Q. We are going on a cruise in November. We thought it was from Seattle to Shanghai and returning from Beijing to Seattle. We are flying from Ft Lauderdale to Seattle. When we got our itinerary, it turns out we are supposed to fly from Seattle to San Francisco and then to China. On the return, we are coming into San Francisco then to Seattle. We prefer to return right to Ft Lauderdale from San Fran and not go back to Seattle.

When I called United, they wouldn't let us skip the first leg and embark from San Fran. They also said our bags would be ticketed back to Seattle so we could not skip the last leg at all. 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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