Stupid Tip of the Day: Never Skip the First Leg of Your Flight Itinerary

You have just purchased a roundtrip itinerary for flights between an origination city and a destination city. You paid the lowest price possible for this airline ticket. You are proud of the smart deal of which you will take advantage…

Stupid Tip of the Day: Never Skip the First Leg of Your Flight Itinerary

…but then your plans suddenly change. You miss the first flight of your itinerary, perhaps thinking that you will simply use up the rest of the flights — but the remainder of your itinerary is canceled by the airline. You are then forced to purchase another ticket at your expense without receiving a refund of even a penny for the original ticket which you purchased.

Why?

Airlines have created a complex structure which is designed to protect their revenue stream. Even though a flight between Atlanta and Nashville can at times be more expensive than a flight between Atlanta and Seattle — which seems illogical — airlines attempt to extract as much revenue as possible in accordance with supply and demand.

I once paid approximately $800.00 to travel by airplane between Atlanta and Nashville round trip — but the reason was because I was on call for business and never knew when I needed to be elsewhere next. If I drove 3.5 hours to Nashville, I would either need to drive back to catch a flight from Atlanta — where I am currently based — or create a new itinerary originating in Nashville and drive back to Atlanta after a business trip, which could occur at an inconvenient time and when I might be too tired…

…but I digress.

Flexibility in changing an airline ticket will cost you more money than that of a restricted ticket. It is a way of the airline to potentially profit more from you. Unfortunately, many people who purchase airline tickets do not travel often and will usually automatically purchase the lowest airfares while being unfamiliar with the rules and restrictions of the tickets they purchased — meaning when something happens, they do not understand why the airline is imposing what seems to be unnecessary restrictions.

Think about it: if you have a choice of economy class airfare to purchase between two cities and one ticket costs $300.00 and the other ticket costs $100.00, the natural way of thinking is why spend $200.00 more for what is essentially the same travel in the same seat aboard the same airplane for the same duration of time?

For someone whose travel must be flexible — which could mean several changes to the itinerary and therefore be charged a fee several times — the $300.00 airfare is a bargain as compared to the more restrictive $100.00 airfare…

…but what if a passenger was able to easily get the itinerary changed on the $100.00 at no extra charge? That would then give no incentive for the passenger who needs to be flexible to spend $200.00 more for the ticket.

The example which you just read is an oversimplification, of course; and it was not meant to defend airlines — but that is the main reason why restrictions are in place for airplane tickets purchased at the lowest cost. It is a form of revenue protection for the airline.

One recent example of why you should never skip the first leg of a flight itinerary is imparted with this cautionary tale written by Panama Jackson of Very Smart Brothas at The Root, who needed to attend a wedding but had to change his itinerary. What was originally approximately $1,300.00 in airfare for a round trip ticket ballooned to $3,200.00 because he skipped the first segment of the flight itinerary which he originally purchased. The airline would not allow him to change his original itinerary to an earlier outbound flight; so he purchased a one-way flight to get to where he needed to go, thinking that the remainder of the original itinerary could still be used.

Summary

Travel is complex enough as it is, with all sorts of different airfares, fare classes, rules, restrictions and policies; and it can potentially be more streamlined for everyone.

Purchasing two one-way flights instead of a round trip itinerary will allow you to miss that first flight without jeopardizing the second flight — and doing so may actually be less expensive in some cases.

Even if you have a very restrictive itinerary and you need a change, contact someone at the airline and see if that person will work with you. If you do not get what you want, do not hesitate to hang up and call again to speak to a different agent of the airline who may be sympathetic with your situation. Just do not raise your expectations so high that you will be disappointed if you do not get the resolution you wanted for your particular circumstance.

Remember that you typically cannot skip the first leg of a flight itinerary without jeopardizing the rest of your itinerary — and you will not receive your money back. This rule of thumb also applies to flights in the middle of an itinerary: miss one and the remainder of the itinerary will likely be canceled.

You can skip the absolutely last flight of your itinerary without penalty; but do this too often and the airline will be on notice and may possibly levy a penalty on you.

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

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