Sunday, March 15, 2009

Book One-way Airline Reservations vs. Round-trip

US Airways changed their pricing scheme several months ago: They no longer offer lower fares for round-trip travel. Because they charge a fee for changing reservations and because last-minute fares are often higher, travelers should consider booking individual one-way reservations instead of round-trip or multi-segment itineraries.

This rule applies to any airline that prices trips as the sum of as individual origin-destination trips - and is especially important for cheap flights.

Here's why:

1. US Airways now prices flights on an individual origin-destination trip basis, without any discounts for round-trips (or Saturday night stay-overs, or any other factor involving combination of origin-destination trips).

2. US Airways charges a $150 change fee for changing a reservation.

3. If you miss flying a segment of a reservation, US Airways (like all airlines) cancels the rest of your reservation.

4. If the trips are booked together as one reservation and you have to change a segment, that will require a re-pricing of the whole itinerary at the time of the change. If that's done near the flight date, it may result in a much higher total fare.

5. If the trips are all booked individually, you can keep the unchanged trips at their original fare; not using any individual segment will not affect the other reservations. So, if you have to change or not fly any segment of a reservation, it may be cheaper to just throw away the original ticket for that segment and pay for a new ticket for the segment than pay the change fee to recoup the fare paid for that segment.

Be sure to check that the sum of individual one-trip tickets is the same as a round-trip ticket for your planned itinerary. It may take a few more minutes to do this checking and book individual trips, but when you have to change a segment, it could save a lot of money!


  1. Low-fare airlines are now doing a lot of things to charge more. Take AirTran for example, you have to pay extra for a seat that has more leg room, or a second piece of your luggage. I cannot argue too much about this, because they only charge as little as $79 for a one-way none-stop ticket between NY and Orlando. The taxi fare between my home and the airport costs $50. Moreover, AirTran offers upgrade from coach class to business class for $75 only. I found it a great bargain.

  2. Yes, with all these changes in airfare policies, travelers have to get rid of old habits and attitudes that may not make any sense anymore.

  3. NY to London: $135!
    This is not by any low-fare airline, but Lufthansa! See:

  4. This is not at all my experience with US airways. Actually today I tried to purchase a one way ticket from Columbus, OH to Washington DC. Their price was listed at $555 for the one way fare.

    When I try to purchase a round trip ticket - the cost drops to $249 dollars. Their website shows that the cost for the Columbus-Washington trip is only $99 if I were to fly to first leg with them.

    This is a ridiculous difference in prices and very inconsistent with your position in your post.

  5. The airlines appear to be changing their ticketing pricing and policies very frequently. The basic message is that we should all checkout various ticketing schemes to find the best pricing, with an eye on penalties. With the Internet, this is reasonably easy to do, though it all takes time.

  6. > 3. If you miss flying a segment of a
    > reservation, US Airways (like all airlines)
    > cancels the rest of your reservation.

    Southwest round trip allows return leg even if the original was missed.