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Round trip vs one way

I have read on this forum that these days it is not neccessarily cheaper to book round trip versus one way. Well, I recently experienced the opposite and wonder if anyone else has come across this. I originally booked a one way flight from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro on KLM on July 18 and the price was $1000 per person. Total $2,000 (yes, I thougth that was high, but we really wanted that flight as it is non stop).
Today, we firmed up our plans and so I was pricing out a flight from Entebbe to Amsterdam and was playing around and it was actually a bit cheaper to book a round trip than the one way I had originally booked. So now, we are booked on KLM from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro on July 22 and returning from Entebbe to Amsterdam on August 3 and the price came out to 1,964.00. Yet, if you look today for the one way flight from AMS to JRO on July 18th, it is still priced at over $800pp,
I dunno why. (shrugging shoulders).

Posted by
4787 posts

Have you priced this out not starting at Amsterdam, but starting at your home airport? Things may have changed, but a few years ago I found it was the same price to fly Seattle to Kigali through Amerstdm with long (a few days) layovers as it was to just fly the Seattle to Amsterdam round trip.

Posted by
2070 posts

Carol, KLM does not fly from Anchorage. Plus, we wanted a few days in Amsterdam to adjust to jet lag.

Posted by
1164 posts

I am obsessive about finding flights on a tight budget and have never seen a cheaper 2x one way version than RT. I would rather get one way tickets, but have never found them cheaper.

Posted by
4211 posts

I've never found one-way tickets cheaper, but I often find them to be the same as the round trip or multicity.

A bit unrelated to your post, but lately I've been adding an additional leg to a trip and finding it just a bit more costly than the original round trip. Twice now I've added a 4-5 day stop in Seattle on a Minneapolis to Honolulu ticket and its been about $20 more.

Posted by
6522 posts

diveloonie, the only times I recall people saying they found it cheaper to buy 2 one-way vs roundtrip to and from one city, was when there were budget airline options. Maybe you're thinking multi-city approach?

Posted by
5403 posts

Flights are priced by algorithms, not humans -- so don't expect prices to be rational. While flight prices may sometimes appear to have some human-understandable logic behind them, just as often they defy explanation.

If you look at a route that goes from A to B, that often costs more (sometimes a LOT more) than flying from A to B to C, or from C to A to B (where the A to B leg is on the exact same airline and even the same airplane). This leads to various tricks (eg skip-lagging, buying a ticker from A to B to C and then just not flying the B to C leg) and other exploits. The airlines do not look kindly on such tricks, and will cancel the rest of your itinerary (and possibly take other retaliatory measures against those they suspect of jumping though such loopholes).

Flight prices are pretty inscrutable. Good luck to anyone who seeks to really understand why prices are what they are. (And if paying with frequent flyer miles, it's sometimes even more bizarro.)

Tammy, you also might (if you haven't already) take a look at prices from SEA or other larger cities (rather than from ANC) and see if that yields any better/different prices/options. If the price is different enough, it might justify the hop down to Seattle or other jumping-off place via Chester.

Posted by
21659 posts

.*..have never seen a cheaper 2x one way version than RT. I would rather get one way tickets, but have never found them cheaper.....* I think the mistake that is being made is that your are pricing/booking two independent, one-way tickets. That does tend to be more expensive -- although a couple of times I have found it to be cheaper. You should be looking at open jaw/multi cities tickets --- fly into one city and come home from another on the SAME reservation. It is still a round trip ticket in the eyes of the airline. We have rarely found open jaw tickets to be more expensive and often find they are cheaper. And as someone mentioned sometimes a three legged or four legged flight on the same ticket can be very reasonable. The key is having all the flights on the same reservation. It has worked well for us prior to the pandemic and I hope it works when we get to some sense of normal next year.

Posted by
13402 posts

Frank, you are correct. It may vary by airline too.

In August my daughter and I went to Europe. I got about a 10 day head start on her but we returned on the same flight together.

Her flight was Houston (IAH) - Istanbul (IST) and then a month later IST back to IAH
My flight was IAH - IST - KYIV (KBP) then a few days later Odesa (ODS) to IST and then a month later IST back to IAH?

Which ticket do yoiu think was cheaper? Mine of course.

My ticket to Budapest this coming March was cheaper like this than just a RT to Budapest (BUD)
IAH to BUD

then 3 weeks later BUD to KBP
and then a week later Kharkiv (HRK) to IAH.

You just got to keep playing with dates and destinations. Google Flights is in my mind the best resource for doing the research, then I book through the carrier.

Posted by
21659 posts

You simply have to check every option. ----- and frequently. The one exception we made is booking ff, business class tickets. Those we almost always book as two one way tickets. They are almost always the same price as a RT but we don't book the return trip until the week before we return when the business class tickets open up.

Posted by
4211 posts

I mostly will agree with Frank, however, I have booked one way tickets on separate itineraries that are equivalent to the cost of the round trip ticket. There are times when we know what we need for inbound or outbound and do not know or want to commit to the other so we've started to book the one way ticket when we know days/times. I would say, that I've only been seeing this the last year or so, because in the past, we haven't had the need, thus haven't done the research.

I believe the original or more recent post related to this originated with me, because I wanted to let forum members know that they need not have all the details of a trip worked out to purchase part of the air travel.

Additionally, for me, it can save money, because if I wait until I know all the details, airfares can go up.

Posted by
2070 posts

Thanks for all the responses so far. I agree I should not be applying logic to my question! I do use google flights a lot, but find that the great price I see there is not actually the price on the airlines website. Does anyone else experience this?

Posted by
20821 posts

I've seen final numbers be a bit different, but I've never run into a major difference. Fares are tweaked all the time, though, so stability shouldn't be expected.

In 2018 i set up a fare tracker and didn't disable it after I bought the ticket at between $800 and $900. I received reports of repeated adjustments between approximately the price I paid and $1300+. That happened at least four times. That was for a multi-city trip into either Budapest (my ultimate destination) or Munich (which I had originally considered) and home from London-LHR.

Posted by
1907 posts

One suggestion is to use Flight Aware, and make sure all the flights are currently being flown. Maybe if the one-way flight really isn't flying, you could get a refund????
Safe travels!

Posted by
3578 posts

Some airlines price tickets only as one-way: Frontier, Southwest, Icelandair, Condor, Sun Country are some examples, and they never offer a RT discount.

Normally on the bigger legacy carriers there is a RT discount, however in many markets where they are competing with airlines that offer one-way pricing-- in those cases the legacy airlines will match that. For example for me all airlines flying to Dulles or BWI offer one-way pricing.

Posted by
5403 posts

If you really want to get down in the weeds, there are yet more variables:

Some airlines charge greater fees (that is, not the "ticket" cost itself, but some ancillary fees the airline charges on top of the ticket cost, plus actual required fees and taxes) for one-ways, but it depends on which way you are going (where you flight originates from). For example, I've seen one-way flights on Delta that are much cheaper if it's a flight from North America to Europe, rather than the exact same one-way flight going the other way, starting in Europe and flying to North America.

Specifically, taxes and other government-mandated fees (that are rolled into the price you see) are different depending on if you are arriving or departing at many airports. So the fees for going A to B will be different if going from B to A. The UK and London Heathrow are the most obvious example (I believe LHR may have the highest taxes and fees of any airport in the world, and those taxes/fees are raised regularly). You can often save some money by flying in to LHR but flying home from someplace outside the UK (Dublin is a favorite).

The "fees" imposed on business class and first class tickets can be significant, and in some case also vary tremendously based on a weird distance-based formula (fly from LHR to Dublin in business class and it'll ding your wallet; fly from LHR to Los Angeles in business class and it'll take a large bite). These fees are imposed both on paid flights and also when you redeem miles/points for flights; when it's a "paid" flight they just roll the fees into the cost, on an reward flight they're more obvious (since most people think of award flights as "free" -- sometimes you need to prepare for serious sticker shock, addition to the miles).

There are also tricks for getting a "free" stopover (or two) on a multi-city itinerary that may work out in your favor. For example, I recently booked a trip to Istanbul and Malta (using frequent flyer miles). The price for three one-ways (Seattle to Istanbul, Istanbul to Malta, Malta back to Seattle) wasn't awful (using miles). But I found I could get the same flights for less by booking it as a one-way from Seattle to Malta, with a 5-day "stopover" in Istanbul, and then a separate ticket for a one-way home from Malta to Seattle. But then I tried booking it all as a single multi-city itinerary (Seattle-Istanbul-Malta-Seattle) and it was even less -- the flight from Istanbul to Malta was free (and the entire multi-city itinerary was less than it would have cost just to go from Seattle to Istanbul and back, skipping Malta entirely). Go figure.

The rules for "free stopovers" are complicated and completely non-logical (and every airline uses a different algorithm, so what works on one will not work on any other), so I've given up trying to predict pricing, and I just try things. It's definitely worth trying creative combinations, and seeing what the flight-pricing roulette wheel will offer you. If you don't like what the algorithm spits out, try another spin and see what comes up.