I read someone asking why travel bloggers seemed to book so
many one-way tickets. Often buying one-way tickets is expensive and many people
do not see the point in booking them so never even consider it as an option.
But there are some good reasons why travel bloggers, and others, book one-way tickets. Here are some reasons I book one-way tickets quite often:
- Some carriers offer reasonably priced one-way tickets. The aversion to one-way tickets often comes from the airlines’ egregious pricing practices, for example charging the same or more for a one-way ticket as they do for a return. But not all airlines do this. No frills carriers such as HK Express (reviewed here) and AirAsia (reviewed here), for example, often allow you to pay by segment at prices which mean a one-way is not priced punitively.
- They can help position for a cheaper flight from an outport. We explained that it can be cheaper to start journeys from ports other than a carrier’s main port in this post. So, for example, it can sometimes be dramatically cheaper to begin a Cathay journey from Kathmandu than to pick up the same itinerary starting in Hong Kong. If you do this, however, you first need to position yourself to the outport. Sometimes you can do this using miles but sometimes purchasing a one-way ticket for that purpose makes sense. (This presumes that you will drop the final leg of the itinerary, which can cause you problems with some airlines so it’s best to make sure you know what you are doing before you start doing this).
- You are not sure about whether you will fly the outbound leg. Let’s say that you have a business meeting in Shanghai and probably need to get there from Hong Kong. But there is a possibility you will first have a meeting in Beijing, so may need to travel to Shanghai from Beijing not directly from Hong Kong. If you book a return from Hong Kong to Shanghai, if you don’t fly the outbound leg, the return leg will automatically be cancelled. But if you book a one-way from Hong Kong to Shanghai, and a one way from Shanghai to Hong Kong, your flight from Shanghai to Hong Kong will still be available to you regardless of whether you took the Hong Kong to Shanghai flight, or nixed it at the last minute for a flight to Beijing and from there to Shanghai. In Hong Kong this is quite a common scenario for a lot of business travellers.
- Some carriers offer sporadic service so you need to mix and match. Let’s say you want to book a last minute weekend in Bangkok over a holiday period. Unfortunately there is a lot of price gouging on that route. A good travel agent could help you get the best pricing. But if you decide to search yourself using a tool like Google Flights, you may find that return tickets are costly. On that route, however, there are operators like Royal Jordanian and Egypt Air that do not fly every day. So for a specific set of dates, two one way tickets on different airlines may be cheaper than a return ticket. Online search tools can often help you pull up such pricing, but you may need to specify that one-way tickets are acceptable.
- You don’t want to start and leave from the same place. In airline parlance this an “open jaw” ticket: flying into one city and out of another. This is essential for many trips. For example, imagine taking a long-distance train journey like the Trans-Siberian. You may want to fly into Moscow to start your journey, but you are unlikely to want to take the train eastwards for a week then take it back to Moscow just to catch a return flight. Airlines with big networks, such as Turkish and (in Asia) Korean Air can often provide an open jaw ticket to suit such a need although it may involve considerable backtracking. Alternatively, two one way tickets can be an easier way to plan the trip.
- You want flexibility. If you want to hit the road without a firm plan, a one way ticket can also be the best choice. If you do that, however, remember that some countries will ask you for proof of onward travel. For example, when I tried to check in for a Vietnam Airlines flight from Tokyo to Vietnam, the airline would not let me checkin until I showed a confirmed ticket out of Vietnam.
- You will mix different modes of transport. From Hong Kong, there are lots of great places you can reach by train or other modes of transport, from China to Thailand. Sometimes the most time efficient itinerary involves one leg by air and then the other by train, bus, sea, cycle or even on foot.
Feel free to add your own reasons below!