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Why Are One Way Flights More Expensive? | How to Find Cheap Flights
- Jonathan Chum
When it comes to finding a one-way flight for cheap, you'll find that it generally will cost more than a round-trip ticket. There's many variables that plays into the cost of a one-way ticket, different fare classes, time of the year whether it's seasonal or holiday, major festival in the destination city, and more.
One Cheep user asks "Why Are One Way Flights More Expensive?"
Why Are One Way Flights More Expensive?
Jennifer, Cheep app user
First, it's in the airline's best interest to build loyalty and increase their average order value (AOV) by incentivizing you to book a round-trip ticket.
This means, lowering the price should you decide to purchase a round-trip over a more expensive one-way ticket.
It's not always the case that a one-way flight is more expensive than a round-trip ticket.
Let's take a look at one route that is very popular from my city.
San Francisco (SFO) - Las Vegas (LAS) is very popular route on Alaska Airlines.
For this date, June 5 - June 7, the round trip fare is $149.
When I look for just a one way flight, the ticket is $75.
The one-way fare is half of round trip.
The reason is that this route is quite popular not just on this airline, but other airlines competing on the same route.
Let's review another international non-stop route in economy class from San Francisco (SFO) to Narita (NRT), Japan departing June 5 and returning on June 7. This fare is $2,203
And lets find same fares individually a one-way route departing on June 5.
And this one departing on June 7.
Note that if you were to book a round-trip fare would set you back 2,589, a fare difference of $386.
You'll see more outrageous fares differences if you were to book in business class because airlines know that business class travelers have different habits and routines.
They maybe on a business trip that is open ended in terms of when they would be returning or a flight hacker who cashed in points on an award ticket.
Should You Buy An Expensive One Way Flight?
That depends. The trick to score a cheap one-way flight is to piece mail together an itinerary across different airlines which is what flight hackers do.
Using a flight search tool like Google Flights, you could manually enter the flight details and find the cheapest one way flight for the calendar month and then again on another departure day. The key is being flexible on the dates.
Many fare hackers will use Matrix's ITA Software which searches real time across many carriers for the best deal. This is what many travel agents would do because it gives the most accurate price in real-time. The trade off is searching using this tool can be slow.
Sometimes you may get lucky using ITA, other times you won. For example, this fare across Multiple Airlines didn't beat the fare offered by United round-trip.
If you have a big flexibility in terms of layovers, you could use a tool like Skiplagged which searches one-way fares for hidden city ticketing. It combines both hidden city ticketing and one way fare searches that is very unique and can sometimes uncover some solid deals.
Here, with a bit of flexibility on route to NRT, there's a small 2 hour layover in Hawaii and 5 hours layover on the return.
The total fare comes out to be 1,456 for an average of 3.5 hour layover.
In this scenario, it would be more worth to buy a round-trip ticket to your destination but don't hop on the returning flight if you aren't sure when you plan on returning.
The bottom line on whether one way flights are more expensive is that it really depends on a lot of variables and takes a bit of creativity.
The last example is changing flight search engine, carrier and adding one tiny 2 hour stop over saved over $1456 dollars!
You maybe wondering if $747 is a good fare? In our opinion we used a simple calculation of distance between the departure and arrival airports via the layover divided by the fare cost.
SFO - HNL (2084 miles) - NRT (3819 miles) = 5,903 miles
5,903 miles / $747 = 7.9 cents per mile
General rule of thumb based on 15 years traveling over 30 countries is a good fare should be under 6 cents per mile and the time it takes to get to your final destination is weighted in the decision matrix.
In this case, the CPM is disqualified and not a good flight deal to book.
We've built a tool that automates this process and finds flight deals that we'd book ourselves based on a weighted matrix or scoring system.
Check out Cheep for free to find flight deals.