Buying one-way fares instead of it all being "under one reservation"
April 16, 2013 9:59 AM   Subscribe

What does it mean to have one-way tickets vs one reservation for a person?

Our trip involves 5 people. Three people will fly to the airport of the other two so we can fly overseas all together. Coming home we are leaving on 3 separate days and everyone is hopefully getting home the most direct way.

An airline phone agent emphasized what I've heard before, that we want each person's trip sections to be on one reservation, so if one leg of the journey has a problem they'll automatically be put onto the next flight with no charges etc. That same phone agent was having a tricky time putting together all the legs needed in all the regions, so we thought we'd best use a travel agent, who should have access to more flights, right?

So...our travel agent is limited in the airlines he can combine too, and he's suggesting we use some one-way fares. As in, the flights my sisters will take that day, to get us to the overseas flight that evening, will be separate ticket purchases. (If I understood him correctly).

I cannot get a Yes or No answer out of him when I ask him whether that means we lose the "protection" of having everything under one reservation. He's worked at an airline, it always depends on the reason you missed a flight anyway, or the kindnesss of the gate agent, blah blah.

Yes or no, are we exposing ourselves to more risk by booking one-way tickets? Is it worth hundreds of dollars to get it all under one reservation? (He's saying it will cost much more)

(And, ffs, I could have done one-ways myself rather than pay an agent to do so. It looks like he has no more freedom or access in his booking than I do--he's putting us on the international flight that I found, 'cause the one he kept saying we would use, he couldn't connect to my sister's city.)

Thank you.
posted by Anwan to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total)
If I'm understanding you correctly, he's suggesting some one way fares to get people to the airport where you are all converging so that you can fly out internationally? If that's the case then yes, that is exposing you to risk.

If you had a one way flight that got you from home to (for example) Chicago at noon and you had a flight on a different airline leaving Chicago for London at five pm and something happened with the first flight to make you late, you'd potentially be SOL for the second flight. If both segments were on one ticket, they'd find a way to get you all the way from your originating town to your destination eventually. Otherwise, not necessarily.

So you have a few issues

- individual segments adding up to a whole (ideally you'd want everyone's origin to destination trips to be under a single reservation for each person).
- individual people (ideally you'd like all the people traveling the same segments together to be on one reservation so if they need to get rerouted they get rerouted together)
- combining the two (people going the same places on the same day should do it in the same way and under the same reservation)

Of course this is significantly more important getting over there both because you're meeting in the airport and because getting to a destination for most people is more important to do in a timely fashion than getting home. I'm not sure if you're married to this travel agent scenario. I've had some decent luck using even for weird one way or open jaw tickets. You may want to do some scenario planning to see if your results match the agent's.
posted by jessamyn at 10:12 AM on April 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

I just booked a weird itinerary with American. ATL-MIA-DFW-ATL. I did it online and it worked out pretty well.

I did have to speak to someone in reservations because I wanted to see if I could use my AAdvantage points for the flight (as it turns out, no) and if I could get their hotel deals (as it turns out, easier on my own.)

The best way to do this is to call the airline in question (since you'll all be on the flight from your airport to Overseas) Have the reservations person book the tickets, and you'll all be on the same airline, the same plane for one leg, etc. FYI, there's a charge for making the reservation with a human, but you'll know there are enough seats for everyone.

These are so frustrating to plan!

The other option is to have everyone fly in a day ahead of time, sleep on your floor, then you all go to the airport together in the morning. This would just be a lay-over and it's no biggie. That way, if there's some hitch everyone has a day to get it sorted out.

My sister and I were going on a Mediterranian cruise and the plan was for me to get on a plane in Nashville, she got on a plane in Dallas, and we were both flying out of Chicago to Rome.

My flight got hit by lightening coming in to Nashville and was cancelled. I had to go on a completely different airline, through Detroit. Luckily I was able to let her know, and we still met in Rome.

So, have a plan in case something happens and someone misses the connection.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:05 AM on April 16, 2013

He's worked at an airline, it always depends on the reason you missed a flight anyway, or the kindnesss of the gate agent, blah blah.

I think this is disingenuous.

Let's say you are all converging at JFK, from LAX and other places, on your way to Heathrow. If you miss your LAX-JFK flight (got caught in traffic, got stuck in security, etc), I think you'd be equally out of luck in both scenarios, or equally subject to the whim of the gate agent, or equally prone to having to fork out tons of cash for the next flight, etc.

Where it makes a difference is if your flight to JFK, say LAX-JFK, is delayed.

- If your LAX-JFK flights gets delayed, you are on "one ticket," and the delay causes you to miss your JFK-LHR flight, then the airline will/should try to put you on the next JFK-LHR flight. Maybe not the most convenient flight, but you are on a LAX-LHR ticket so the airline has a responsibility to get you from Los Angeles to London.

- However, if your LAX-JFK flight gets delayed, you are on separate tickets, and the delay causes you to miss the JFK-LHR flight, as far as the airline is concerned it got you from LAX-JFK and it's your problem that you missed your flight to London. Essentially you will be in situation #1, which from the airline's perspective is a problem of your own causing.
posted by andrewesque at 12:07 PM on April 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is still the one scenario where a travel agent has some use, but good luck finding a competent one.

Depending on how much risk you're comfortable with:

(a) Each traveler has different tickets for different legs of the journey; you cross your fingers and hope that all of them work out withing the available layover times. Most flexible, but anyone who misses a single connection for any reason is on their own; the airline won't care at all.

(b) Each traveler has a full itinerary of their own, booked on one airline (or airline alliance) as one ticket. Downside: all of you are unlikely to be seated together, although the check-in agents might try to do so, depending on how harried they are. Upside: if anyone misses a connection, the airline might at least make some effort to get them to their destination, as andrewesque said. Works better if you have elite status on the alliance in question.

(c) All of you are booked under one giant reservation. Depending on the number of people, this *requires* a competent travel agent, but those are rare now. On the plus side, you'll probably get to sit together on flights; on the downside, there's minimal flexibility on the scheduling and yes, it is very likely to cost hundreds more, as your agent said.

I'd probably go with (b) myself, and for that, orbitz or kayak do a decent job even with open jaws and multiple legs, as Jessamyn said. (And either way, have fallback plans, as Ruthless Bunny said...)
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:22 PM on April 16, 2013

Thank you for validating my concern. He should have just told me that. Instead he non-answered at such length he could have rebooked the trip in that about of time.

After reading your comments here I called the airline for the main flight, spent about an hour with them figuring out that yes we could book everyone's tickets "together" as in one reservation per person and no one-ways. Price almost exactly the same. They gave me all the info and flight numbers I needed to make him get it right...but when I got off the phone he'd already emailed me with everything almost exactly matching it. I guess he could have done it "right" all along, but only went to this trouble because I pressured him? So we have redorgreen's option B going. I hope we can arrange to sit together, that was part of the whole point!

My family pressured me to use a travel agent, and because the phone agent with another airline sounded kind of stumped by the different legs and complications I went with a travel agent. I just needed to call a different airline! Or be brave and go online and reserve lots of flights that I could cancel later.

Ruthless Bunny, I agree on having a plan in place in case someone is delayed and flies over separately. It's best to plan for all contingencies!

Thank you all again.
posted by Anwan at 2:27 PM on April 16, 2013

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