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For over a decade I've entered Japan on one-way tickets and no airline has asked for my proof of return/onward flights, so I stopped obtaining them long ago.

However a few days ago I arrived at BKK airport and VietJet Air would not allow me to board my flight to Fukuoka without a ticket out of Japan!

This was my first flight with VietJet Air so I had no prior expectations. I arrived extremely early but there was an extremely long queue at the check in counter. I was chatting a to Chinese American guy in front of me in the queue who foreshadowed what was about to happen to me. He told me he booked with VietJet Air accidentally because he has a policy of never using them any more after one time they wouldn't let him board a flight without proof of onward travel and he had to buy a ticket on the spot, which he did not want to do as, like me, he likes to adapt his travel plans as he goes.

I thought he was overreacting and told him that all airlines will do this when the destination country charges makes them pay for passengers denied entry to due not having a return/onward flight, but that most airlines to my knowledge only do this depending on things since as the nationality of the passenger, etc. I told him I'd been asked for proof several times in Singapore and Malaysia but not elsewhere and definitely never for Japan.

Well I was wrong this time. But was he right in saying that VietJet Air are to blame for applying this rule in a blanket fashion to all passengers? Or is it actually random and I was just lucky never being checked on flights to Japan for over a decade? Or could this be a post-covid effect where things are still a bit stiff and complicated as everyone returns from strict travel regime to a more normal relaxed system?

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Timatic, the database used by airlines to check documentation requirements, currently states for entry into Japan (here, for a UK national, without indication of residence) but this is probably more general):

Warning:

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

So VietJet Air are just doing their job.

I can’t tell you if that policy has changed recently or not (possibly in relation with COVID policies), or if its actual application has changed, or if VietJet Air are just more risk-averse than other airlines, or maybe they have faced refusals for this reason in the past (for Japan or for any other country) and now want to avoid any issues, but IMHO any airline which wouldn’t check this would be taking a risk.

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  • Which begs the question: what's acceptable proof on onward flight? VieJetAir doesn't have access to other airline's reservation system and confirmation email is as easy to fudge as a Covid test certificate :-)
    – Hilmar
    Jan 15, 2023 at 11:34
  • For Japan? For everywhere? Is that different from what it said previous to "currently"? This is looking more like an opinion than an answer unfortunately. IMHE many airlines have been taking such a risk anyway for a long time. Does every airline just do its job? Why have other airlines not just done their job? How can I find an airline that doesn't "just do its" job so officiously? The answer is just too generic and not helpful at all sorry. Jan 15, 2023 at 17:36
  • @Hilmar: That's a separate question and has been asked and answered elsewhere on our site. Most experienced travellers who use one-way tickets buy refundable onward tickets and cancel them, or buy a proof of onward ticket from a website which may be a legit but unpaid ticket (don't know the proper term) or a fake/lookalike, or like me don't bother for trips which don't usually check. Jan 15, 2023 at 17:42
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    @hippietrail Obviously the link is about requirements to enter Japan (though the same requirement applies for many other countries). It’s up to each airline to decide whether they are willing to take the risk not to check that requirement or not, possibly based on fines they are likely to incur, past experience, etc.
    – jcaron
    Jan 15, 2023 at 21:15
  • Yes I'm well aware of that and tried to cover it in my 4th paragraph. I'm looking for specific info about this airline, which people in the industry or who inhabit travel forums might know. Similar industry or forum experts could also conversely know whether instead Japan has begun to enforce this. I mean are there countries where this return/onward ticket warning is not given? If somebody has access to pre-covid evidence that this warning did used to be given for Japan, that would certainly qualify as an objective answer. Jan 15, 2023 at 21:27
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Warning: Anecdotal answer!

I've now been travelling for over 10 months on this trip and have done three flights.

Other travellers I've met have had similar stories. Some were as surprised as me that they need the proof for every flight these days.

Unlike other trips where I only arranged proof of onward travel for countries I'd heard definitely asked for proof always or often, this time I've needed it for every flight no matter the airline or the country.

My conclusion is that this is a widespread "crackdown" in the "post pandemic" period around the world against people flying without proof of onward travel. It may or may not return to "normal" at some point in the coming year.

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