Is It Illegal to Book Two Flights on the Same Day and Then Cancel One?

Aug 11, 2017

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

“Reader Questions” are answered twice a week — Mondays and Fridays — by TPG Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel.

There’s hidden city ticketing, nested ticketing and even throwaway ticketing. But is it out-and-out illegal to book two flights for the same day and then only fly one of them? That’s what TPG reader Sharam was told by an airline representative…

I purchased two United tickets for the same route on the same day at different times because I wasn’t sure which flight I could take. A United agent told me what I did was illegal. Is it?

TPG Reader Sharam

I’m going to give that United representative the benefit of the doubt and assume they were misinformed and not actively trying to mislead a customer. But the answer to the question is no — it is absolutely not against the law to book two tickets for the same day on the same route.

That said, there is “against the law” and then there is “against the rules.” While you’re definitely not going to get hauled off to jail for booking two tickets and only using one of them, the practice is in fact a violation of the Contract of Carriage at most airlines. The Contract of Carriage is exactly that — a contract between you and the airline. And while violating a civil contract isn’t a violation of criminal law, if your actions are discovered by the airline, it generally has the right to cancel both of your tickets.

United Club LAX Review
United’s Contract of Carriage clearly spells out the airline’s right to cancel multiple tickets in the same name for the same date on the same route.

In this case, if we dig into United’s Contract of Carriage, we can find that the section that governs this type of behavior is pretty well spelled out:

The types of improper reservations that UA will cancel without notice include, but are not limited to … reservations made for the same passenger on flights traveling on or about the same date between one or more of the same or nearby origin or destination cities; and reservations with connections that depart before the arrival on the inbound flight. [emphasis added]

That’s not to say an airline will definitely cancel multiple reservations — it depends on the circumstances — but it’s a possibility. And if you continue booking multiple tickets, the airline might decide you’re a serial violator and escalate its penalties against you, such as closing your frequent flyer account and even, in the most extreme case, banning you from the airline.

None of that is likely to happen if this is a one-time occurrence, but in general if you’re booking well in advance and aren’t sure which flight you’re going to take, you should book one ticket that’s changeable without penalty and make adjustments as you get closer to departure. It’ll cost more but it’s the safer play. Or if you absolutely insist on booking multiple tickets, make sure they’re on different airlines so you don’t draw attention to multiple bookings.

I hope this at least puts your mind at ease that you aren’t headed for the hoosegow anytime soon, Sharam. Thanks for the question, and if you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at

Featured image courtesy of UpperCut Images/Getty Images.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on dining and 2x points on travel, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
Regular APR
16.24% - 23.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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.