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Why Is One-way Ticket More Costly Than Round Trip  
User currently offline2175301 From United States of America, joined May 2007, 1074 posts, RR: 0
Posted (6 years 5 months 3 weeks 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 11417 times:

I am again faced with the quandary of only needing a one way ticket to the west coast - as the planned return trip is in a U-hual truck.

I've faced this scenario several times before for various reasons.

Why are one-way airline tickets priced so much higher than round trip tickets? The actual cost of service is a whole lot less; and it would give the airline the opportunity to book another passenger on the flight that I won't be on?

Voodoo economics at work... or is there a really good explanation?

54 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineBoston92 From United States of America, joined Aug 2006, 3390 posts, RR: 7
Reply 1, posted (6 years 5 months 3 weeks 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 11413 times:

What dates are we talking? And cities?

This concept is not uncommon, but more likely than not, you can always find a cheaper o/w than r/t somehow.



"Why does a slight tax increase cost you $200 and a substantial tax cut save you 30 cents?"
User currently offlineBlueFlyer From United States of America, joined Jan 2006, 4077 posts, RR: 2
Reply 2, posted (6 years 5 months 3 weeks 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 11348 times:
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Quoting 2175301 (Thread starter):
Why are one-way airline tickets priced so much higher than round trip tickets?

Less demand, less competition, so less reason to be competitive, and generally assumed that the people who usually book ow tickets (business fliers) can afford the higher fare.

Book with a LCC or book a return and throw away the second leg.



I've got $h*t to do
User currently offlineBabybus From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 3, posted (6 years 5 months 3 weeks 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 11301 times:

When asked most agents will say that the single ticket isn't discounted but the return ticket is. It also makes sense for the airline to assume that if you've gone one way you are likely to need to return. They want to keep the customer.

It depends which part of the west coast you need but Air Southwest fly from several airports to Newquay,including LBA/LGW/NCL/STN. Unfortunately some flights stop in Plymouth.

Happy holidays!


User currently offlineDocLightning From United States of America, joined Nov 2005, 19965 posts, RR: 59
Reply 4, posted (6 years 5 months 3 weeks 1 day 2 hours ago) and read 11156 times:

I usually buy a R/T ticket if I need to O/W. And then I just don't show up for the return leg.

User currently offlineSKORD From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2008, 562 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (6 years 5 months 3 weeks 1 day 2 hours ago) and read 11139 times:

BabyBus. I think he may be refering to West Coast USA, not UK! And you also forgot to add MAN to your list. But i agree with others here, buy a cheap return and just dont show for the return flight. Ive done it many times myself.

User currently offlineGemuser From Australia, joined Nov 2003, 5716 posts, RR: 6
Reply 6, posted (6 years 5 months 3 weeks 22 hours ago) and read 10943 times:



Quoting 2175301 (Thread starter):
Why are one-way airline tickets priced so much higher than round trip tickets? The actual cost of service is a whole lot less;

The cost of providing the services is almost irrelevant to the market price, all it does is set a floor price for the seller. The actual market price is set by what people will pay for that service. This is of course a very complex question with a commodity as perishable as an airline seat, which is why airlines have such a complex pricing structure.

In your specific case, in that maze of complexity it just so happens that sometimes they can sell a one way for more money than a return, so they do. One factor that is often the case is that the one way fare is flexible and the return is not. That flexibility is worth something to some people and not others.

Gemuser



DC23468910;B72172273373G73873H74374475275376377L77W;A319 320321332333343;BAe146;C402;DHC6;F27;L188;MD80MD85
User currently offlineTootallsd From United States of America, joined Apr 2006, 561 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (6 years 5 months 3 weeks 22 hours ago) and read 10934 times:
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Because the seat has to come back empty.

User currently offline2175301 From United States of America, joined May 2007, 1074 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (6 years 5 months 3 weeks 21 hours ago) and read 10876 times:



Quoting Boston92 (Reply 1):
but more likely than not, you can always find a cheaper o/w than r/t somehow.

I have never been able to find a cheaper 1 way ticket - even with advanced purchase (1 month prior). I've flown south, east, and west on such trips - on different airlines. So I know that this is a general practice.

Quoting Babybus (Reply 3):
It also makes sense for the airline to assume that if you've gone one way you are likely to need to return. They want to keep the customer.

Uhh... it does not always make sense... There are legitimate reasons for people to need a one way ticket (such as every time I've done this). I admit that perhaps this is on the line of 0.1% of the market. But it does exist.

Why, in your opinion, does charging a premium for 1/2 of the service allow them to "keep" the customer.

Quoting BlueFlyer (Reply 2):
book a return and throw away the second leg.



Quoting Babybus (Reply 3):
I usually buy a R/T ticket if I need to O/W. And then I just don't show up for the return leg.

Which is of course what I and others do.

Quoting Gemuser (Reply 6):
This is of course a very complex question with a commodity as perishable as an airline seat, which is why airlines have such a complex pricing structure.

This is not a complex question at all. It also prevents an airline from selling the return seat as they have to count on me showing up for it - when I and anyone else who buys the much cheaper round trip tickets have no intention of using the return leg.

The ticket has already been purchased $420 round trip. I'm not asking for a #210 priced one way, but say a $310 one way would be nice (and nicely profitable for the airline; while allowing them to sell the return seat to someone else).

Quoting Gemuser (Reply 6):
In your specific case, in that maze of complexity it just so happens that sometimes they can sell a one way for more money than a return, so they do. One factor that is often the case is that the one way fare is flexible and the return is not. That flexibility is worth something to some people and not others.

My case is not specific - it is how the Airlines work (as others also indicate). I am not talking about flexible one way tickets - I'm talking about fixed one way - so your argument does not apply.

Quoting SKORD (Reply 5):
buy a cheap return and just dont show for the return flight. Ive done it many times myself.

Which just goes to show that there is a small market for this kind of service - and the airlines are loosing revenue by not being able to sell that return seat. I actually have not met anyone who has purchased a one way ticket. I have met a number of people who purchase round trip tickets and toss the return ticket.

Overall, I think this is poor marketing by the airlines.


User currently offlineBrightCedars From Belgium, joined Nov 2004, 1289 posts, RR: 2
Reply 9, posted (6 years 5 months 3 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 10735 times:

Buying a cheap return and not using the return leg would be the best option. However some low-cost carriers and even some full service airlines would however offer one-way fares equivalent more or less to half a return ticket (e.g. OK). I know more about this side of the Atlantic than yours, sorry about that.

In these rare cases, I usually tell the airline I won't be using the return after I've made the onward journey and they're usually happy to cancel, cash-in, and be able to sell it again eventually. Happened on KL several times without any problem.

What I've done once is that I actually ended up creating an open jaw combining 2 return tickets and using the going leg on one and the returning leg on the other. This was not intentional and came due to a change of plans (wife got pregnant, not allowed to work any longer during pregnancy due some Belgian safety rules, would stay longer with her family).

We would have gone together to DXB in Feb and then she was supposed to go to BEY for Easter with our daughter. In the end we both went to DXB, from where I came back, and from where she flew straight to BEY (one-way on Air Arabia from SHJ) and then used the return of her original AZ ticket BRU-MXP-BEY.

The airline was not amused and it took some explanation to outline how we came to such a solution. They did it nonetheless and I thank them very much for their understanding. They had been very happy to regain 2 seats on their DXB-MXP though since they were overbooked, go figure!  Smile



I want the European Union flag on airliners.net!
User currently offlineAirNZ From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (6 years 5 months 3 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 10716 times:



Quoting 2175301 (Thread starter):
and it would give the airline the opportunity to book another passenger on the flight that I won't be on?

How do you arrive at that.......if you aren't booked on the 'return' flight in the first instance then the airline has the opportunity of booking any pax who wants to fly???


User currently offlineAirlineAddict From United States of America, joined Jan 2005, 420 posts, RR: 1
Reply 11, posted (6 years 5 months 3 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 10715 times:
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Great question. While traveling through Australia, most of the R/T fares were one-way X 2. You would think it would make it easier for airlines so that they don't have to oversell a flight as much. There's probably something in the yield management equation that I'm missing. Maybe Bob Crandall can answer it...  Big grin

User currently onlineBurkhard From Germany, joined Nov 2006, 4401 posts, RR: 2
Reply 12, posted (6 years 5 months 3 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 10699 times:

Again something Í like on FR. They sell one way only, return is another flight.

User currently offlineKalvado From United States of America, joined Feb 2006, 491 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (6 years 5 months 3 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 10692 times:



Quoting Gemuser (Reply 6):
The cost of providing the services is almost irrelevant to the market price, all it does is set a floor price for the seller.

Unfortunately, these days cost of flying is completely and absolutely irrelevant to ticket price.
The only place where this difference shows up is in monthly loss reports, but in US everyone knows that the difference will be written off as part of Ch. 11, so they don't care.. Screw up those who are desperate to fly, give tickets for free to the rest of the gang to show huge pax flow.. I guess that's the essence of modern yield management...


User currently offlineBond007 From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 5428 posts, RR: 8
Reply 14, posted (6 years 5 months 3 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 10671 times:



Quoting 2175301 (Thread starter):
Voodoo economics at work... or is there a really good explanation?

No, and you have explained many good reasons why in today's market it makes little sense.

Quoting Tootallsd (Reply 7):
Because the seat has to come back empty.

Why? It didn't go empty because somebody purchased a o/w ticket. Someone is almost just as likely to purchase a r/t or o/w from the destination point.

Just take a look at those airlines actually making money (or losing less). They are the airline that price each leg separately and don't get involved in these (and other) ridiculous pricing scenarios.

There are very few good arguments for pricing o/w's higher than returns, if only for the simple reason that most folks purchase the return ticket anyway and don't use the return leg ... therefore the airline is actually worse off than if they'd just had priced the o/w sensibly.


Jimbo



I'd rather be on the ground wishing I was in the air, than in the air wishing I was on the ground!
User currently offlineNWADC9 From United States of America, joined May 2004, 4898 posts, RR: 10
Reply 15, posted (6 years 5 months 3 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 10670 times:



Quoting BrightCedars (Reply 9):
Buying a cheap return and not using the return leg would be the best option. However some low-cost carriers and even some full service airlines would however offer one-way fares equivalent more or less to half a return ticket

Southwest's like this, I know for sure. As is US Airways, jetBlue, etc.



Flying an aeroplane with only a single propeller to keep you in the air. Can you imagine that? -Capt. Picard
User currently offlineSketty222 From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2006, 1778 posts, RR: 3
Reply 16, posted (6 years 5 months 3 weeks 19 hours ago) and read 10609 times:



Quoting Burkhard (Reply 12):
Again something Í like on FR. They sell one way only, return is another flight.

As do BA. Pretty much all of their European fares are based on OW prices



There's flying and then there's flying
User currently offlineRivet42 From United Kingdom, joined Aug 2005, 818 posts, RR: 1
Reply 17, posted (6 years 5 months 3 weeks 18 hours ago) and read 10535 times:



Quoting Babybus (Reply 3):
When asked most agents will say that the single ticket isn't discounted but the return ticket is.

This is what we all tend to forget - round-trip tickets are most often priced as some kind of promotion, i.e. discount, and will have all kinds of strings attached, some more, some less, depending upon the discount. In the pre-LCC days one-way fares were generally priced as full fare without restrictions, as the main market for these tickets were 'walk-up' customers, more often than not flying on business. Of course the market has been transformed since then, and most full service airlines have been forced to remodel their fare structure to match the LCC's by pricing each leg separately, so that there is no specific round-trip price anymore, it just depends on which individual flights you choose. In Europe it has taken some airlines longer than others to wake up to this - BA was one of the first, given that the key LCC's in Europe were operating from its own backyard, and LH have only recently followed suit. Last time I looked AF still used the old model (i.e. full fare for one-way, discounted fares for round-trip), but even they may have change too by now.

I'm very surprised that this is still a problem in USA - after all you gave the world the LCC concept via Southwest. I guess it depends upon how the US carriers perceive the one-way market - if they still see this as primarily the preserve of business passengers, then there will be little or no incentive to change.

Riv'



I travel, therefore I am.
User currently offlineJhooper From United States of America, joined Dec 2001, 6204 posts, RR: 12
Reply 18, posted (6 years 5 months 3 weeks 18 hours ago) and read 10507 times:

It's harder to build fare rules into OW tickets (i.e. Saturday night stays), and that's where your discounts come from since it gives the airlines a way to discriminate between business and liesure travellers.


Last year 1,944 New Yorkers saw something and said something.
User currently offlineBond007 From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 5428 posts, RR: 8
Reply 19, posted (6 years 5 months 3 weeks 17 hours ago) and read 10438 times:



Quoting Rivet42 (Reply 17):
it depends upon how the US carriers perceive the one-way market - if they still see this as primarily the preserve of business passengers, then there will be little or no incentive to change.

Yes, they are living in the past. Business folks aren't paying $1500 for last minute tickets anymore, and they are just as likely to buy a return and not use the return leg, as any other passenger.

Quoting Jhooper (Reply 18):
It's harder to build fare rules into OW tickets (i.e. Saturday night stays), and that's where your discounts come from since it gives the airlines a way to discriminate between business and liesure travellers.

...and most of those rules, that resulted in every passenger paying a different fare, made little or no difference to the profitability, yields, and load factors. The cost to maintain these antiquated, over-complex, pricing formulas is huge, and the return is minimal.

Airlines that don't simplify their pricing programs, are the ones you won't be seeing much longer.

Jimbo



I'd rather be on the ground wishing I was in the air, than in the air wishing I was on the ground!
User currently offlineBSBIsland From Brazil, joined Jul 2005, 379 posts, RR: 1
Reply 20, posted (6 years 5 months 3 weeks 17 hours ago) and read 10405 times:



Quoting Gemuser (Reply 6):
The actual market price is set by what people will pay for that service

Simple as that. Airlines are willing to maximize their revenue charging as much as they think a certain market segment is willing to pay.

One way tickets is one of the means that airlines try to determine whether a traveler is flying for business or leisure, because one way fares tend not to be as restrictive, so those business travellers pay more for flexibility as most of them usually don't have definite dates until the last minute, and airlines realize that they need to get to where they are going, hence those business pax will be more willing to pay the higher fares. Many business travellers find out that they are flying at the last minute, so the advance purchase requirements and saturday night stay requirement when buying return tickets also help to sort out business travellers.


User currently offlineCloudy From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 21, posted (6 years 5 months 3 weeks 17 hours ago) and read 10347 times:

Flying true one-way in the US is inadvisable because it is a red-flag for the TSA. It is common for people of ill will to buy one way tickets. Why? They are stupid. Generally, smart people arn't attracted to this sort of work (9/11 was a tragic exception). They know the won't be using the second leg because they will be dead, in jail, or in control of the plane. So they (erroneously in most cases) think they can save a little dough by not buying a two way ticket.

Anyway, buy a one way ticket and your chances of enduring crap at the checkpoint goes up big time. I don't know if the same is true in Europe.

There is another complication on international routes. A return ticket is a nice thing to have if customs/immigration has any reason to believe you are planning to overstay your visa. If you want to spend a long time in customs, go into a country on a one-way with a tourist Visa. Make sure you have luggage more typical of an immigrant than a tourist. If you want hassle, this is an excellent way to get it, particularly in countries that have a large illegal immigration problem.

Quoting Bond007 (Reply 19):
Airlines that don't simplify their pricing programs, are the ones you won't be seeing much longer.

Unfortunately, the trend is going in the opposite direction. Southwest, for example, still has a simple fare structure when compared to other airlines. Yet it is more complicated then it ever has been and recent changes made it more complicated still.

Quoting Bond007 (Reply 19):
Yes, they are living in the past. Business folks aren't paying $1500 for last minute tickets anymore, and they are just as likely to buy a return and not use the return leg, as any other passenger.

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence for this. However, the data that could actually prove or disprove this theory is generally not released to the public. The raw data used to determine fares and rules is a closely kept proprietary decision at most airlines.


User currently offlineMayor From United States of America, joined Mar 2008, 10513 posts, RR: 14
Reply 22, posted (6 years 5 months 3 weeks 17 hours ago) and read 10312 times:

Quoting Kalvado (Reply 13):
give tickets for free to the rest of the gang to show huge pax flow..

Exactly WHO are you referring to? Non-revs? If so, non-rev numbers are not included in pax totals when it comes to stats. As a matter of fact, even ID90's, ID96's, buddy passes, etc. are still considered non-revenue passengers, even though some kind of fare has been paid by them.

I hope you're not one of those people that think airline employees shouldn't get this perk.

[Edited 2008-05-08 09:20:31]

[Edited 2008-05-08 09:21:37]


"A committee is a group of the unprepared, appointed by the unwilling, to do the unnecessary"----Fred Allen
User currently offlineBond007 From United States of America, joined Mar 2005, 5428 posts, RR: 8
Reply 23, posted (6 years 5 months 3 weeks 16 hours ago) and read 10117 times:



Quoting Cloudy (Reply 21):
Flying true one-way in the US is inadvisable because it is a red-flag for the TSA. It is common for people of ill will to buy one way tickets. Why? They are stupid. Generally, smart people arn't attracted to this sort of work

Somewhat of a myth. The automatic SSSS flagging of all one-way tickets stopped a long time back.

Quoting Cloudy (Reply 21):
(9/11 was a tragic exception)

Well, exception or not, it's evidence that terrorists are anything but stupid. If they were all so stupid we'd not be too worried about them. We weren't interested in increased security for one-way ticket pax before 9/11, and they were smart enough to know that it was OK... the same as they'd know not to buy one today.

Quoting Cloudy (Reply 21):
However, the data that could actually prove or disprove this theory is generally not released to the public.

The data that disproves this is available to the public, and shows huge losses every quarter  Wink

IMO much of the airline's troubles are associated with their pricing.

Jimbo



I'd rather be on the ground wishing I was in the air, than in the air wishing I was on the ground!
User currently offlineEXAAUADL From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 24, posted (6 years 5 months 3 weeks 15 hours ago) and read 9512 times:



Quoting 2175301 (Thread starter):
Why are one-way airline tickets priced so much higher than round trip tickets? The actual cost of service is a whole lot less; and it would give the airline the opportunity to book another passenger on the flight that I won't be on?

Answer: No, not unless they too would be flying oneway....which is possible but unlikely. Some airlines like Air Tran WN, etc do have one way fare sthat are 1/2 the price of RTs.

Quoting Bond007 (Reply 14):
Why? It didn't go empty because somebody purchased a o/w ticket. Someone is almost just as likely to purchase a r/t or o/w from the destination point.

At some point in the entire calculus there is still one empty return seat.


25 Post contains images PHLBOS : This is true for Southwest, jetBlue and AirTran. Not true for a US Airways flight itinerary that has no true LCC competitor flying the same route. Ov
26 Tys777 : Iv had some mixed results when it come to looking for a one-way ticket. My Fiancee is needing to fly MSP-CHA/BNA/TYS/ATL over Christmas. MSP-CHA was a
27 VV701 : And as Scots amongst us might point out GLA is also on the (UK's) west coast! I am sure you are right in many cases. But I happened to check the FR w
28 Analog : By that logic not flying at all should be even more expensive, since both seats are empty.
29 Bond007 : Why ??? I bought a o/w from A-B, and someone might buy one from B-A. I think you're also assuming that all return tickets on a flight from A to B, ar
30 PlaneInsomniac : This has been discussed before: Such behaviour is in breach of contract with the airline, and allegedly airlines can and will track such customers an
31 Kalvado : No, a "paying " customer like myself.. who end up hearing that tickets are too cheap, and doesn't cover cost of flying, etc etc.. However, I really l
32 Kalvado : And at the bottom line it's a load factor going up from 70% to 70.00001%..
33 PlaneInsomniac : My interpretation of this rule is that it has nothing to do with operations or strict economics. It has to do with marketing. As with the fact that r
34 JettaKnight : This is a gross oversimplification when you consider all of the variables: - One-way tickets for travel the opposite direction (previously discussed)
35 FLY2LIM : Wait a minute, if I purchase a ROUND TRIP ticket and don't show up for the return, the seat may be "empty" but the airline made the same amount of mo
36 Thegooddoctor : Not necessarily... I remember the days when I used to fly PHX-DTW every month or two - the round trip was usually 230-260, but the one way was 923...
37 Mayor : Well, you did say "free". You'll have to excuse me. I get very protective of my flying priveleges and you know as well as I do that there are many pe
38 Viscount724 : Airlines charge high one way fares because enough passengers buy them. Not everyone buys a cheap round trip special fare and throws away the return co
39 Tootallsd : That is just silly, if you're not flying why would you pay anything? Charity?
40 Mayor : Don't forget, because of overbooking, even though that seat has been sold (several times) it could still come back empty.
41 BOAC911 : Actually this phenomenon occurs most frequently (and perhaps exclusively) with discounted fares. I've never had this experience with full fares.
42 Jacobin777 : Back in 1994 I flew AA LGA-ORD on a walk up fare for around $100.. Actually a few things might happen. 1-One might get banned from flying with them o
43 2175301 : Ahhh.... what is a discounted fare? What is a full fare? I've known about this trip for about 6 weeks - it was only a matter of timing on exactly whe
44 Bond007 : Actually it's quite possible and legal, and most probably not happened only because of the costs of bringing it to court in the first place. There is
45 2175301 : Just because someone writes something and states that it is part of the agreement does not mean that it is legal or will stand up in court. Courts to
46 2175301 : Not true: I just read the enter "Terms and Conditions of Contract of Carriage" (all 19 pages) and the FF Program Rules. At no point is there anything
47 FLY2LIM : What kind of a stupid airline would go through the trouble of punishing someone who doesn't show up for a trip. Remember, they would have to prove th
48 Jacobin777 : 1)This has happened to a number of flyers. 2)I've stated it might happen because its the discretion of the carrier. While it probably wouldn't happen
49 Bond007 : Well, I said it's usually defined in most airlines' contracts. You didn't mention which airline, but as far as Delta, the first one I checked: "Failu
50 Analog : That's sort of the point; it's not about the empty seat. If it were then my comment wouldn't be so silly. It does come up over and over again, probab
51 Viscount724 : There are many examples involving products rather than services. For example, a Mercedes or BMW built in Germany is much cheaper in the U.S. than if
52 Bond007 : Yes, that's airline pricing in a nutshell Jimbo
53 2175301 : I do not believe the line of "misrepresenting your intended itinerary" would stand up in court in the case of only using one leg of a ticket. No one
54 2175301 : Interesting.... One ways are not always more expensive than round trips.... I checked Chicago to NY, and Chicago to Atlanta..... and one way tickets w
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