Throwaway Ticketing

Tracy Stewart, September 30, 2008
Fares from Washington DC:

    Q. We are going on a Viking River Cruise Tour in China in November. We thought the tour left from Seattle to Shanghi, returning from Bejing to Seattle. We've already booked our flight from our home in Ft. Lauderdale to Seattle. When we received our tour itinerary, it turns out we are going from Seattle to San Francisco and then on to China. On the return, we are coming into San Francisco and then to Seattle. We prefer to return right to Ft Lauderdale from San Fran and not go back to Seattle at all.

    When I called, United they wouldn't let us skip the first leg of our return. They also said our bags would be ticketed back to Seattle, so we really could not skip the last leg from San Fran to Seattle. My question is can we just remove our baggage tags in San Fran when we go thru customs and then continue home to Florida on our own?

    A. Airlines frown upon this practice called "throwaway ticketing" and do every thing they can to penalize travelers when they do this.  We've heard of airlines charging travel agents penalties for their customers who haven't used their entire ticket, closing out the traveler's frequent flier account and taking away all their miles and even trying to charge the traveler's credit card for a last minute ticket on the "new" itinerary.  If you decide that it's worth the risk and sneak away in San Francisco on your return trip, make sure that you will indeed be collecting your luggage there... otherwise, you could be creating a huge hassle for yourself.

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