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Booking One-Way International Flights

Q: Can I buy a one-way international flight?

A: Of course you can, but in many cases only at a gouge price. Finding really low one-way fares can sometimes be a challenge. In early June, we tested trips from Boston to London and Los Angeles to Hong Kong for travel in mid-July, and found these fares:

One-way international flights: Boston-London

  • Cheapest one-way $265 on WOW with stop/change at Reykjavik; WOW round-trip $990
  • Cheapest nonstop: $345 on Norwegian, round-trip $800
  • Cheapest legacy line nonstop: $1,476 on British Airways, round-trip $1,045

One-way international flights: Los Angeles-Hong Kong

  • Cheapest one-way $479 using three different airlines, round-trip $764
  • Cheapest nonstop: $941 on Cathay Pacific, round-trip $1,329

There are no transpacific low-fare lines at this time.

For intra-European flights, the two giant low-fare lines, EasyJet and Ryanair, are all price tickets as one-way fares. Low fare lines in other areas typically do the same. Again, sometimes the legacy lines match; sometimes they don’t.

The takeaway: Although we used a very small sample, what we found seems to reflect the general pattern.

  • Most low-fare lines price all tickets on a one-way basis. If a low-fare line goes where you want to go, you can find a one-way ticket at half the round-trip or even less, depending on seasons, taxes, fees, and such.
  • Absent competitive pressure, major airlines tend to price one-way tickets much higher than half round-trip prices.
  • Legacy lines sometimes even price one-way tickets at less than round-trip. Obviously, in those cases, you buy a round-trip and throw away the return ticket.
  • You often find substantially lower one-way fares if you’re willing to forego a nonstop and instead accept a stop, change of planes, or circuitous routing.

More from SmarterTravel:

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.

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