While searching for a flight from Frankfurt to Vancouver on random dates I noticed that some travel sellers now actively advertise so called “throw away ticketing” which means only using a portion of a return ticket.
Passengers naturally try to save as much money as possible when booking their flights and search engines are using every trick in the book to display a low price in order to rank high in the search results.
What some travel provider are now doing can be shown in the example of Kayak & Kiwi.
I searched for an itinerary from Bangkok to Frankfurt and onward to Vancouver a couple weeks later. Usually the first step whenever I book a flight is that I compare fares on Kayak and Google Flights so I did it as well in this case.
Here was the result from Kayak:
Kayak calls fares that consist of several different, separate tickets “Hacker Fares” which in this case is fine because there are several weeks in between the flight. I wouldn’t recommend booking such a ticket combination with just a few hours between flights as there is a danger in missing your connection without any airline taking responsibility.
The first portion of the ticket displayed here is a legitimate one way ticket from Bangkok to Frankfurt in V class.
Where it gets dicey is the second ticket which is offered by Kiwi.com:
This round-trip option is cheaper than a one-way ticket
We found this round-trip option for you which is cheaper than a one-way ticket. Fly one-way only or use the return ticket, it’s up to you. Either way, you’ll be saving money.
But that’s not all. Kiwi promotes using throw away ticketing even further in the “Learn More” section below the above notice.
There is a bizarre FAQ section that outlines some things about Kiwi’s “Hacker Fares”:
Can I use the return ticket?
Yes, all flights are yours to be used. However, you cannot choose the return date because it’s generated automatically to give you the best price. The return date may also be subject to change. Baggage, seating, and other extras will need to be added manually. If you decide to use the return ticket, please contact us. We will need to check you in for the flight.
What if I don’t use the return ticket?
Passengers miss their flights all the time, so this will probably go unnoticed by the airline. However, we cannot guarantee how a given airline will react.
What about the Terms & Conditions of the airlines?
This practice may violate the T&Cs of some airlines. You should read the T&Cs of the specific airline before making your booking.
Should I be worried about the airline’s T&Cs?
There’s little that the airline can do to enforce their T&Cs after you’ve flown the first leg. In theory, the next time you book with them, they could ask you to pay for the amount saved on the trip.
What about my air miles?
You’ll probably still earn frequent flyer points for the segments used. In extreme cases, the airline may choose to freeze your mileage program if they think you didn’t plan on using the return.
Let’s start at the top. The fares offered here as a round trip are publicly available so if you want a specific date you can just as well search for those yourself using either the airlines website or a general booking engine from an OTA such as Expedia.
I don’t see why on earth the customer would have to contact Kiwi if they want to use their return flight in order to be “checked in” !? That doesn’t make any sense.
Then they say “we cannot guarantee how a given airline will react” after a customer follows through with this. Also “This practice may violate the T&Cs of some airlines” Not very reassuring, maybe as a serious seller of travel services you shouldn’t promote it this way then?
Two more points are interesting. “There’s little that the airline can do to enforce their T&Cs” for example. Well Kiwi there is plenty they can do however the question is how likely it is that they’ll pursue it.
The same goes for “In extreme cases, the airline may choose to freeze your mileage program” which can absolutely happen but not to a one time offender.
When a passenger makes it a habit of missing flights all the time and the airlines revenue protection department can establish a pattern of behavior then there are several things the airline can do.
- Send the passenger a bill for an established total of damages;
- Sue the passenger if he doesn’t pay;
- Ban the passenger from the airline
- Cancel the frequent flyer account if maintained with the same airline, forfeiting the mileage balance.
These are extreme steps and as I said above won’t apply to someone who happens to miss a flight which can have a multitude of reasons from illness to showing up too late for check-in and yes, “missing” it intentionally.
But should an OTA such as Kiwi promote the practice of throwaway ticketing so prominently and then under separate cover outline the possibly risks which can be severe? I think it’s not a good idea.
Airlines can decide to stop selling their tickets through certain OTA’s and take away their ability to issue tickets on their stock. If there is a huge number of tickets where the return portion isn’t used this will eventually pop up on the airlines radar and they are going to investigate who issued these tickets.
If this is a one off I wouldn’t be concerned as a customer but the way Kiwi advertises this isn’t how a legitimate travel seller operates.