Will United care if I skip the first leg of a two-leg itinerary?
February 15, 2009 3:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm flying from the east coast to southern California via San Francisco in a few weeks. I've decided that for the return trip, I'd like to drive up to San Francisco a few days early, skip the first leg of my return flight (SoCal to SFO), and just catch the second leg. (I would just rebook my ticket but the change fee is ludicrous -- well in excess of the entire ticket cost.) Is this a dumb idea?

I'm planning to call United the evening beforehand and inform them that I "have to" miss the first leg so that they don't cancel my entire itinerary. Will United let me do this? Or will they not let me on the second flight unless I pay them some crazy amount? Some of the answers to this question suggest that what I want to do might be a problem. I'm looking for people's experiences doing this or something similar, on any airline but especially United.
posted by myeviltwin to Travel & Transportation (7 answers total)
In my experience, if you miss the first leg you forfeit the trip entirely. I'm not sure that calling them the night before will help -- at the very least you'd be looking at exactly the enormous change fee you're hoping to avoid. Worst case scenario, you're out the cost of the ticket entirely.
posted by kate blank at 3:22 PM on February 15, 2009

They won't let you do this. Or they definitely won't want to. Maybe if you had a doctor's note or something... But I assume that this is against their policy 100%, so you'd have to reach pretty high up the manager chain to get someone who'd basically rebook you but waive the fees.
posted by zpousman at 3:25 PM on February 15, 2009

Best answer: They won't let you do this. They'll cancel all the legs after the one you miss.

Why? Because imagine you wanted to fly to San Francisco, but it was cheaper to fly to LA via SF. This is fairly common because the rates are set based on the ending city-pairs, not the route you take. In this case, it would be financially smart for you to book the LA flight and miss that SF-LA leg in both directions. This is called a hidden-city fare. The airlines don't like this, so they do anything they can to stop it, and the easiest way is to cancel legs if you miss the first one.
posted by smackfu at 3:27 PM on February 15, 2009

I don't have specific knowledge of United, but most airlines will not let you do this. Once you fail to show at the first airport, they'll cancel your seats on the subsequent leg of the trip and try to resell them.

With a plausible sob story and good timing, you might get them to bend the rules for you, but I wouldn't count on it. If you do this, please go into it prepared to purchase a whole new ticket if needs be.
posted by the latin mouse at 3:36 PM on February 15, 2009

I wanted to do this once, and I called United and they said if you miss your first leg then they cancel the whole trip.
posted by radioamy at 4:14 PM on February 15, 2009

If you just happen to show up in SFO having missed the first segment of your flight, you will be lucky if they charge you the change fee plus additional difference. More likely, they will cancel your original ticket and make you buy a new SFO-East Coast one-way at the walk-up rate.
posted by grouse at 5:02 PM on February 15, 2009

If you're just a no show for that part of the flight they will cancel, BUT if you call them and tell them what your plans are they should be able to modify your ticket. Don't expect any money back for the part of the trip you are forfeiting, but having them modify the ticket shouldn't be too much of a problem. Also don't try and be sneaky with the inteneraries, the person on the phone typically doesn't care what the reason is unless you're trying to get money back, just call them up, tell them you'd like to drive up the coast instead, and just cancel the first LAX - SFO portion without credit or refund, I've done it before its not a big deal.
posted by Scientifik at 5:11 PM on February 15, 2009

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