Airline leg-skipping (difficulty: switching destination country)
May 30, 2016 12:29 AM   Subscribe

One-way flight PHL-LGW-DUB: any practical issue (for example, at LGW immigration) with not flying the LGW-DUB segment?

First time I've run into this leg-skipping question in my travels. In this case, I see a PHL-LGW-DUB that's better for me than any PHL-LON.

The usual issues I've read about don't apply here (no return flight to lose, since this is a one-way; no checked bags; and a price low enough that I'd be fine with the risk of not being awarded miles for one or both legs).

It's a codeshare: PHL-LGW segment would be on a major U.S. airline but "operated by" British Airways; LGW-DUB would be on British Airways; and my purchase (of the full PHL-LGW-DUB in a single transaction) would be through kayak.

Biggest question: Are airline manifests shared with immigration, meaning I'd be expected to arrive in Ireland and have some issue at LGW immigration?
I'm a U.S. citizen (so no need for a visa either to UK or Ireland), with no unusual stamps in my passport (lots of western Europe + Serbia + a little Asia), and I could show return travel if asked (my return flight, two weeks later, would be LHR-JFK, purchased separately and on a third airline [neither the U.S. airline nor BA]).
posted by kalapierson to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
From what I have read and personally observed, the amount of information shared between airlines and immigration authorities is massive. A lot of that is driven by the USA and is not necessarily reciprocated. That being said, if you're entitled to visa-on-arrival at LGW you could actually exit through immigration even if you were planning on re-entering and continuing on to DUB, so I don't suppose that you'd be doing anything dodgy by doing so with the intention of abandoning your flight. Just be sure to be completely frank with immigration authorities; if they ask you how long you intend to stay, be sure to tell them the truth - don't say you plan to come back and catch the rest of flight if that's not the case.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:47 AM on May 30, 2016

Yes, flight info is shared among many immigration and border control agencies. That's one reason for the need for the name on the ticket to match the name on the ID.
posted by justcorbly at 4:08 AM on May 30, 2016

Also... how the airline deals with this and how border control deals with it are two different things.

If passport control doesn't let you in, then you need to leave. If, in the meantime, the DUB flight has left, you'll need to buy a new ticket.

(Since it knows you have a ticket to continue on to Dublin, I'd expect they'd question you about that at LGW passport control.)
posted by justcorbly at 4:14 AM on May 30, 2016

You should be fine. While there is a huge amount of info shared between border controls/airlines, you would normally be allowed to exit the terminal betwen your flights as you are on a visa waiver: from the airline's perspective, you'll just have missed your LGW-DUB flight. From immigrations perspective, it might raise an eyebrow, but will likely not raise any signficiant issues (especially as you always have a return issues).

I would not outright cancel that last leg, if booked as one trip. Airlines often treat the cancellation of one leg as the cancellation of the entire trip. ymmv.
posted by troytroy at 5:46 AM on May 30, 2016

When I have an overnight layover at Heathrow and I go through immigration so I can sleep/meet up with friends/whatever in London- I have not been questioned.

But then again I *do* intend to go through with the rest of my flight. I just haven't actually been asked if that's my intention or not.
YMMV if your layover is very short and there's no plausible time for you to be outside of the airport.
posted by nat at 5:46 AM on May 30, 2016

I can't see it causing any problems: you're allowed to enter the UK without a visa, and you're at a UK port of entry. You'll need to request and complete the UK landing card from the attendants on the transatlantic leg.

If the border agent asks about the Dublin flight, you say "it was cheaper / more convenient, air fares are weird, aren't they?", show your return itinerary, and shrug. I expect you'll just be asked the standard questions about length/purpose of trip.
posted by holgate at 6:29 AM on May 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd absolutely be prepared for the need to politely explain to the immigration officers that you have a fully booked accommodation itinerary and a return ticket in two weeks' time, and to show it to them not just as a screenshot on your phone, but ideally with printouts of tickets and hotel bookings with phone numbers that immigration can call and verify.

Not completing a journey you've purchased is a breach of your contract with the airline and as America has tightened its rules on who can enter the US - ruining some British citizens' vacations - I'd say the immigration process is less friendly than it's been in a while between our countries.

I also don't have that interesting of a travel history but every time I go to the UK I am (very politely, even jovially) interviewed for at least a full minute on how much money I have in cash and how I'm reaching my destination that day, where I'm staying, how long I've been working where I work and if I have a business card to prove this (!), how I know the people I'm may even be asked to show your bank account details, as I was once; I couldn't log into my online banking without wifi and they asked me instead to show them my credit cards and asked me their limits!

So it's definitely a level of questioning higher than landing in, say, Spain. They seemed happy with even fumbled answers - I wasn't sure whether I was getting a train or bus to my final destination in London once and they offered their advice, saying the train would be faster at that time of day! - but yes, do expect at least some questions.
posted by mdonley at 6:34 AM on May 30, 2016

You should not have any issues with this one-way reservation if you skip the last leg without any checked in bags. If a question arises at LGW immigration, you can easily explain it with the truth. Rarely does something good comes from trying to lie to the authorities, and there isn't at all a need here anyway. They don't care that you aren't making the airline more profitable; as long as you meet the entry requirements, they will let you in. Stick with the truth that the fare was cheaper, and you should be fine.

As far as other questions at Immigration (accommodations, return ticket/schedule, financial info, etc), you should be prepared for this as you would normally be if you were directly going to visit London. For mileage credit, I'd credit to an alliance partner airline. You already confirmed that you don't need a visa to enter either country, so you should be all set even in the case of irrops and the airline decides to get you to DUB some other way (though you may be able to still get the original routing).

For those who wondered above, this is called Throwaway Ticketing, and it is legal and ethical "If you buy a loaf of bread, you don’t have to eat every slice". As long as you know the risks (irrops and mileage credit), it is perfectly fine to occasionally use the technique.
posted by thewildgreen at 7:58 AM on May 30, 2016

Not completing a journey you've purchased is a breach of your contract with the airline

No, it isn't. When you purchase an airline ticket, you are not contracting to actually get on the plane.
posted by praemunire at 9:53 AM on May 30, 2016

I don't think you will have any particular problem with immigration. I've needed to leave via immigration on International flights when my continuing leg has been cancelled and the only questions I have received from immigration concerned where I was staying and looking at my return ticket I would have it all printed out). As noted above, don't lie if they ask, but I would be surprised if they did ask.

However, on your way back, please be prepared for some extra security even though it is a different airline. The airlines may report passengers who make last minute changes to their itinerary-- and although I doubt they would do it until after you missed your flight, you may find yourself pulled out of line on the way back into the US for "random" checks. I ended up needing to do a complicated round the world flight midway through a business trip due to a family emergency and I ended up with security theater on every single leg-- added considerable time to my flight and clearly was not random.
posted by frumiousb at 2:24 PM on May 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thanks all! Yeah, I definitely wouldn't have an interest in lying to anybody.

Sounds like the worst case (and a quite unlikely worst case) would be LGW immigration refusing me entry and sending me back to complete the LGW-DUB leg – which is after such a long layover that I wouldn't miss it.

In that case I'd need to get from DUB to London, but I expect there would be non-ruinous options for that on Ryanair/etc.
posted by kalapierson at 9:47 PM on May 30, 2016

I have done something like this once, about 7 years ago. I had a flight YEG-LHR-DUB, and when boarding the flight in YEG, I asked at the check-in counter if they could only check my bags to LHR as I intended to get off there instead. They were quite confused by my request, but in the end allowed for it.

It's worth asking at the check-in desk, maybe? In my case (AirCanada was the airline) they didn't charge me anything for a ticket change, they just only checked my bags through to LHR.
posted by vernondalhart at 2:18 AM on May 31, 2016

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