There could be any number of reasons not to take the first flight of a multi-sector booking. For example, one member recently discovered that it was cheaper to book a ticket from Perth to Singapore via Melbourne, than a direct Melbourne-Singapore flight. Being based in Melbourne, the member is considering purchasing the ticket from Perth and skipping the first flight.

It may sound like a good idea in theory, but in reality it’s likely to end in tears.

So looking for some flights to Asia for Xmas and its super expensive from MEL to Sin. I see due to some crazy pricing qantas have perth – mel – sin in business for $930…

As we live in Melbourne can we skip the first flight and just fly MEL – sin on emirates in Business class for $930 one way? Which is a crazy price 6 days before Xmas. The emirate flight direct from MEL is $1600

The practice of purchasing a ticket with the intention of taking only some of the flights on the booking is known as hidden-city ticketing. It can sometimes make sense to purchase hidden-city tickets where multi-city flights are cheaper than a single flight purchased separately. This is certainly the case here, where the extra Perth-Melbourne flight happens to reduce the price by almost $700. The phenomenon can also often be seen, for example, when comparing the cost of Business class tickets from Perth to Melbourne, and Perth to Auckland – via Melbourne. The flights to Auckland – with a stop in Melbourne – are often 25% cheaper than a ticket to Melbourne only. In each case, both flights are married segments meaning the price is based on the origin and ultimate destination – not a sum of the individual sectors.

Unfortunately, there are some very real risks involved. If you miss the first flight on any booking, most airlines will simply cancel the rest of the flights on your ticket! The airline will not be obliged to issue a refund either, as you will be considered a “no show”.

I believe when you miss a segment of an itinerary, its referred to as “throwaway” ticketing. I think each airline has their own policy on it. [ranging from being frowned apon to having an entire itinerary cancelled] I think its more common for flyers to discard segments in the latter portions of an itinerary rather than at the original airport. I just can’t imagine a MEL checkin agent being ok with you turning up with a PER originating itinerary/boarding pass.

This doesn’t mean you couldn’t take advantage of such pricing loopholes – you would just need to be prepared to travel to Perth in order to take all of the booked flights.

Well you could fly Y to Perth for $285 then fly business from Perth via Melbourne to Singapore for $914 then fly back for $885 and simply disembark in Melbourne once you have cleared customs. Net cost @$2085 versus $3099 Melb to Sing. Saving $1000….plus the extra status credits and frequent flyer points

Skipping the last flight on a ticket is a little easier, as you don’t risk having any subsequent flights cancelled. However, this too is not without risks. The airline may refuse to check your luggage to an intermediate destination which is not officially your final destination. In rare cases, airlines may also request the fare difference.

If you had a round-trip ticket you could potentially throw away the last segment (MEL-PER), although the airline will claim it is within its rights to recalculate the ticket price and come after you for the difference.

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]