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Combining Two Airline Tickets Brings Terrific Savings

Aug 17, 2007
Here's a tip that the airlines don't tell you: You can often get great savings on airfares--especially international airfares--when you use more than one airline ticket for the same trip.

But there is technique to it. Some challenges can arise when you use two tickets--but don't worry, I'm going to tell you how to avoid them right here.

Coming up with possible combinations

When you use two tickets for your trip, you are using two airfares, which normally couldn't be combined on the same ticket. Typically, this means booking different airlines.

So, how do you find two airfares that are cheaper than one?

One way is to think of popular cities between your origin and destination that you would love to visit. Popular cities usually have more competitive airfares.

For example, you may not find a reasonably priced ticket from your city to Malaga, Spain, but you may find a great deal to Dublin, another fabulous city to visit. And, because Malaga is popular with travelers from Ireland and the United Kingdom, it should be easy to find a cheap ticket from Dublin to Malaga.

You've saved a bundle, and enjoyed two destinations for less than the price of one.

Another way to save with two tickets is to use a budget airline for part of your trip.

For example, you probably won't find good airfares from Raleigh to Mazatlan, but you'll almost certainly come across low fares from Raleigh to Las Vegas and other major cities in the West because low-priced Southwest Airlines flies these routes.

And, because Mazatlan is a popular destination for travelers in the western U.S., you can expect to pick up a great fare from major cities to Mazatlan. In most cases, these two tickets will cost significantly less than buying one ticket from Raleigh to Mazatlan.

To see where several budget airlines fly, check out the route maps of Southwest, JetBlue, WestJet (Canada), and Ryanair (Europe, Ireland, and the United Kingdom) at their websites.

Consider secondary airports and changing airports

When setting up your two tickets, think of secondary airports and changing airports while traveling, if you really want to save.

If you're traveling to Europe, Frankfurt, Paris, Rome, and London all offer less well-known airports with incredibly cheap fares to other points in Europe. (Ryanair's site lists its European airports, which are also used by other budget airlines.)

For example, you may fly into London's Heathrow Airport from the U.S. on a bargain ticket, but you can fly on to other points in Europe more cheaply if you fly out of London's Lutton, Stansted, or Gatwick airports.

Many cities in the U.S. also have more than one airport, and usually the lesser known is predominantly used by budget airlines, such as the Midway Airport in Chicago.

Five ways to avoid inconvenience when you combine tickets

Using two tickets does increase your chances for inconvenience, so follow these procedures when you're setting up your itinerary:

* Plan to schedule at least one day between your two tickets. Suppose you arrive late on your first ticket and miss the departure flight on your second ticket? The airline on your second ticket may not have another departure to your destination that same day, or it may charge you high fees to rebook. You can avoid this potential problem by scheduling your departure for the next day from the outset - and possibly enjoy the sites, a great restaurant, or friends in that city while you're at it.

* If you must check luggage, plan to schedule at least several days between your two tickets. I always recommend that you pack everything you need in your carry-ons, but I realize this is not always possible. So, if you must check luggage, plan to schedule at least several days between your two tickets.

Since you cannot check your luggage from one airline to another when using two tickets, if your luggage is late, the airline on the second ticket may not be obligated to send your luggage on. So, if you are still in that city when it arrives, you will be able to pick it up yourself. (You can see how picking a city you'd love to visit fits in quite well with this strategy.)

And speaking of luggage, be sure to check the limits on luggage size and weight with all airlines. The rules occasionally change within the U.S., and note that airlines outside the United States have far more restrictive limits on luggage size and weight for both carry-on and check-on luggage, when your ticket does not start or end in the U.S. The penalties for noncompliance can be steep.

* Consider asking a travel agent to set up your itinerary. What if you pay for one ticket and then find that the other ticket is suddenly unavailable for the price you expected? No airline price (even one displayed clearly online) is guaranteed until it's paid for.

Because of this, you may wish to use a travel agent for two tickets. In most cases, he or she can void the first ticket if you are unable to get the second ticket.

On the other hand, if you're flexible about your dates and airports, you may wish to go for discounts on Priceline and other online sites for maximum savings.

* If you'll be switching airports, find out how much time you'll need. Research the amount of time you need to switch airports and factor that into your flight departure time. For example, if you arrive in Paris Charles de Gaulle and depart from Paris Beauvais, transferring from one to the other can take hours, unless you choose to go by taxi--quicker, but expensive.

* Although a few budget airlines, such as Southwest and JetBlue, are very financially strong, be sure to check out ones you're not familiar with. If an airline's stock price has lost most of its value, the airline may offer more than the usual number of flight cancellations and changes.

Knowledge equals...

Using more than one ticket has helped me afford to travel the world. But be sure to follow these tips to avoid inconvenience. You've heard of knowledge = power. Well, here let's say knowledge = great savings plus smooth traveling.
About the Author
Don Nadeau, president of http://www.BidonTravel.com, loves helping people travel economically. He specializes in helping people find great last-minute airfares and hotel discounts.
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