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 info@thepointsguy.com.

Featured image courtesy of UpperCut Images/Getty Images.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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.