Travel advisors don’t love booking one-way flights for customers due to the additional work it details. But the practice will continue to boom if airfares don’t drop and airlines don’t expand their flight schedules.
The pent-up demand for travel this summer has driven travelers eager to resume Covid-interrupted trips to rapidly snap up flight tickets. Consumers in the US alone spent an estimated $8.3 billion on air travel in May, a 6.2 percent increase from the previous month.
But a growing number of those travelers are buying two one-way flight tickets, with travel advisors saying that soaring airfares in recent months and a reduction in flight schedules has made them more appealing to customers.
“Before the pandemic, round-trip flights were more cost-effective. That doesn’t appear to be the case any more,” said Tracey McGoughy, an advisor at travel agency Carib Compass Travel & Wellness.
“If I were to estimate it, 100 percent of my clients’ itineraries pre-pandemic included round-trip flights on the same airline. Now, about 50 percent of my clients’ itineraries involve one-way flights, usually on different airlines.”
McGoughy is not alone is noting a jump in one way tickets purchased. Twenty-five percent of plane tickets sold by US-based advisors in 2021 for international travel were one-way tickets, according to Genadij Pugachov, the chief operating officer of the Dyninno Travel, a division of US global information technology company Dyninno Group. The figure was only 12 percent two years prior.
So what’s sparking a surge in one-way plane tickets being sold?
“This is partly because of the surge in airline prices and partly because of the cuts in airline schedules,” McGoughy said, adding that airlines have started charging a premium for nonstop flights and flights with only one stop to certain destinations.
“Some of the round-trip flight combinations just don’t make sense and I wouldn’t book them for my clients.”
While McGoughy believes one-way tickets are acceptable for short flights, she acknowledges long-distance journeys pose a challenge if they require multiple one-way tickets to reach their final destination. She alluded to the possibility of travelers having to check in their luggage again upon arriving at a different airport.
Peter Vlitas, the executive vice president of partner relations for the Internova Travel Group, also sees one-way tickets providing hurdles for both advisors and travelers.
“The biggest challenge, if you purchase two one-way tickets, (is using) them as a connection,” said Vlitas, whose company represents more than 70,000 travel advisors across the agencies in its portfolio.
“If the first flight is delayed, you have no protection on the second ticket. And if you no show on the second flight because the first flight was late, you lose the entire value because the two tickets are not married.”
Both Vlitas and McGoughy view selling one-way tickets as more time consuming than round-trip flights on the same airline. Vlitas cited additional service levels required from the separate transactions while McGoughy said that finding the right airline and flight combinations often isn’t a quick process, asserting the primary business implication of booking one-way flights is the amount of time spent doing so. In addition, the two admit they don’t advertise one-way tickets, as Vlitas said his advisors’ strategy has always been to compare a one-way ticket to a round-trip with multiple fare levels.
But although McGoughy said she hopes that flight schedules and prices return to normal shortly, she’s more than willing to continue spending the necessary additional time to find affordable one-way flights for her customers.
“Most clients have a budget for their trip so I can work out acceptable one-way flight options that keep them within their budget, they accept it.”