Debunking a 'secret' airfare savings strategy

There are only so many ways to save on travel. Sites like ours and others typically post reminders or refresher courses now and then to keep those strategies on people's minds as they prepare to book. Occasionally, some bad tips make the online rounds, too. One of them has resurfaced recently, and I'd like to spend a few minutes here to shoot it down.

It bears discussion simply because it's controversial and could potentially backfire on you. The strategy is called "back-to-back" ticketing, and it basically boils down to this: Some unrestricted one-way tickets are more expensive than some restricted round-trips, so why not buy two of the cheap round-trips and use different portions of them to complete your itinerary? Here's the problem: Most airlines expressly forbid the practice, and while it's unclear whether it's technically illegal, using a portion (but not all) of your round-trip ticket is a breach of your contract with the airline.

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This practice is also called "throwaway ticketing." Our own Jessica Labrencis wrote on the topic last year and notes that "possible penalties include deleting frequent flyer miles from your account and charging you for the difference between the fare paid and the fare for the itinerary you actually traveled." Some airlines (like British Airways) have reportedly even installed special software to keep tabs on ticketing offenders.

My advice? Stick to the above-board ways of saving money. There are more than enough of them already without trying to cheat the system. And now I'll step down from my soapbox. Thanks for listening.

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