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Penalty for Using Only Outbound Leg of Round Trip Ticket

My daughter is moving back to the USA from Japan after several years there. A round trip ticket is $1,000. Meanwhile, a one way is $4,000. Is there any sort of penalty if she were to use the first leg only? For instance, would the airline penalize a her when she books travel at a later time? Thank you.

Posted by
14 posts

I looked up the fares on United: Tokyo to Sacramento or San Francisco. She has a short time frame due to VISA expiration so she is not able to purchase very far in advance.

Posted by
6236 posts

I'm not sure I understand your post. Wouldn't your daughter be buying a one-way (as opposed to round-trip) ticket anyway? Isn't 1k < 4k?

Posted by
17089 posts

Go to a schedule-aggregator website like Google Flights. Don't tie yourself to one specific airline. I bet there are one-way fares much lower than $4000.

Posted by
6236 posts

Ok, then I think you meant that a round-trip ticket is 1k and a one-way is 4k (the opposite of your post)
Didn't she get to Japan on a one-way ticket, and now has to buy the second one to get back?

Posted by
14 posts

Agnes: She would purchase a one way if she finds a decent price. Initial review with United showed a startlingly high difference as stated in my orginal post. If she determines she has to purchase a one-way ticket, she may have to fly to LA and catch a Southwest hop up to Sacramento as prices to/from Japan are much more reasonable out of Southern CA.

Posted by
14 posts

Agnes: Thank you. I had the numbers reversed. Yes she purchased a one-way three years ago when she moved there.

Posted by
14 posts

acraven: WOW! Thanks so much. Initial check found prices I didn't know were possible. Of course I haven't looked at the details of the flights, but skim of flight times indicate some of them are direct flights.

Posted by
6236 posts

she may have to fly to LA and catch a Southwest hop up to Sacramento
as prices to/from Japan are much more reasonable out of Southern CA

That sounds like the most reasonable option. Flying into LAX or SFO will be cheaper than a smaller airport like Sacramento.

Posted by
14 posts

SFO is also incredibly pricey. It's very strange as Asian locations are economical out of LAX as opposed to SFO. Sacramento feeds to SFO before heading to Asia, so the prices are about the same.

Posted by
6236 posts

LAX is bigger, serves more passengers, and has more competition (also, I don't know about differences in landing fees)

In answer to your question, buying a ticket for a leg that one doesn't intend to use is a violation of fare rules. The practice is called hidden ticketing.

Posted by
4701 posts

Yes, this is a violation of the airline's rules. If her Japan visa is expiring, it might even cause trouble when she checks in, since they would see she can't return on the ticket "as bought." (although I've never been in a foreign country when I bought an international ticket.) But there is a non-zero risk that the airline will either pursue her or perhaps even charge her credit card for the difference. I have never tried to do this, but you are not the first person to ask this question on this newsboard. How come she isn't asking us?

Posted by
14 posts

She isn't asking as she doesn't know this site exists as her focus has not yet been Europe. Having left Japan a few times, I can tell you that all they care about is that you are departing within your allowed time period. There are a variety of penalties that may/may not be imposed if one overstays the allowance.

Posted by
17089 posts

Do be careful about the fare class when looking at prices. Basic Economy (which I guess is called different things by different airlines) is common for flights from North America to Europe. I don't know whether you'll run into that on a trip back from Asia, but Basic Economy allows no checked baggage, probably no seat selection, etc. I assume your daughter will have substantial luggage, so Basic Economy might cost her more than regular Economy by the time she gets herself and all her luggage onto a plane.

Posted by
350 posts

A similar thing has happened to us, unintentionally, and there were no consequences. I did cancel it before the date of the flight, which felt very weird. Living abroad, you buy that RT ticket for months and months ahead and sometimes things change to where you can't use the return. Sometimes the change fee makes the change more expensive than just buying a new ticket. I have also paid TWO change fees on a ticket. That was painful but my son's exam dates kept changing.

Posted by
1217 posts

A significant schedule change (generally more than 90-120 minutes or a connection that would be less than the airline's minimum legal connection time) also triggers the option to refund or reschedule the parts of the ticket that have not been flown yet, so I agree with the idea of taking the furthest away return flight in the hope that there will be a schedule change between now and then that would let you cancel and even get a little money back.

Posted by
996 posts

Dear OP -

First off, I have no problem with you asking a question on behalf of a family member. I often have questions from family to which I do not know the answer, but I try to find out a direction in which to point them to find an answer. When it comes to travel, the RS forum as well as the FlyerTalk forms are excellent sources of information.

I hope that your daughter will be able to find a cheaper one way flight, but if she doesn't the possible penalties may vary depending on the airline and what status (if any) she has with them. If a flyer forfeits a leg of a flight, then they lose the worth of that segment of the ticket. If a flyer does this frequently, certain airlines may penalize/restrict this person's ability to book flights. I've never had this happen as I always get on my flights, but I've read about this on the FlyerTalk forums.

As someone else pointed out, if she has significant luggage it may be better in the long run to buy a slightly more expensive ticket which covers more luggage. OR she may wish to ship it home another way.

Whatever happens, I hope she has a safe return home.

Posted by
9450 posts

Sadly many foreign carriers still penalize for one-way tickets. I saw that on Condor when we moved back from Italy. The round trip from FRA to SEA was half of what one-way was. I did buy one-way tickets and threw away the return. There were no questions asked. And we had luggage (not a lot) and a cat along with us and an expiring permesso di soggiorno which was our permission to live in Italy.

Posted by
3311 posts

I'm confused. Where is she leaving from? And when is she leaving?

I just used Google Flights to test this: 1 way, Tokyo to Sacramento, March 2. There were lots of results under $1000 for that flight.

Both Delta and American have that flight with a stop at LAX for $940. Both are book with the airline fares. Both have 1 free carry on and 2 free checked bags.

There are cheaper fares, but they seem to have more than one stop and are sold by agencies (which don't include baggage fees), not the airlines themselves.

And yes, the first United flight to show was over $5400! I'd say that UA is not your best choice for this flight.

Edited to add: I also checked for Monday, February 10 and the prices were very similar, including the $$$$$ ones for UA.

Go to Google Flights and take a look. Be sure to click on the Stops button and choose One Stop.

Posted by
8715 posts

Flights two weeks from now from Tokyo to LAX, one way, on American or Delta are $822. (That fare includes one checked bag and free seat selection.)

One way flights on United the same day are $4300.

Posted by
14 posts

Lo: Yes, thank you. I saw the same thing. Another poster was kind enough to also mention the Google search a bit earlier and I was delighted to see the prices. I posted the question as my daughter called and shared the United costs. I've made two trips to visit her and her original flight to move there were all United at very good prices, so we we started there.

We knew there had to be other airlines and despite all the travel we've both done, have never used the Google search. (I wonder how much money I've wasted.) I would have never guessed some of the airlines with flights from Tokyo to the USA that popped up on the Google search.

Now here's one more bit of trivia. We haven't checked for this trip, but a year ago my daugther was considering coming home for a visit. When looking at a round trip ticket Tokyo - USA - Tokyo using my USA IP address I had a totally different price that what she was quoted when pulling up the exact same flights through her Japan based IP. We were stunned.

Posted by
5544 posts

Travelocity Tokyo to SFO one way assuming April 15:
https://www.travelocity.com/Flights
China Air with one stop Taipei (China Air is the Nationalist national airline:

6:20pm - 8:00pm
China Airlines
Fair Flights (5.6/10)

17h 40m (1 stop)
Available amenities Wi-Fi, Entertainment, and Power information
Departure airport: NRT - 2h 25m in TPE Layover 2h 25m in TPEArrival airport:- SFO
One way price for 1 traveler, including taxes and fees: $620.85

Carry on: No fee up to 7 kg
1st checked bag: No fee up to 23 kg
2nd checked bag: No fee up to 23 kg

6:20pm to 9:10pm 3h 50m
Tokyo to Taipei
Narita Intl. (NRT) to Taoyuan Intl. (TPE)
China Airlines 105
Economy / Coach (R)
Airbus A330-300 | Meal

layover 2h 25m stop Taipei (TPE)

11:35pm to 8:00pm 11h 25m
Taipei to San Francisco
Taoyuan Intl. (TPE) to San Francisco Intl. (SFO)
China Airlines 4
Economy / Coach (H)
BOEING 777-300ER | Meal

Posted by
14 posts

Thanks so much to all. I, too, have seen the good news on flights.

My two trips to visit her as well has her original flight to move there were all on United so she automatically started there. We knew there had to be other options. I have never used the Google search in all my many trips which causes me to wonder if I have wasted money. I was surprised to see the number of airlines that service Tokyo-USA. I wouldn't have guessed some of them (i.e. Alaska Air).

Now here's a bit of trivia for all you travel buffs. A year ago my daughter was considering a visit home. We both checked flights/prices. I found a great flight/price and shared it with her. Interestlingly when she typed in the exact same information, while the flights appeared, the prices were different. The only difference was I was using a USA IP address and she was using a Japanese IP address. It will be interesting to see if something similar happens this time.

Posted by
14 posts

I appreciate the suggestion on China Air, but, at this time, it's not very appealing not just due to the corona virus, but also due to the additional layover. A direct flight is 12.5 hours which is bad enough. Having said that, if a person is on a real tight budget, such flights do make travel a reality rather than a dream.

Posted by
360 posts

Interestlingly when she typed in the exact same information, while the
flights appeared, the prices were different. The only difference was I
was using a USA IP address and she was using a Japanese IP address. It
will be interesting to see if something similar happens this time.

It's a surprising thing to learn, isn't it? As I have come to learn, it's fairly common that airline prices (even for the same itinerary) will vary based on point of sale.

Sometimes you can take advantage of the differences and sometimes you cannot. The difference often becomes moot because a common scenario will be that the airline website detects where you are based on your IP address and shows you fares based on the corresponding point of sale (say, Japan), but when you go to pay and use a credit card with a billing address in another country (say, the US), the website will re-price the itinerary using a US point of sale.

It's hard to say universally what will happen, because airlines determine the point of sale differently (some use the billing address of the credit card, some use the point of origin for an itinerary, some depend on the IP address) and it's hard to know what you'll get until you actually get to the payment phase.

Posted by
14 posts

Exactly. That's what happened. Went in to pay and the price disappeared. I called stateside and said we wanted the price showing up in the US...no such luck. I was quite suprised.

Posted by
5544 posts

I called stateside and said we wanted the price showing up in the US...no such luck. I was quite suprised.

Just wondering if you booked the Japan to USA ticket from a stateside computer using an issued in the US credit card, would you get the US price for travel starting from Japan and ending in the States?

Posted by
14 posts

We are going to book within the next ten days: (1) round trip US-Japan-US and (1) one-way Japan-US. We plan to Skype as we do so to see what rates appear on both ends. In answer to your specific question, we did try and punk the system by doing just what you suggested a year ago, but were still unable to make the purchase. They seem to have locked down such work arounds.

Posted by
9450 posts

If you book US to Japan to US and do not use the outbound US to Japan segment they will cancel the return. You could book Japan to US to Japan and not have a problem because she would take the outbound flight and dispose of the return.

Posted by
14 posts

Laurel: Not to worry. I'm traveling to Japan, hence the round trip US-Japan-US ticket. My daughter, and the original point for the post, is returning to the US after a several years abroad, hence the one way Japan-US.