When Can I Skip a Flight Without Having My Entire Trip Cancelled?
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.
There are many ways to save some dough when booking flights, including flying into (or out of) alternate airports that offer cheaper alternatives. But what happens if you don’t want to actually fly the entire itinerary? TPG reader Jason wants to help his aunt, who lives in Michigan but booked a connecting flight to Europe out of Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) instead of a nonstop out of Detroit (DTW), saving over $1,000 on the round-trip ticket…
On the way back, she connects/clears customs in Detroit. My question is: when she gets her checked bag, can she simply clear customs in Detroit then leave the airport terminal? My Uncle would then pick her up from there over O’Hare, as it’s much easier for them to do that.TPG Reader Jason
Generally speaking, whenever you book a flight on any airline, it treats the trip as one, complete itinerary. If you then don’t show up for any portion of it, the rest of the unflown flights will be cancelled and then subject to a change fee and possible fare difference if you then try to rebook. As a result, you should never skip a leg in the middle of an itinerary.
An analogy could be made to a chef cooking a recipe. The steps laid out in the recipe are carefully prescribed in a specific order, and leaving one out will run the risk of completely ruining a dish. Sure, the chef can customize each step slightly with different spices and cooking techniques, but the core of the recipe remains consistent. The same holds true for a trip. You’re able to personalize it a bit (seat selection, meal choice, etc.) but must keep the core itinerary intact. If you simply skip a flight in the middle of a trip, you’ll likely have the rest of it automatically cancelled.
But what about Jason’s aunt? Is there anything to stop her from simply not taking her final flight? The short answer is no: since she’ll need to claim her bags in Detroit anyway, there’s nothing to stop her from simply walking out of the airport as if she has reached her final destination. She technically doesn’t even need to let the airline know; when she doesn’t board the plane at the designated time, the gate agent will simply fill her spot with a passenger waiting for a seat assignment or on the standby list.
That being said, there are a couple of important caveats if you choose to skip your final flight:
- Make sure you can retrieve your luggage: Some airlines are fine checking bags only to an intermediate destination on an itinerary, especially if you have a long (or overnight) layover. And if your final flight is a domestic connection in the US, you must claim your luggage after clearing customs and then recheck it before your connecting flight. However, skipping the last flight becomes a problem if your bags are checked through to your final destination.
- Make sure you’re allowed to enter the intermediate country: If you’re trying to do this while connecting through a country (rather than within that country), make sure you have the proper documents to allow this.
- Don’t make this a habit: What Jason’s aunt is doing is referred to as “throwaway ticketing” where a trip is booked from a different airport to save money but the last flight is thrown away. I actually did this once with an unnamed airline that wanted an insane amount of money for the one-way flight I needed. A round-trip itinerary was 40% cheaper, so I booked the round-trip, flew the outbound, then cancelled the return. Doing it once or even a few times probably won’t raise any red flags; doing it consistently could lead the airline to boot you from its frequent flyer program.
(Like the chef analogy? Imagine leaving out the garnish. Not a requirement, but do it enough and a restaurant owner may let you go.)
Airlines are (obviously) out to make money, and they’re frequently able to charge a premium for nonstop flights from key destinations due to demand. You in turn can get around these hiked fares by looking at alternate airports, but you generally must then fly the entire itinerary or else risk having the rest of the trip cancelled. The lone exception would be your final flight; if you’re fine with the above caveats and are able to skip that last leg for any reason, you shouldn’t encounter any problems.
Featured photo by izusek/Getty Images.
Welcome to The Points Guy!
WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,650
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, 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.
- 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®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
- Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- 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.
- Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
- Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
- Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.