If I Ditch the Last Leg of My Ticket Will I Earn Miles?

by on June 29, 2014 · 15 comments

in Points Guy Pointers, Sunday Reader Questions, Video Blog Post

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This week TPG reader Alan tweeted:

@thepointsguy if I don’t fly the last leg of my ticket will I still earn QM for the ones I did?”

Ditching the last leg of an itinerary is known as “throw away ticketing” where you may book a cheap ticket to a destination, but at the end of the day you don’t actually want to go to the final destination and would rather get off in a city where you connect.

A "throw away ticket" is when you choose to skip the last leg of a trip.

A “throw away ticket” is when you choose to skip the last leg of a trip. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

For example, say you’re flying from Miami to Cleveland, Ohio via Atlanta for a total of $300, but flying that first Atlanta leg is $600 simply because that’s how it;s priced between those cities. Airline fare pricing does not necessarily mean that you pay more for each leg that you fly, adding on legs can actually drastically reduce the cost of your ticket.

So what happens if you fly part of a ticket and then just simply just don’t get on the last leg of your journey? First of all, make sure you don’t have checked luggage because that will continue on to the final destination and if you don’t board your flight and your bag are still on there it could create a security issue. If you don’t end up boarding the flight and do have checked bags you can let them know that you won’t be flying and voluntarily cancel your ticket. Technically this is against a lot of the fare rules for most airlines, but just because its against the rules doesn’t mean you can’t get away with it.

If you do skip the last leg of your trip, make sure your checked bags aren't flying without you. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

If you do skip the last leg of your trip, make sure your checked bags aren’t flying without you. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

In the past I personally have had tickets where I did not need or want to fly the final leg and I still ended up getting the elite qualifying miles for the legs that I did fly. If you make a habit out of this, the airlines have a pretty sophisticated system that checks for people manipulating fare rules and taking advantage so you could potentially have all your frequent flyer miles confiscated from your account and have it closed down.

For the average situation where you may do this a couple times I don’t think it would be an issue but please feel free to comment below if you’ve had any other experiences. To be safe, make sure you hold onto your ticket so you can fax it in to get the full credit for what you flew.

If you have additional questions, please message me on Facebook, tweet me @ThePointsGuy, or send me an email at [email protected]

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • brian

    My boss did this over a period of 9 or so months before the airline sent him a nasty-gram that he owed $20k OR all his miles (not just those accrued from those flights) AND status would be revoked. He was also prohibited from flying their airline until it was cleared-up satisfactorily (to the airline’s content). For those MS’ers, I’d advocate they not try this more than a couple times. On that note, having consulted for an airline in the semi-recent past ( and a lot of banks in IT), their ‘sophisticated systems’ aren’t really all that sophisticated, in that it isn’t hard to identify people that didn’t continue on their with their flights to final destination…mainly b/c disparate systems are becoming more inter-connected and information shared…) as for banks, they are starting the “early” stages into identifying MSers more readily. What they plan to do with said information, I don’t have a crystal ball. Current protocol is a human review of previous cards’ activities and can identify “suspicious” purchases..i.e. those recurring $X,XXX.xx at certain store types (and, no, buying that pack of gum w/ it doesn’t matter…much. “Recurring” is the pertinent word here). For those that have a certain %age of other “legitimate” purchases will get the ‘go-ahead’ for a card, but is ‘human’ at this point. Once automated systems are in place, a person should expect more auto-denials and recon calls. Logically, not every bank is at the same point and can’t speak intelligently about all, only ones I’ve consulted at.

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  • Iain

    I have a question on a similar theme. Just booked LHR-PHX round trip. It was much cheaper to book DUB-LHR-PHX round trip due to pricing and UK taxes ($450 per tic in economy). Will go to DUB to start journey. The intention on the return is to miss the last LHR-DUB leg. I included an overnight in LHR to justify collecting checked baggage. Will the airline try to charge me the difference? Will they try to levy the UK tax for the return? Will I get at least some of the miles? Any ideas.

  • jjflysalot

    “If you don’t end up boarding the flight and do have checked bags you can
    let them know that you won’t be flying and voluntarily cancel your
    ticket”. You would need to do this at check in–and what agent would let you knowingly do this and only tag your bags to the intermediate destination? Better off (as you state) just to bring a carry on and walk away…

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  • Allan Klein

    Brian, one important thing you didn’t mention is that any remaining segments on your itinerary will be cancelled. I know this is the case with Delta, assume other airlines are the same. Be sure you don’t need the return trip before engaging in this practice.

  • Keith

    Great insight – thanks!

  • Well Hung Jury

    No need to fly between Miami and Cleveland, OH. Only about a 4 hour drive form the university campus.

  • Johnny O

    Awesome post…I was just wondering the same thing. Thanks!

  • taryn

    I wonder how much he earned for that post.

  • DavidYoung2

    You can call the airline and tell them you are very ill and can’t continue the rest of the journey. Because they generally don’t want ill passengers flying, they will give you the OK. Best excuse is ‘food poisoning suddenly came on’ during the final leg you want to fly — nobody wants a passenger with vomiting and diarrhea on their planes!

  • trey

    how about telling them you ate a bag of soiled nuts on your first leg :-P ??

  • Martin

    TANGENT: About airlines not wanting ill passengers flying, I had one experience where I arrived at the ticket counter feeling very ill (feverish, tired, very achy) and asked to be rescheduled for the next day, and they wouldn’t (at least not without charging me the change fee and difference in fare). Platinum status did nothing to help me. The ticket agents had the presence of mind to tell me to step back from the counter but didn’t care I was about to carry the flu onto a packed flight. Midway through the flight I was burning up with fever and almost delirious. The next evening I went to the ER with a 104 F fever.

  • Just Saying

    The banks are required to do such monitoring as part of the USA Federal Government’s Anti Money Laundering and Anti Terrorism efforts. Banks using the information for other uses, more denials, and recon calls are an unintended consequence of that Federal push.

  • Dan Nainan

    Next time just don’t board the flight, and call and say that you are feeling very, very sick. They will take care of you and put you on a flight the next day.

  • nsx at FlyerTalk

    Southwest Airlines will most definitely give you ZERO points for your travel if you get off between origin and destination. This policy is about a year old. There is no flexibility on it.

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