Let's say you have a round-trip ticket from your home town to another city, and a friend suddenly offers to drive you instead. So you figure you can skip the first flight and still use the return part of your ticket to get back home, right? Wrong. Skipping a flight is more complicated than that.
Why You Should Avoid Skipping a Flight
One of the most hardened airline rules of today says that if you miss or cancel any portion of a plane ticket, the airline can cancel all flights remaining on that ticket's itinerary. When you miss that first flight, whether or not you cancel or no-show, the entire ticket becomes void.
This rule also applies to connecting flights. If you're ticketed from City A to City C through a connection in City B, but skip the connecting flight from City B to City C, you can't use your connecting-flight ticket later, even with a change fee. And if it's a round-trip ticket, the return trips are also toast.
When Is Skipping a Flight OK?
There are only two cases where you're probably OK skipping an onward flight.
First: If you're skipping a flight that's the final leg on a multi-flight ticket, and therefore nothing is left for the airline to cancel. Travelers often do this deliberately if they want to go from City A to City B, and the fare from City A to City C by way of City B is less than a fare from City A to City B.
They buy the connecting ticket and skip the second flight. This is called a "hidden city" fare, and while airlines offer a whole bunch of vaporware reasons to justify their crazy pricing, the fact is that people do it to cut their travel cost. But, keep in mind that doing this violates your contract with the airline. As far as I can tell, airlines seldom go after individual travelers to recover the fare differences, but habitual hidden-city flyers may find themselves in trouble, especially if they're frequent flyer rewards members.
Second: If your round-trip itinerary is on two separately booked, one-way tickets, nothing happens to the return trip if you skip the first trip. Many low-fare airlines price and ticket round-trips as simply as they do two one-ways: So, if you have the choice and want some flexibility, you might as well arrange multi-flight trips on separate bookings to avoid issue.
More from SmarterTravel:
- How to Score a Flight Upgrade for Free
- 10 Mistakes You're Making at the Airport
- When Should You Buy Your Flight?
Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuses every day at SmarterTravel.