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Based on this question:

Not flying the first leg of the journey – Company cancels the second-leg ticket

I was wondering if the same applies to low-cost carriers.

The reason to buy a return ticket in traditional airline companies is that it's cheaper than buying the two legs separate. If you did so, you could easily miss the first flight and attend the second as they were not related in any way.

However low-cost companies like Ryanair or Easyjet sell tickets for the same price (a return flight will have the same cost as the sum of the two individual tickets).

I fly often in low cost, and to avoid missing the return flight if I miss the outbound, I always book separate tickets. However, it would be convenient to book both, inbound and outbound flight together, as it makes the booking process easier (I just have to do it once).

Do you know if you lose the return flight when you miss the outbound flight in a low-cost carrier?

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  • 14
    Low-cost carriers charge less for tickets because they provide fewer services to passengers, and charge more for other things such as baggage, hold luggage, seat reservations, etc. Their Terms & Conditions will be more restrictive and less flexible for travelers. That's how they make money. Why do you think or expect that a low-cost carrier would treat you better than a conventional carrier? Jun 27 at 14:02
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    My understanding is that the logic airlines use to justify cancelling a return if you do not take the outbound flight is that sometimes the package is cheaper as a whole - i.e. an outbound and return can cost less than just a single leg. Thus if you cancel, you disincentivise people from trying to use only leg of the return. This logic typically will not apply for low-cost carriers since each leg is priced completely independently - there is no incentive to cheat the system by taking only one leg of a return ticket. Jun 27 at 14:35
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    @NeilTarrant Interesting: I just reviewed Easyjet's and Ryanair's T&Cs, and neither contains the "return cancelled if passenger misses outbound flight" language we're speaking about. I don't know if the reason is as you state, but the T&Cs of these low-cost carriers provide no automatic cancellation for missing the first flight of a return itinerary. Jun 27 at 17:36
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    It is my understanding (but I haven’t checked the details and I don’t remember if I was ever in that situation) that “real” LCCs like Easyjet and Ryanair indeed do not care if you miss a flight, as they just sell independent point-to-point flights, and with the exception of booking/transactions fees, the total is just the same if booked separately or together. They do not have to protect against customers trying to trick the (awfully complex) system of incumbents with hidden-city ticketing, crossed returns, and whatnot. This may be different for some incumbents-turned-LCCs.
    – jcaron
    Jun 27 at 21:40
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    From my personal experience with Ryanair and EasyJet, there's no concept of a combined itinerary. When you buy return tickets, you are actually buying two independent tickets. But note that, all the answers here would be out of personal experiences. Every carrier will have its own business model. So it's best to review the T&Cs before you plan to skip the leg. Better yet, most of them have online chat support, where you shall get definitive answers.
    – anemo
    Jun 28 at 22:20

3 Answers 3

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This answer is based on personal experience. Whilst it will provide infomation, it should not be considered definitative.

I needed to cancel/miss the outbound leg of an EasyJet flight in summer 2018, and I spoke to their customer service over web-chat on this matter.

The pleasant gentleman I communicated with confirmed that they would not cancel my return if I missed my outbound flight.

He then asked if I would like to cancel the outbound - although I wouldn't get a full refund - I could have my taxes back (which amount to only something like 8 EUR, but was a nice bonus).

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There is no hard answer. It varies by airline.

Some airlines book multiple-segment trips. For instance they will cheerfully book a round trip A-B-C...C-B-A. They set prices based on the A-C demand market, and they have a vulnerability - if A-C is heavily discounted, and B-C is costly, someone might book A-B-C and only plan to use the B-C segment. This is called "Hidden City Ticketing", and the airlines Hate it. (Not least it breaches their subsidy agreements e.g. if the A government subsidized A-B-C flights). Anyone who tries it gets their entire round trip itinerary canceled without refund.

Other airlines book individual segments only. So they would sell a ticket A-B, a ticket B-C, a ticket C-B and a ticket B-A as separate deals. They do not offer full itineraries, and if you miss a connection it's all on you. Since the tickets are not linked, missing A-B probably will not cancel B-C.

You are falsely equating the second type to "all discount airlines". That is not so. Discount airlines exist which follow the first model.

You need to check on an airline by airline basis, i.e. ask them.

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  • Can you point to an example of an LCC applying the first model? Offering only point-to-point flights is one of the main hallmarks of being an LCC in the first place. Jun 28 at 4:51
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    @lambshaanxy Aer Lingus (incumbent turned LCC), JetBlue, Southwest…
    – jcaron
    Jun 28 at 7:34
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Apologies for the anecdotal answer but Ryanair have cancelled my return flight for missing the outbound one. The agent told me I needed to inform them that I intended on keeping my return leg as soon as I missed the first flight.

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