Pricing of single air tickets

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This topic contains 23 replies, has 12 voices, and was last updated by  Cedric_Statherby 11 Jul 2011
at 11:56

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  • Anonymous


    Can anyone explain to me the logic of pricing single air tickets? I am aware that it is often as cheap and sometimes cheaper to fly return rather than single, but I have just been given a quote that beggars belief.

    I need to fly from Zurich to Madrid. LX do the route, and will charge me the huge sum of CHF 1395 for a single ticket (cheapest available). But they will also sell me a return ticket – outward on the flight I want, return some time whenever – for CHF 269.

    Even by airline standards this raises the level of absurdity to new heights. A return ticket for less than 20% the price of a single?

    Can those wiser than me explain what the dire consequences are if I buy the return and simply don’t use the second leg? I really don’t care if I never use Swiss again as a consequence ….


    Swiss are something else when it comes to the one-way ticket. I’ve been quoted similar amounts when looking at one-ways between ZRH and LHR, so it’s not just unique to one route.

    If you don’t care about the consequences, then it doesn’t matter. Book your return flight and simply don’t use the return sector.

    What’s the worst that can happen? “Sorry officer, I missed my flight.”


    So are AA. internally. I needed to get from Syracuse to Boston to catch a flight to LHR at the last minute. This was priced in the $200 area for a return but $1200ish for a single. No question as to what I did. Obviously they are interested in filling the seat both ways and perhaps a different fare structure helps this but the outrageous difference makes the system open to “abuse” if that’s the right word.


    Its frustrating isn’t it.

    Rationale I was given was airlines want to know and have income for both, so they price a single often higher or near 90% of a return.

    Issue: I think what you’re suggesting, not using the RETURN leg, is OK – they don’t know if you’re a no show.

    Problem is: if your trip (leg) you’re giving up (no show) is the OUTbound. Then you can’t use the return, because airlines will deem you have not used the first part of your ticket, and will invalidate your ticket.

    My bad English may be. It means: effectively you need to ensure both your trips, are deemed “OUTBOUND”, meaning be careful where you input your starting destination. I think you’ve said it yourself though, “not use the second leg” – make sure both legs are down as “first legs”.

    Essentially, airlines will stop you boarding, if you’re attempting to use only the return (inbound) part of your ticket, as having not turned up for the outbound (first leg)

    So take care with the solution. You won’t be rumbled then.

    ps, in my experience (there’s a lot to b!tch about) this is where for once the Japanese airlines (internal) do good. Their single is same price both ways, and half the full fare, you just add the both together, and more often than not, it equals a return fare. VERY RARE, but just like their train fares, single is 50% of a return. Why they can do it, and worldwide airlines or other foreign train companies can’t, beats me. Complicated reasons as I was told by a fellow friend in the biz travel industry.

    Good luck bucking the system !!


    Cedric….non at all just buy the return. If your lucky and can check in on line you might even get miles and staus credit for the return even if you do not use it.

    Airfares are absurd …almost as bad as UK train fares….but that is a whole new forum.


    So Ryan and the low-costers have it right again? A price for each leg, use it or lose it to your choice and convenience.

    The key to the differential is the fully-flexible vs APEX. A high-price single will usually be fully flex, the cheap ‘fly-now’ alternatives being bandied about above are ‘buy now board now’ no-brainers. Not comparable.


    As long as outbound sector is used (travelled), one could just throw away the return tickects (nowadays – no paper ticket – just do not take the flight). As a courtesy, you may make a phone call to airlines.
    Nowdays, most of the ticketing is computer managed and so called ‘smart’ guys are writing the programs. If one tries to buy a single journey, computer ‘thinks’ (the way the programs are written), that this must be an emergency travel – just charge more.
    Another intersting item – if someone checks price but do not buy ticket through online – every ‘check’ is noted. If computer notes that for a particular date, many checks are done, it increses the price.
    Something it is still better to go via a travel agent – especially for a single journey.


    Hidden deep in the rules and regulations of some cheap return tickets is usually the clause that in the event (or words to that effect) that if you use it for a single journey you can be charged the appropriate fare for the journey. So you can be charged the difference.

    Some years ago Eurotunnel were charging something like £150.00 one way for car and four passengers single but an after 1200 day return was £59.00. Many used that facility as a one way but were astounded to find their credit cards debited for the difference when they didn’t show up.

    Perhaps BT could get a difinative answer?


    I suppose the contractual versus commercial consideration is that , in contract, the carrier would have to prove ‘intent’ (to break the contract in order to recover the additional cost). For an airline, that would be difficult as day return journeys are feasible, and valid reasons for missing a flight are numerous. For Eurotunnel it seems improbable for a family of 4 to make a daytrip after 12.00 – but the real difference is that Eurostar is a monopoly (for now) and airlines are intensely competitive.

    Airlines also have the ‘policy’ of overbooking, and are well-known to refuse travel to late (but on-time) check-ins in the event of all the booked PAX showing up. Airlines are aware of the commercial reality of brand recognition, and customer memory.


    In the Eurotunnel case the number of people who used the after 1200 day return is/was quite considerable. So it is certainly not improbable as you suggest Age of.

    The same rules can apply to the airlines, they don’t have to prove anything if it is in the rules that a return sector has to be flown. Whilst in practise it may not happen one has to aware that additionalo charges may be made.


    OK… Not being geographically positioned to benefit from Eurotunnel wine-buying excursions, It didn’t gel with me. The point remains, however, that this thread continually compares apples/oranges and elephants. I have never seen an airline ‘day return’ price, APEX has time limits (which include day returns). he price is determined by capacity utilisation and predictions by the airline, which update live. Rail tkts are usually fixed price deals, available until the last seat is sold (but not to my knowledge, with wilful overbooking).

    I don’t think an airline could debit a card after observing a no-show, without invoicing. And suppose paying cash to Eurostar would protect the customer in reality, if not in contract.

    As another poster observed, airlines could be sufficiently customer-focussed to give the miles even for a no-show (although I have more experience of not getting miles, even when entitled).


    Maybe I’m techy this morning, and rarely disagree on a public forum, but I would NOT bother to let the airline know “out of courtesy” @Inquisitive

    Why ?!?: you’ve paid for it, you’re not turning. Airline has made its money its no loss to them, and if it knowingly has an empty seat advance, it will try and sell that all over again. It also encourages this over-booking aspect and leads to misery in “bumping”.

    I was so annoyed with CityJet (LCY) once, as their attitude sucked with a reschedule, and refused to give me a refund of even the taxes & service charges (which airlines should do) or rather they made the ‘admin’ charge within 2p of the tax & services refund (to not make it worth your while) that I checked in online, and simply didn’t turn up, so they couldn’t sell my vacant already paid for seat.

    Justification: experience and lots of things NTarrant succinctly outlines…rather than bl00dy mindedness on my part.

    @NTarrant “So you can be charged the difference”

    Now THAT would be complete new one !! really are you sure, if you’re paying by credit or debit card, its not like a hotel where you sign up and hand over your card (albeit with a signature & your permission to charge) – you pay ONCE with your authorisation for the flight, can a credit card company accept another charge without the customer being involved 😮 at any point of sale. (I’m no legal bod incidentally)

    Thanks @NTarrant for this insight, if indeed it is standard or perhaps erratically applied practice.

    So its the usual sledge-hammer to crack the customer as usual 🙁


    Angel… you devil! Whilst agreeing, and awaiting an expert response, on the card debiting issue raised, PLEASE don’t make a habit of checking in then no-showing.

    Spoken on behalf of any who have sat on a loaded aircraft waiting to close doors while the airline tannoys frantically for the ‘last remaining passenger’….


    Cedric – if you can get to Geneva instead of Zurich, Easyjet offer GVA – MAD from around SF132 single – about 10% of the LX fare……..

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