This question comes from this accepted answer and is supposed to clarify this answer, which states that the airline is getting paid for the flight, which is booked via third party, when you check in.

However there was a discussion in comments whether this applies to all segments, and all airlines on the ticket, or only for the flights one checked in.

So the question:

If I book a round-trip flight through a third party, with forward leg on KLM and return leg on Delta, at which points KLM and Delta are being paid?

Again, this answer says "at check-in" but it is unclear whether both airlines are paid on first check-in, or each airline is being paid at each check-in.

Applied to travel, this is important to understand whether you should check in for a return leg on a throwaway ticket or not.

  • 2
    Do you know of any company that issues tickets without being paid for them at that same moment?
    – SJuan76
    Dec 28, 2016 at 12:51
  • I think the important point of an answer you link is the distinction between a selling airline and an operating airline. Here you seem to mix both: are KLM and Delta the selling airlines or the operating airlines of your flight?
    – Vince
    Dec 28, 2016 at 15:29
  • @pnuts: yes, it was pointed out in discussion that we have two conflicting accepted answers. This is why I posted the question, to find out which one is correct.
    – George Y.
    Dec 28, 2016 at 22:45
  • @SJuan76: you can buy a ticket on Delta on itinerary, where all flights operate by AirFrance and KLM. Delta is getting paid immediately, but when do AF and KL get paid?
    – George Y.
    Dec 28, 2016 at 22:47
  • 4
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's a question about inter-airline contracts, not travel.
    – JonathanReez
    Dec 29, 2016 at 7:30

1 Answer 1


Simple answer, the money belongs to the airline when you fly. But getting 'paid' is a process that's more complicated than outward appearance.

Not considering any of the many potential commercial variations, the above example would go like this:

  1. Passenger books with and pays Expedia.
  2. Expedia pays Delta, the ticketing carrier, who then pays Expedia their commission. But Delta doesn't count the money yet, it's set aside.
  3. After you fly to AMS, Delta pays KLM for flying you there.
  4. When you fly back from AMS, Delta pays itself for flying you back.

In the above example, there are at least 3/4 different payments processed at different stages of the journey.

Very simply:

  • The airline gets the money when you pay the fare.
  • The airline gets the revenue when you fly.

The airline does not get paid when the passenger checks in. A significant reason is there is still no guarantee the passenger will actually fly. So, the service is not rendered. Check in is a mostly an operational process, not financial.

Also keep in mind, even after check in, you can get bumped, reaccommodated, the flight cancelled, etc.

There's a whole settlement process that takes place post flight where tickets and payments are sorted out. Only then is the airline fully paid for the service.

Also keep in mind, there's a difference, accounting wise, between getting paid, having the money and recording the revenue. So, when you buy the ticket, the airline gets the money in house so they've been 'paid' but the money isn't really theirs yet until the service is performed, meaning the flight or whatever else you bought.

  • So If I book a round-trip flight through a third party, with forward leg on KLM and return leg on Delta, at which points KLM and Delta are being paid? - you said "not at check in", but when?
    – George Y.
    Dec 28, 2016 at 22:49
  • @GeorgeY. Really, this is what upsets me. The answer is quite complicated but I get downvoted because people don't understand the nuances and think because they sent money, that means someone got paid. In this case, 'paid' has maybe three different meanings, all legitimate. You pay the booking agent, often the airline, when you book, but they don't actually count the money until you fly. That's when they count it as getting paid.
    – DTRT
    Dec 29, 2016 at 1:34
  • I didn't downvote it, but I have hard time to understand your answer, besides "it is complicated". Well, I know it is complicated, or I wouldn't ask this. But it couldn't be THAT complicated, as this is a very straightforward case, which airlines experience many times a year.
    – George Y.
    Dec 29, 2016 at 3:03
  • @GeorgeY. Edited. Is that more clear?
    – DTRT
    Dec 29, 2016 at 15:59
  • Yes, it is more clear. However what happens if the ticketing carrier is KLM, and return is on Delta and I throw away return? Is KLM paid or not? Or is Delta keeping this money?
    – George Y.
    Dec 29, 2016 at 22:25

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