Welcome to the first edition of Today in Travel's Question of the Week, which offers readers a chance to pose vexing questions and watch as I descend into the depths of fine print and corporate rigmarole to (hopefully) emerge with a useful answer. Each week I'll tackle one or two questions, so send them in via the comments section below and check back each Monday to see the answers.
Now, onto this week's question, from reader BOBBYFF:
"I have booked two separate flights in the fall as follows:
Buffalo to Aruba, connect in Atlanta; Aruba to Buffalo, connect in Atlanta
Atlanta to Ft. Lauderdale (the next day); Ft. Lauderdale to Buffalo, connect in Atlanta
I wish to check my luggage on my return from Aruba but do not want to use the Atlanta to Buffalo leg, (discard) and next day fly out to Ft. Lauderdale from Atlanta. I do not want my luggage to go onto Buffalo but want to be able to pick my luggage up in Atlanta on November 12th at the end of the Aruba /Atlanta leg.
The reason why I booked this way was if I used a multicity ticket the price of the overall ticket went up approx $300.
I could carry on my luggage as an alternative but would rather check my luggage.
Do I call Delta? In the past when you make changes Delta wants to start all over and re-price the ticket plus charge a change fee.
I am a FF with Delta."
Our reader has quite an itinerary here. First off, let's address the obvious: Abandoning a leg of your itinerary has inherent risks that you should consider, especially as a frequent flyer member. Delta's Contract of Carriage specifically prohibits both throwaway ticketing (purchasing a round-trip ticket for one-way travel) and point-beyond ticketing (purchasing a ticket to a destination other than your intended destination), both of which more or less apply to your reservation. And, to answer another of your questions, you would not be able to check your bags to Atlanta. You would need to carry them on.
In the event that you carry out your itinerary as constructed and simply do not board the Atlanta-to-Buffalo leg, Delta, if it catches on, could penalize you in any number of ways. Specifically, Delta could cancel any remaining portions of your itinerary, refuse to board you on subsequent flights, or assess a monetary charge that reflects the difference between the ticket you purchased and the service you used.
Simply put, I can't really advise doing this. It's not illegal, but I can easily see you running into trouble. If Delta noticed your absence on the Atlanta-Buffalo flight, it wouldn't take a ton of effort or intuition to find your other itinerary, figure out what you were up to, and cancel your remaining flights. Like it or not, you're breaking the airlines rules. It's up to you to decide if the risk is worth it.
If you call Delta, as you suggested, you will most likely be assessed a change fee ($150) and/or the difference in fare. This is an expensive proposition, I know, but vis-à-vis the potential headache and cost of getting caught ditching part of your ticket, it may be the lesser of two evils.
Readers, share your travel questions in the comment section below, and don't be afraid to offer help to your fellow travelers.