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Round trip or separate tickets?

We are finally getting around to booking airline tickets for our August/September trip; flying into Rome and return from Zurich. It looks like we will probably fly United to Rome, with a return on Delta. Just wondering, is it better to book a roundtrip ticket or should we do 2 separate tickets, since we will be dealing with two separate carriers? What are your thoughts/opinon?

Posted by
8603 posts

Generally one way tickets, US-Europe, are outrageou$. I have seen instance where the one way ticket cost MORE than a r/t ticket. The only time to buy one-way tickets is if you are using FF miles. What I have found it the r/t is twice a one way.

Multi-ctiy ( aka open jaw) is what you should be looking at.

Posted by
454 posts

Have you actually attempted to price out the tickets? You will almost certainly find that (1) you cannot book United and Delta tickets in one single purchase, at least on airline websites (and I strongly recommend avoiding any third-party sites that might try to sell you such a ticket) and (2) that the one-way cash fares are exorbitantly expensive.

I, like joe32f, recommend an open jaw ticket.

Posted by
437 posts

I don't know what the difference is between "one-way" and "open-jaw." Please explain.
Right now, looking at "one-way" on Google flights, flights are sort of reasonable.
My main concern is being able to select our seats when we purchase our tickets. We usually purchase seats "one up" from basic economy, for more legroom. On one of our trips, booked through United, we flew Lufthansa back home. We were NOT able to select seats (wanted Comfort plus), until we actually got to the airport. By then, there were no Comfort seats...and our only choice of 2-seats together, was at the back of the plane, non-reclining seats! Not good for a "white-knuckle flyer....me."

Posted by
13053 posts

“Open Jaw” means doing exactly what you want to do: fly from Oregon to Rome, then from Zurich back to Oregon. The “jaw” is open between Rome and Zurich—-you will travel between them separately from your airline ticket. To book this combination as a single ticket, you use the “multi-city” function on the airline booking page. But that means booking through a single airline, as you did when you ended up with United one way and Lufthansa the other ( they are codeshare partners and can be booked on each other’s websites). The Lufthansa flight probably had a United flight number as well as a Lufthansa one. There may have been a way to choose your seats on Lufthansa that was not revealed to you.

Sometimes a third party booking site like Expedia will put together two different airlines to get such an itinerary on a single ticket. This might be what you saw on Google Flights. Or did you actually price it as two separate one-way trips?

If the price looks OK to you, there is nothing wrong with 2 one-way flights in most cases. We fly to Europe and back that way all the time when we book with miles. But for revenue (paid) tickets, it is usually more expensive.

Posted by
711 posts

Carol,
One way tickets are just that they get you from A to B. An open-jaw or multi-city ticket will get you from A to B then C to A. For example: fly from Chicago to Rome then Zurich to Chicago. Do not buy a "one-way" ticket unless you are purchasing the tickets with airline points. One-way tickets are typically very pricey. I would also highly encourage you to book directly with the major airlines. Third-party sites such as Expedia are essentially a middle man and if you need to change or cancel a flight it makes things much more complicated. If you search for flights on say Delta or American or United, go to "advanced search" or multi-city and it will give you additional boxes to add each city then it will calculate a price.

As for your second question, airlines co-share with other European airlines. For instance, Delta code-shares with Virgin Atlantic, KLM, etc, if you select an itinerary with a code-share airline you will not always be able to select your seats until close to the flight time. If this is an issue, only select flights that are actually on a Delta plane. Each itinerary will give you the airline information usually found under the flight time (aircraft type and airline will be in the small print).

Hope this helps.

Margaret

Posted by
437 posts

Lola, Margaret: Thanks, for taking time to explain. I guess we fly "open-jaw" a lot; did not know that what what it was called. And, we always book directly with the airline; never through a third-party. I just use Google Flights to search for possible favorable flights.
...but I'm still hesitant to book through United, and have a flight with Lufthansa. On that one particular trip, we thought we had the "code," but didn't. We talked to both someone at United as well as Lufthansa. And when we did a "search" we found out it was impossible.
We'll see what happens. We probably have to book sooner rather than later, since gas prices are set to rise!

Posted by
8603 posts

Example of a 'multi city' booking as a single booking MFR-FCO, ZRH-MFR

Flight 1

flight number DL39441, DL348, DL65892
departure airport code MFR To arrival airport code FCO

THU, JUN 16
departure time 5:05am-arrival time 7:35am
number of stops:2 stops, journey duration 17h 30m
departs 5:05 am
departs from
MFR
journey duration 1h 25m
arrive
SEA
arrives on 6:30 am

45min
Layover
departs 7:15 am from
SEA
journey duration 5h 22m
arrive JFK
1h 28min
Layover (JFK) ,
departs 5:05 pm from
JFK
journey duration 8h 30m
FCO
Rome, Italy

Flight 2

flight number DL53, DL460, DL39171
departure airport code ZRH To arrival airport code MFR
THU, JUN 30
departs on 1:40 pm
departs from
ZRH
journey duration 9h 10m
to JFK
arrives on 4:50
1h 55min
Layover
JFK , This is a connecting flight in JFK
departs 6:45 pm from
JFK
journey duration 6h 22m
arrive
SEA
arrives on 10:07 pm
52min
Layover
Seattle, WA (SEA) , This is a connecting flight in SEA
departs 10:59 pm from
SEA
1h 20m to
MFR
Medford, OR

https://www.delta.com
You can go to the Delta site and select 'multi city'

You indicate "Southern Ore" as your location, so picked Medford to create the example

EDIT- Tidied up the post and eliminated useless info

Posted by
8390 posts

Carol, That experience being stuck in the back row sounds awful. Considering the difficulties you have had getting flights that allow you to reserve the comfort level you need, have you considered using a travel agent? I mean a real human in a building that you can talk to. AAA has travel agents. That's what I would do if I wasn't sure before spending the money. At the price of these tickets, you don't want to be stuck sitting up against the toilet.

Posted by
218 posts

@Carol: Once you have booked flights with United you should be able to select a seat on Lufthansa. Bear in mind Lufthansa charges for seat selection in economy(!). Back in early 2020 they charged $60. I had to call and give the Lufthansa booking code, which was noted in the booking confirmation from United. Previously, back in 2015, I called United and they transferred me to Lufthansa and wasn't charged, but those days are gone, I think.

United does fly direct EWR to/from both Rome and Zurich, which would eliminate the codeshare issue. Pricing from your home city may be another issue.

Posted by
230 posts

I fly open jaw to Europe a lot, but I book the same airline for the transatlantic legs (US to London / Paris to US, or vice versa), and in that trip example, I have Eurostar tickets to show anyone in the UK or France who questions my onward transit. So my transatlantic flights are on, say, United, or Delta, or American, round trip, and I avoid the issue with higher cost one way tickets and never encounter any questions in Europe. Within Europe, you have options like EasyJet to scoot around the continent.

Posted by
3654 posts

It's unfortunately a persistent myth that one-way tickets are more expensive in every case, you have to price it out and see what comes up. There's no rule of traveling that says open jaw is cheaper than 2 one-ways. I have combined one-way cash fares on different airlines that worked out to be cheaper than one ticket, into Copenhagen home from Frankfurt, for example.

Posted by
4249 posts

While I use google flights, skyscanner, etc. to explore prices, I always book directly with the airline. In the last 5 years, I have been purchasing one-way tickets (Delta most often, sometimes United) in certain instances and they've never been more expensive than a round trip. I know this because I price out all the options. If you would like to fly different airlines for your trip, I would certainly book each ticket with the specific airline, thus one-way tickets. I would much prefer this over booking thru a third party to gain a round trip ticket of sorts.

A really great use of one-way tickets for our family is when we know date and time for one part of the journey but do not yet have enough information for the other piece. Rather than wait and lose out on a good price, we will book one leg of the trip. An, example is when my daughter knows when she will want to fly back to school, but doesn't yet know when she can leave due to final schedules, etc.

Lately, I've been using multicity quite a bit. I use it for Europe when I want to fly open jaw (into one city and out of another). I also have been using multicity to connect trips for a huge savings on airfare. For example, I have an upcoming trip to Hawaii to visit my daughter. My son and his family live in Seattle. For $20 more, I added a 4 day stop to visit my son. So it ends up to be 3 different flights. (MSP to Seatac, Seatac to Kauai, Kauai to home) So, in this particular situation, yes, 3 one way tickets would definitely be more expensive than multicity pricing.

Posted by
8766 posts

I haven’t read all of the replies, but I know you were directed to look at multi-city flights, which what you want. If you book on United and you fly on a code share airline, such as Lufthansa, you can reserve seats in advance. They may charge for them. The Lufthansa confirmation code is what you need, and it’s different than the United code. I assume other carriers such as Delta does things the same with their parter airlines. If it doesn’t show the code share confirmation number call the airline that you booked the flights on and they can give it to you. Definitely book directly with the airline.

Posted by
5566 posts

Andrea is spot-on, above. When booking ANY airline flight, the key to your world is to know, and have handy, your "confirmation code" or "booking reference" or sometimes "PNR" (old terminology). Every airline has it's own term. Here's the important bits:

  • Airlines can ONLY use their own codes. They are generally "blind" to details on partner airlines. They may have some basic details (flight number, routing, times, etc.) but they can only see so far into the details. For important things, like picking or changing a seat, you usually need to code for the specific partner airline -- because only that airline's system can access the critical details, and for that, you need to be using that airline's system and have the code.
  • Often (though not always) the airline you booked your flights on (eg United) will display the booking code for their partner airline (eg Lufthansa). Log in, look at your flight booking, try to find the partner code. United is one of the better airlines about making this detail visible, but they have their limits (I've got a ticket booked through United next fall with legs on United, Turkish, SwissAir, and Air Canada...United shows me al the codes except SwissAir, to get that, I need to cal them). If you can't find the code for the airline you're actually flying on, you need to cal the booking airline and ask them for it.
  • It's true that booking two one-ways is not always cheaper than round-trip or multi-city. But in general, in my experience, booking a one-way from Europe to North America is most likely to be more expensive, often shockingly so. It also depends on the airline and city pair (IME, Delta is worst about slapping on stunningly high surcharges for westbound one-way flights). But, there's a lot of seeming random-ness involved, so you have to price out your options to know for sure.
Posted by
2162 posts

I'm not sure people on the forum have read the question correctly. She is talking about two seperate carriers, which I don't think you would be able to book on one airline website. However, in pricing out my own tickets this summer, I would agree that at least in my instance, the round trip flights are less than if I price one way!

Posted by
5566 posts

Well, United and Delta are competitors, and of course, a ticket on both ain't gonna happen.

There are three major airline "alliances". Not surprisingly, the "big 3" legacy US airlines -- United, Delta, American -- each are in one. Mixing airline alliances doesn't work (there are exceptions, based on one-off agreements between airlines, but there are none of those between United, Delta and American). They do not work together. You're either flying on a ticket with United + friends, Delta + friends, or American + friends. Not a mix of any two. Yes, there are some airlines that have partnerships with airlines in more than one alliance, but the "big 3" US legacy airlines don't mix with each other.

That said, airline partnerships are very useful, and we would all be greatly inconvenienced if you had to stick to just a single airline for a whole trip (even a one-way trip). The industry is built around the model of airline partners.

Posted by
437 posts

I appreciate all your thoughts on purchasing tickets for flight to Rome with return from Zurich. I guess we'll find out this weekend. We hope to invest time into finding a fare & time that works for us.
Bets, the thought of going through a Travel Agent never occurred to us. We are AAA members, so will keep that in mind IF we can't select our seats. Or maybe we'll just "hire Joe from Seattle" to find us a favorable fare and route.
In our family, I'm the researcher, planner, for trips, but when it comes to booking airline tickets, my husband does that. Don't know why, but might be because he is more proficient with the computer.
One thing I do know for sure: I will NOT choose a carrier or route if we can't make a seat selection...even if it costs a little more.
The Lufthansa flight I mentioned above was in 2017 and the plane was PACKED on the way home. Even though we had booked our flight months in advance, we were stuck in the back, middle 2 seats of a 4-seat row. And I'm the passenger that gets up hourly to walk and stretch my legs.
Andrea & David...we'll look for the key words, "confirmation code," or "booking reference."
I'll report back after we purchase tickets!

Posted by
834 posts

Carol, we have flown United from Houston to Zurich with a connection in Washington Dulles. I would think you would be able to book a flight with United, but will most likely have a stopover somewhere. We too booked a flight that we had to get the code to for Lufthansa to get the seats. We were able to after we purchased our tickets.

Posted by
3303 posts

You will find out that one-way tickets are horrifically expensive. I often do open-jaw itineraries either on the same airline or on code shares. I agree with you about selecting seats at the point of purchase.

Posted by
437 posts

I'm back to report that we booked airline tickets last night, after several hours of searching. Both of us on laptops; husband on airline sites and me on Googleflights + seat guru, finding/suggesting favorable flights. We originally found an Air Canada flight going. We ran into problems when we tried to book as one-way tickets, with return home from Zurich...prices were in CHF. Not a good idea.
Finally, husband found flights on Delta, connecting from our regional Medford airport, to Seattle, Schiphol, and Rome. Return, originating from Zurich, with same connecting cities. We have long lay-overs in Seattle, but don't mind. Time to stretch our legs. Once on a return through Seattle, it took hours to go through customs (5 planes landed at same time).
We were able to purchase Comfort + seats (extra legroom) so I am a happy traveler. And the price was the same as what we paid for our trip to Switzerland last year; booked through Road Scholar, which usually is slightly discounted.

Posted by
3303 posts

Is Road Scholar a third-party website in which you bought the tickets? I am unfamiliar with it which is why I ask.

Posted by
437 posts

Continental,
Road Scholar: They are a tour company, like Rick Steves, but have more tours worldwide as well as numerous tours in the United States. We booked a "Switzerland by Rail" tour with them last year (2021), as well as our flight. So...if the land tour was cancelled due to COVID, they would have taken care of cancelling our airfare also, without penalty.
In fact, there were numerous flight changes before our tour began (not favorable), and so about a month before our tour started, we were on the phone with them, and they routed us a better and slightly cheaper flight.

Posted by
5566 posts

We ran into problems when we tried to book as one-way tickets, with return home from Zurich...prices were in CHF. Not a good idea.

That should never be an issue.

Most airline websites make a guess about what language to use for you, and in what currency to display prices. Those can be easily changed. Their website typically peeks at where your web browser says you are located (or maybe where it sees you want to fly from) and sets those things appropriately (they can be, and often are, fooled by values returned by your computer, either deliberately or unknowingly). If you go to an airline and it's displaying in a language that's "wrong" for you, or in currency you don't use, you can almost always get that set correctly, you just need to find the place to tell it you want English and US dollars. So no need to switch airlines or flights because of that!

Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
4249 posts

I really feel like I need to stress that one way tickets are not necessarily more expensive. In my case, I have not seen a single situation in which the one way ticket was more expensive than the sum of the one ways. The only caveat is when you are going to multiple cities. (Like A to B, B to C and C to A) Then you want to do a multicity ticket. In order to find the best pricing for a multicity ticket, I often will price out one way tickets to determine the best days to fly. So, I have done a lot of fiddling around with airline pricing.

Perhaps, people are thinking of travel years ago, or when using non U.S. carriers, but please check out the prices on the one way tickets for yourself. I also know that some airlines, Southwest and Icelandair, for example, their fare searches are structured on the one way fares.

The information on this forum is quite excellent, but there are situations that a person should really verify and do their own research.

Posted by
21041 posts

I agree with Jules. Things do change over time (at least on occasion), and airfares are so very origin- and destination-specific.

I see comments all the time about how it won't cost more to fly into or home from Small City Y rather than Big City X. That's not been my experience (I'm often looking at an extra $500 just in one direction), but I'm in a decently major international air market; I think perhaps people living in secondary markets have to pay so much more to get nearly anywhere in Europe that the additional cost to get to a secondary European city is not very significant.

Each traveler really needs to do his own research.

Posted by
8390 posts

Well Congratulations! I'm glad you were able to get it done the way you wanted.

Posted by
218 posts

Updating: I just booked PDX-ORD-ZHR-FLR / FCO-ZHR-ORD-PDX with the international legs on Swiss. I was able to plug the United PNR (booking code) into the Swiss Air web site to find the Swiss PNR, find my booking, and select seats. For my premium cabin I was able to select seats for free, booking economy or basic economy may involve fees.

I now have (less than) 24 hours to get cold feet!