In 2011, Conde Nast ran a contest where the general public submitted travel tips and the winner received a $15,000 vacation. Although I did not win—I should have, right?—my entry was selected for publication by Wendy Perrin.
Here is the text from the published article followed by a screen shot of the article heading.
Save on International Airfares with Split Tickets
Next time you’re tearing your hair out trying to find an affordable airfare to the exotic, far-flung locale of your dreams, heed today’s featured reader tip, entered in our Best Travel Tip Contest by Charles McCool of McCool Travel. When you punch your home airport code and destination airport code into the computer and the price that pops up is insane, instead try combining two separate round-trips on two separate airlines—the first from your home to a big international gateway, the second from that gateway to your final destination. This is called a “split ticket.” Charles’ tip:
As Charles points out, you can grab a few nights in the gateway city, thus creating two trips out of one. Should you decide to combine two roundtrips without a stay in the interim city, it’s crucial to build more time than usual into your layover between flights: First, you’ll need to pick up your luggage from Airline No. 1 at the connection point and check it in to Airline No. 2. Second, if your first flight is delayed, Airline No. 1 will not be responsible for getting you to your final destination, as it would be if you were buying a connecting itinerary through it.
Here is more information on using split ticketing to save on international airfares, from one of my published articles:
Many people are currently planning summer trips and I want to reintroduce the split ticket strategy which can save you loads of money.
Recently, I have spoken to several people or read online about proposed itineraries with connecting flights.
I have received or seen requests for flights to Alaska, Istanbul, Berlin, Sydney, Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island), and more.
The departure airports differed in each case but there was no nonstop flight option.
Each itinerary involves mandatory connecting flights. That is, the routings are such that the passenger MUST connect in an interim airport. There are no nonstop or direct flights between the departure and arrival airports.
When I am forced to make a connection, I research how much it costs to buy two different flights. This is what I call split tickets.
Flights to Sydney, Australia from the US East coast make at least one connection. The lowest fare for many flights between Dulles (near DC) and Sydney in July cost about $2,200 and connect through Los Angeles. Flights between Los Angeles and Sydney during the same period are as low as $1,200.
Buying two separate round trips (Dulles-Los Angeles AND Los Angeles-Sydney) makes financial sense if the Dulles to Los Angeles flight is under $1,000. Current fares are $376. By buying separate round trip tickets for this routing, you save more than $600 (per passenger!). Now you can afford to stay another night in Australia!
Three Advantages of Split Tickets
As the ad guys say, “but wait, there’s more!”
First, split tickets can save you money. One example is above.
Second, you can pick your favorite airlines. For example, instead of choosing between only American, United, and Delta between the East coast and Hawaii, you can fly JetBlue or Virgin and Hawaiian Airlines.
Third, you can create stopovers. The above $2,200 fares between Dulles and Australia require passengers to travel straight through. When connecting in Los Angeles, you must take the next flight. If you wanted to stay for a couple of days, it is a different fare situation and much more expensive.
When buying two separate round trip tickets, you decide how long to stay in interim cities. In fact, I have created itineraries through two separate interim destinations. For instance, fly from East coast to San Francisco and stay a few days. Fly to Hawaii and stay a week. Return flight to Los Angeles (or San Diego or Las Vegas) and stay a few days. Return flight back to East coast.
Split tickets are not less expensive for every connecting routing. Every once in awhile, though, it makes perfect sense. After all, even the best baseball player does not hit a home run every time.
See also my article about split tickets.