Round Trip Tickets vs One Way: How to Determine the Better Deal
- Is this a domestic or international trip?
- Are there nearby airports you could fly into/out of?
- Is there currently an airline sale going on?
- Are you flying a full-service carrier or a low-cost one?
- Will you be make any stopovers before your final destination?
Domestic vs International Flights
Conventional travel wisdom suggests that one-way tickets can be a better value domestically, while international flights are a better deal when you purchase a round-trip. However, this is simply not true in all cases.
On the other hand, many airlines lack policy to this end, which can make any claim difficult to substantiate. The only way to assess round trip vs one way in the context of domestic vs international is to search Skyscanner for flights today.
Would you believe that driving less than an hour could save you hundreds of dollars? It can, depending on where you live. In the New York area, for example, it can be cheaper to arrive at Newark than LaGuardia, though both are a similar distance from Manhattan.
Skyscanner can help you with this—simply enter a city’s name, rather than its three-letter code. For example, when searching flights to LA, type in “Los Angeles” instead of “LAX” or “LGB.”
Airlines run sales several times per year, from ordinary promotions to JetBlue’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday sale (as just one example). While you can be sure of a deal, you can’t always be sure you need a round-trip to quality.
Pay close attention to the specific wording of the deal. If the airline is offering discounts on round-trips, chances are almost certain that a one-way flight won’t simply cost half as much. But in the case of airlines like Southwest, which exclusively put on one-way fare sales, one way is often…well, the one way to go.
Low Cost vs Legacy Carriers
While it’s not true to say that all domestic carriers sell one-way tickets (and all international ones sell round-trip tickets), it is possible to conclude, more or less, than low-cost carriers tend to sell one-way tickets, while legacy carriers sell round-trips and price accordingly.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you will save, of course—sometimes, the inbound leg of a flight is much more expensive than the outbound one. Make sure you get the best deal, no matter which airlines you fly, when you set a Skyscanner alert.
Sometimes, flying into on airport and out of another can save you money, both domestically and internationally. For instance, if you want to drive part of the Pacific Northwest Coast, you could book a flight to Seattle, and come back from Portland or San Francisco on the same itinerary.
Another way multi-city itineraries can benefit you (though not necessarily save you money) is in the form of stopovers. For example, if you want to stop in Dubai on your way from Atlanta to Kuala Lumpur, you could book your journey as three multi-city segments—ATL-DXB;DXB-KUL;KUL-ATL, with as much time as you’d like between the first and second.
NOTE: Though many airlines assess a “stopover fee” of around $100 as compared to the round-trip fare for a stopover, this tends not to apply to other multi-city itineraries.