Maybe, in fact, Delta always checks for a return every time, and I just haven't noticed before since it never came up?

  6. Once I finally dug up the idiotic reservation code, the lady then said "Well I need to see the full itinerary" - WTH! {Again, I don't even have to mention that the AA desk were utterly unable to print out an itinerary, 3 whole days in the future, even with the reservation code...} in fact though, when there was a panic about getting to the gate, my impression was Lady just kind of made a judgement call that it was all OK (me having really just waved in front of her a cellphone with six letters on it) - so that sort of suggests it was a bit informal..

I think she did not actually "enter and check in some system" the reality of the return itinerary in question; nor did she have the details of it. {But I don't think there's any "informal judgement calls" for checkin agents - they just go by the letter of Timotic right??}

What's the actual explanation of this mystery?

Was the lady just simply confused and had no need at all to do this before stamping DocsOK? Maybe it's just some "guidance" issued to gate agents, unrelated to Timatic? ("If they're going to Canada, keep an eye out for the return tickets.") Or it's some brand-new thing? Or??


Let's ask Timatic (I made you French because I had to pick a nationality, but it appears to be the same regardles):

  • Visitors not holding return/onward tickets could be refused entry.

It also says you're allowed to stay for up to 6 months, and showing a return ticket is a way for the airline to see that you intend to leave before then.

Canada's rules do not require a return ticket, though it's certainly a good idea if you want to avoid potential problems at the border. But Delta doesn't want to be on the hook if you're refused entry, so they tend to insist on seeing proof of a return or onward ticket as a matter of airline policy.

If you've previously purchased a single round-trip Delta ticket, this wouldn't come up, as the check-in agent can see both segments on your itinerary and wouldn't need to ask for proof. It's fairly common (enough that we have 72 questions about it, including stories of people being denied boarding or entry) to be asked for return/onward tickets if you're traveling on a one-way ticket (and you may well be asked at immigration even if the airline doesn't, so you should be prepared to show that instead of relying on a strangers' phone).

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  • Ah, so Zach you're saying Canada does not in fact require it but Timatic does require it ... seems like an odd tension eh?! Thanks for all this info........ – Fattie Sep 30 '18 at 20:22
  • I had a hell of a time just getting an eTA by the way :) – Fattie Sep 30 '18 at 20:23
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    This phrase appears in Timatic for several countries and travelers' document combinations. It does indeed mean exactly what it says: Immigration for that country may demand onward or return tickets from the traveler, and refuse entry if the traveler does not have them. It does not always happen - and for Canada I expect it rarely happens - but if it does, the airline is on the hook. When that specific phrase appears in Timatic, the airlines insist on return/onward tickets or refuse boarding. – Michael Hampton Oct 1 '18 at 0:02
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    @Fattie I entered Canada two days ago with no return tickets and CBSA asked me about exactly how I intended to return home. (They did let me in, of course.) The thing is, I'm a US citizen. The rules are a bit different in that circumstance. This is a common border crossing, but Americans are the most common nationality crossing that border. – Michael Hampton Oct 2 '18 at 3:37
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    Just for the record! I endlessly followed this up with the airline, and it turns out the particular checkin person was just being a dimwit. The procedure was utterly wrong and Delta apologized. A good example of the ad-hoc nature of these procedures. (Even more reason to "always have every record with you.") – Fattie Oct 30 '18 at 17:22

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