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Making enquiries about my coming trip I've been told by two different travel agents that there are no longer open return tickets.

This seems unusual to me. I am certain that people I know have had such tickets in recent years.

Does anyone know the truth of this? Do open returns really no longer exist? Why is this so?

  • 5
    What is the best method of purchasing a ticket with an open return date? - albeit two years old, so things might have changed. – Mark Mayo Jun 2 '14 at 12:12
  • Could it be that that one airline no longer offers them? If so, might be worth you clarifying which airline you wanted to book on – Gagravarr Jun 2 '14 at 12:24
  • I was asking two different travel agents a general question, nothing about specific airlines. – craig Jun 2 '14 at 14:30
  • Some airlines do still offer the concept of an open return, but generally they are rare, and more expensive than buying two one-ways, or booking a fixed-date return and then changing the date as required. – Doc Jun 2 '14 at 17:07
  • @Gagravarr I've had a similar issue with Air India while trying to book an open ticket. My travel agent told me that it would be suitable to book the ticket for a price wherein I can change it later if I like for a $30 fee. – Aditya Somani Jun 3 '14 at 1:13
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+50

Open return tickets have faded away but they still exist in some airlines.

Here are few links from prominent airlines about open return tickets

British Airways: contact sales office on telephone to enquire about open return tickets.

British Airways Questions And Answers

KLM - book fully flexible ticket - refer to first response provided by KLM:

KLM Facebook Page

Turkish Airlines - open return tickets are issued - seems like through contact centers - refer to question 4 and 5

Turkish Airlines

AeroFlot airlines: contact sales office - premium business class ticket

Aeroflot Fare Rules

Qantas airlines - open return tickets are not allowed

Qantas Booking An Open-Dated Ticket

One will have to call up the customer service department of the airline one wants to travel with to check whether they have the option of open return or not. Almost all airlines nowadays have Fully flexible, semi-flexible ticketing options which allows the traveler to change/modify the flights which might come at some cost and rules differ from airline to airline.

Open return tickets are not completely out of the door but it seems that most airlines have at least started showing it the exit door. At least I have encountered or found any airline who allows us to see prices for open return flights online and I am pretty certain they would cost a fortune to book nowadays.

The closest option to open return tickets are semi-flexible and fully flexible type options with airlines but one needs to be careful as there is a lot of fine print (different for each airline) which one needs to be aware of before actually making the booking.

6

True open return tickets faded into obscurity last decade, my cobweb filled brain wants to say 2008 or 2009. While I don't know of any specific reports that detail all the exact causes, a big factor was the rapidly changing prices of oil and taxes, making it difficult for the airline to know how much to charge for your return flight without knowing when you are flying back. Similar reasons figure into why most airlines don't let you book a date more than 330 days in the future.

Another factor that comes into play with international flights, is that the airline has to ascertain if you meet immigration rules for the country you are flying to and if there is no specific departure date, it is basically impossible for them to fulfill this requirement (most every country has a time limit for foreigners to stay regardless of visa type). And the airline can get fined $25,000 if they allow you on the plane and immigration turns you away for not meeting entry rules.

You can make a Pseudo Open Return ticket by purchasing a changeable airfare and then later changing the return date to your new preferred date. But this can come with restrictions and you may also find that the fare you used is no longer available for your return leaving you to pay the difference between what you paid and what it costs when you finally fly back.

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    AFAIK, airlines don't care about immigration rules when booking. Ascertaining whether you will have a visa in one year time is just as difficult but that's basically your problem, not the airline's. If you do show up without the required documentation, you will simply be denied boarding. You should also specify what country you are talking about, fines are country-dependent. – Relaxed Jun 22 '14 at 20:01
  • True, they don't check your immigration status when you book, but they eventually do have to check, so why sell someone a option that you know will be in violation of the rules. And my apologies for my wording it should have been "up to $25000" as I believe that is the highest fine. – user13044 Jun 22 '14 at 20:15
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    Because they keep your money in any case? Either way, if this was a factor, the relevant time horizon would probably be something like three months. I really don't think this plays a role here. – Relaxed Jun 22 '14 at 22:06
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Some fairly recent advice and discussion here:

Fodor's Travel

From some answers I get the feeling that the open return tickets are definitely not that popular anymore. The main reason being that more countries require a return ticket on arrival. This is not the case in Europe though.

Personally I have booked an open return ticket with STA Travel from Europe to Mexico only limiting to the 3 months my Visa let me be there i.e. open return with maximum return date 3 months from arrival date.

  • Guessing you are a US citizen that is. – Pixie Jun 25 '14 at 10:28
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    Can you quote the relevant info? Links are great until they die, and then all we have left is a dead link :( – Mark Mayo Jun 25 '14 at 12:43
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    True that Mark. – Pixie Jun 25 '14 at 12:52
1

Considering only

Why is this so?

For any particular cabin assume a very (over)simplified scenario of three fare buckets:

$100 - $200 - $300

An Open ticket can be used in the near future or up to almost a year ahead. The airline has no idea when it might be used, so effectively has to price the ticket at $300 for the return trip, in case they have already sold out of the cheaper seats when the Open ticket coupon is tied to a specific flight. If they priced it any less passengers would just switch from booking the $300 bucket (when that was all that remained available) to an Open ticket.

So if you planned to fly the very next day when there is only one seat left in the cabin, airlines are not going to sell it to you for less than $300 when there is still a good chance that someone travelling at very short notice will want that last seat, even at $300.

On the other hand, if a return date is chosen by the passenger the airline may well price the return as one of the cheaper buckets. "Oh! The first fight out on Jan 2, 2018 – not yet sold even one seat on that flight, $200 will do nicely". Hence relative to say an Open ticket from another airline this airline is more likely to get your business.

Even a modest change fee places some pressure on a passenger to choose a 'sensible' return date so gives airlines some indication of when to close one bucket for further bookings and charge more for the next seat. For example, if enough passengers choose, In January, say mid November as their return dates the airline may decline to offer the $100 bucket price for mid November to anyone booking after January, even if up to January not even one $100 seat has been sold. Put another way, even indication of a general intention is valuable to the airlines who can expand and contract the bucket sizes to suit themselves. It does not matter to the airlines that PAX A booked Nov 15, PAX B booked Nov 16 and PAX C booked Nov 17 and they all changed their reservations if it ends up that PAX A flew Nov 16, PAX B flew Nov 17 and PAX C flew Nov 15 – for these three passengers they still have to provide one seat on each day.

In reality, when not an Open ticket there is often not only a change fee but repricing. That is a fall back for the airline. You choose a date where the $200 bucket is available and they get your business (rather than another airline that offers Open returns that are priced towards a "worst case" scenario for them). Change your mind to another flight where the $200 bucket is still available and there is no change in price from 'repricing'. You are happy and all the airline suffers is some administration cost (covered by the change fee), so they are happy – you'll choose them again!

Change your mind to a much busier flight and "That'll be $100". For you probably still cheaper overall than two singles (even if not as cheap as it might have been had you stuck to your original schedule), each booked at short notice, and for the airline no loss of revenue – they might have been 'guaranteed' to sell 'your' seat for $300 to someone else if not to you, but their revenue for it from you totals $300 anyway.

I suspect another factor of significance is the switch over from paper to e-tickets. It is much easier to track use of e-tickets than it is paper ones since the records are already electronic. For example by visiting a website's page for your booking reference. Hence it is likely a far higher proportion of e-tickets sold lead to occupied seats than was the case for paper tickets. Open tickets were more popular with business travellers than for those on holiday. The latter often had planned an itinerary in great detail to fit in as much as possible in their vacation of limited duration and knew exactly when they had to be back at work. Business travellers often had not enough idea of how long their work away was going to take to be certain of suitable timing for their return flight.

In my experience, very many business travellers with an Open ticket that could not catch the first flight back from that airline, once their work was finished, (or found they would not be able to return directly, say more business elsewhere first) would simply choose a different airline (buy a new single) or book a new destination, or take the train, even hire a car and drive themselves instead.

Being for business naturally they would claim on expenses the other airline's ticket, or the one to the new destination, or the train fare or the car hire cost. This though only after they had returned. But their Open ticket may have been billed months before. This often resulted in a failure to submit the unused return coupon for credit. As mentioned in Difference between electronic ticket and paper ticket? A Paper Ticket is a akin to a bearer instrument, meaning, the paper itself represents value. So one airline was keeping the revenue from a return while only providing travel one way. Often enough that Open returns were quite attractive for them. As mentioned, they became much less so once tracking of unused legs was improved.

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    "An Open ticket can be used in the near future or up to almost a year ahead. The airline has no idea when it might be used, so effectively has to price the ticket at $300 for the return trip, in case they have already sold out of the cheaper seats" Isn't this the same as a "normal" full flex J or F ticket on a corporate deal? I see your argument about demand estimation, but there are plenty of folks using full flex tickets essentially as open tickets. – Calchas Jan 5 '17 at 13:26
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    No because a reservation must still be made, you can just change it later (including after you no-show for the flight). Major corporates buying thousands of tickets a month can buy these tickets for less than you or I buy a super discounted sales ticket. It is a bit curious though, because it seems to me it makes more work for the airline if I have to make a reservation knowing that I probably won't use it. – Calchas Jan 5 '17 at 14:11
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While you can't (well, it's really hard) get an 'open ticket' anymore, you can get effectively the same thing by booking a full Y, J or F fare.

It's just a different way to approach the same situation.

Why? Probably with the move to online distribution and e-tickets, the actual 'open ticket' because such an extreme edge case, it no longer made business sense to offer it, especially since a full fare gives you the same thing in nearly all cases.

  • I knew it, but sometimes the simplest answer is the best. Since there is absolutely nothing wrong with this answer and does in fact answer the question, downvotes totally unwarranted and unhelpful. – Johns-305 Jan 5 '17 at 22:36

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