Every once in a while, especially during high travel volume seasons, you’ll find an online discussion about booking tricks that net you a cheaper fare.
Reddit had one such discussion, when a poster asked why the price of a round trip ticket is sometimes cheaper than the one way.
Basically… why wouldn’t you just book TWO round trips and not use the other halves of the trips to save money?
Redditor u/s2g affirmed what the OP was thinking:
Although such a strategy is possible, do airlines like it when travelers do that? And why the hell is this even a thing?
Again, a redditor had a good explanation…
The TL;DR of that is airlines reward travelers who spend more time at destinations with lower fares because it’s easier to charge short term customers (usually business travellers) more.
So… will booking two round trip tickets that you don’t use the get you in actual trouble?
The answer is no.
It’s not illegal to book your flights like this so you can get cheaper fares. The second round trip would be in the reverse direction, by the way, and you would need to know well in advance of your travel dates.
The problem is that booking like this is against many airlines’ contracts of carriage. They may call this back-to-back ticketing, nested ticketing or itineraries that overlap.
The reason the airlines get so picky about this kind of activity is because they expect a certain amount of revenue yield per seat per route based on the history of the number of leisure travelers and business travelers. The airlines know that business travelers aren’t as budget conscious as leisure travelers. That’s also the reason for Saturday night stays. If they can encourage leisure travelers to fill up Sunday flights, they can sell more Friday and Saturday flights to business travelers who will pay more to be home for the weekend.
So, they get a little testy if you’re trying to go around their reasonable business model–airlines are a business with shareholders who like to make money, after all. They may cancel your ticket, revoke your status or seek other legal action.
Will you get caught? Unlikely, but you should definitely understand the risks.
Good luck out there!