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[Last para:] If you do decide to go ahead with a return, keep in mind that the return leg doesn't need to be the same as the outbound. You might be able to book ZRH-AUS on the outbound, and a cheaper/shorter flight such as JFK-FRA for the return which may give a cheaper overall flight. Given that you're not going to fly it anyway, it doesn't really matter where you're "flying"! Try a few options and see what you can come up with.

For brevity, call the return destination on the return ticket as the spurious destination. The motivation for this question is my friend's need to buy a one-way flight from Hong Kong to Toronto. If a roundtrip ticket is cheaper, then how do we compare and determine which city on the return journey (that my friend won't really fly on) will produce the cheapest roundticket fare? Are there any websites for this? For example, we simply don't know if Hong Kong --> Toronto -> Hong Kong is the cheapest, or Hong Kong --> Toronto -> X, where X is some other city besides Hong Kong.

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The term of the art is hidden city ticketing: you book a flight from A to C, with a connection at B (the "hidden city"), and get off there.

In general, you'd look for flights from A to a major city C near B, so that there's as much competition as possible between A and C. For example, San Diego to LA costs a lot because it's a direct flight, but San Diego to Las Vegas is cheap because everybody flies to Vegas, so you'd look for SAN-LAX-LAS.

In your specific case, I'd try New York. Everybody offers flights from Hong Kong to New York, and Air Canada flies HKG-YYZ-JFK, so this seems like prime hunting grounds.

There's a few sites that claim to automate this process for you, eg. Skiplagged and FlyShortcut. Unsurprisingly the airlines really don't like these and are doing their best to sue them out of existence.

  • The question is not about hidden city ticketing!! The question is about an A-B-C open jaw where C is close enough to A to count as a return (zones, right?) but doesn't matter what it is. – chx Dec 15 '14 at 0:26
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    Umm, is too? The OP wants a cheap one-way from Hong Kong to Toronto, and is looking into doing this via booking a flight via YYZ to somewhere else = a hidden city fare. They have no intention of going to "C" or returning to HKG. – jpatokal Dec 15 '14 at 0:50
  • With checked luggage, there could be a problem. I once booked a flight, Reno -> Denver -> Munich with a return of Munich -> San Francisco -> Reno, reserving the possibility of just getting off in San Francisco and staying there. I didn't want my checked luggage to go on to Reno, but I would have had to pick up my luggage, go through Customs, and re-check it in San Francisco, where I could have said a polite good-bye and just walked away. Do keep this in mind. (As it turned out, I didn't use the return flight.) – Jennifer Dec 27 '18 at 6:12
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Whether an open jaw counts as a return trip, the rules are really arcane and not well known but a good rule of thumb can be: the segment of your trip that you don't fly (say, Bangkok-Hong Kong) must be shorter than the shortest leg of the trip that you do fly. If you have a HKG-YYZ direct that gives you an awfully large selection of airports even if you add that you must be in the same zone but zones differ wildly between airlines and/or alliances. In general, you can expect that China will be in the same zone as Hong Kong and very likely Japan too and not much else that would help here.

Also it's likely that a well chosen date can save you even more than messing with cities. ITA Matrix will help in both.

  • The OP is looking for a cheap one-way, not an open jaw. – jpatokal Dec 15 '14 at 0:52
  • And he will get a cheap one-way if he books an open jaw. – chx Dec 15 '14 at 5:06
  • Not following you here: why would HKG-YYZ-PVG (or whatever) be any cheaper than HKG-YYZ return? Usually an open jaw is slightly more expensive than a simple return. – jpatokal Dec 15 '14 at 6:00
  • Not always, by far... sometimes yes, sometimes no. As I said: picking a good date for the fake return is a better savings but sometimes you can get very odd prices on very odd routes. – chx Dec 15 '14 at 9:29

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