Many travelers believe that since they’ve paid for their plane ticket, it’s now theirs and they can do absolutely anything they want with it. Like for example dropping one segment of the route. But that is not the case: you cannot do that.
Let’s say you buy a round trip from Montreal to Shanghai on our cheap flight deals page because it’s at a heavily discounted price (like $599 round trip, or even less from the West Coast).
The itinerary includes a connection (as is often the case, because direct flights are almost always more expensive than flights with a layover), in this case in Beijing.
So you paid for Montreal-Beijing, Beijing-Shanghai, Shanghai-Beijing and Beijing-Montreal flights. So you might be tempted to believe (wrongly) that you bought Montreal-Beijing, Beijing-Shanghai, Shanghai-Beijing and Beijing-Montréal flights.
That is not the case.
What you bought instead was the service of going from Montreal to Shanghai, which is really not the same thing.
So let’s imagine that you also want to visit Beijing, but that the connection is too short to do so (as I wanted to do during my trip to China last winter).
You say to yourself, I’m just going to disembark in Beijing on the outward journey and make other plans to go to Shanghai by myself afterwards to continue the journey and take my return flight from there (domestic flights are relatively affordable in China by the way, not as cheap as within Southeast Asia or Europe, but cheaper than in Canada).
But you are not allowed. You cannot do that (there is one exception, in the second section of the article).
So here’s what happens if you abandon part of your itinerary, followed by the exception, then the explanations and our tips for a successful stopover at the end of the article.
What happens if you skip one part of the itinerary
You’re probably wondering what is wrong with skipping a part of your itinerary. You paid your ticket anyway, you’re free to do whatever you want, right? It’s going to cost the airline less, they won’t have to take you from Beijing to Shanghai. No problem, right?
No, you absolutely cannot do that.
As soon as you miss a segment of your route, the rest of your itinerary is automatically canceled. So in this example, your return flights would all be canceled entirely!
And there’s nothing you could do about it, because it’s explicitly written in the airlines’ Contract of Carriage, the 20-page document that no one reads but that you agree to comply with when you buy any ticket.
If you’ve followed carefully, you understand that you can not do it on the return leg either. In the same example, say that you would decide to visit Beijing at the end of the trip and therefore make your way there on your own and simply use the part of your itinerary that is between Beijing and Montreal (an not use the Shanghai-Beijing segment).
Again, your entire itinerary would be canceled.
So, unfortunately, this is not possible and it is to be avoided so as not to have the bad surprise of seeing the rest of your itinerary canceled. By the way, that doesn’t apply if you miss one of your flights because of a tight connection. That’s not a problem. There is absolutely no reason to stress out unnecessarily over tight connections, you’ll simply be placed on the next flight out, as long as you booked the flights on the same booking. You can read how such a situation works in this article on what happens if you miss a connection.
Before we tell you why you can’t drop part of your ticket and how to enjoy one more city, here is a brief example of when you could do it (as there is one exception)!
The exception: when you ARE allowed to do it
There are situations where you could skip a part of your itinerary. That said, it’s still prohibited, but the airline won’t do much about it, unless you exaggerate and do it every month. But know that they may decide not to give you the reward miles that your flight would entitle you to because they don’t like it when fliers do this. So it’s doable (and a lot of people do), but we don’t recommend you do it too often, at least not with the same airline.
READ ALSO: Earn reward miles for free flights
What is this situation where you could skip a segment of your itinerary? You could sdo it only if it is the last segment of your itinerary.
Not the last segment of the outward journey, but the last segment of the entire route. Like we told you, doing this has the effect of canceling the rest of the route. But if there’s nothing left on the route anyway, that’s fine.
This is therefore often also feasible on one-way trips, as your return should not be affected if purchased separately, on a different route (a different transaction, a different booking).
Let’s say your return itinerary was San Francisco-Toronto-Montreal, and you decide for whatever reason to stay to visit Toronto, and you’ll buy a flight separately to return (they are often $100 one-way) or take the train fo about $50 on Via Rail (buy in advance for this reduced price).
In this case you could, because it doesn’t matther that your itinerary is canceled, it’s over.
There is also a very interesting way to use this trick to save on flights, I’ll tell you about it in a future article!
And be careful, this trick is only possible if you are travelling with carry-on baggage only, obviously (which you should always do anyway).
Otherwise your checked bag will probably be sent to your final destination.
The first time we published this article, some mentioned that when the itinerary includes flights on different airlines, even purchased in one transaction, it is possible to “skip” one flight and the other airline will not be informed.
I’m personally skeptical, but it may be possible. I’m really not someone who is stressed out about anything in life, but even I wouldn’t try it though. The risk of having the rest of the itinerary completely cancelled is a really expensive mistake if it happens… and you won’t be able to do anything about it, because you will be in the wrong.
Why you can’t skip a part of your itinerary
Essentially, because by not landing at your final destination, you are circumventing the airline pricing mechanisms. Airfare prices have absolutely nothing to do with the distance traveled (this is why short flights within Canada are often twice as expensive than flights to Europe) and have even less to do with the number of flights in the itinerary (this is why direct flights are almost always more expensive than flights with stops).
The price of a ticket is set according to the market price. How much people in a market (like Montreal) are willing to pay to get to a specific market (the destination)… and it obviously varies enormously from one destination to another. That is why Air Canada often sells its flights to Europe 50% cheaper to Americans than they do to Canadians, even though everyone will be sitting in the same plane.
So if you skip parts of your itinerary, you find yourself going to a completely different market, which is not the same price, and it’s forbidden!
This is the same reason why you can never change flight dates or get a free refund (and that’s normal): the service of going from city X to city Y that you buy is a very different service if you buy it 10 months in advance, 2 months in advance, or the day before the flight. Same flight sure, but very different prices.
Buying 10 months in advance is often more expensive, because it is a service for people who might be more insecure and want to buy too much in advance or people who do not have any flexibility whatsoever with their dates, so it is more expensive than buying 2 months in advance. Booking the day before the flight is also more expensive, because it is a service for people who are also not flexible, who absolutely have to leave the next day and are very captive. The actual flight doesn’t actually cost more for the airline, but that’s irrelevant. The only way they set prices is according to how much people in that market are willing to pay to go where that plane is going, that’s all.
So in short, if you are buying a ticket with a stopover, that stopover is only logistical… you are buying the service of getting to a specific destination on a specific date, so that is precisely what you have the right to do, nothing else. No skipping parts of the itinerary.
Tips for visiting an additional city on your itinerary
So if you want to visit an additional city and make it a 2-in-1 trip, unfortunately the best option is to purposely look for flights that have long layovers, as we always prefer ourselves.
When doing research, let’s say you have two choices. A 3-hour stop in Madrid or a 12-hour stop in Madrid? For sure, we will always choose 12 hours, and you should too if you claim to enjoy traveling! It’s wonderful, it lets you discover an extra city. Airports aren’t prisons, you know. You’re allowed to go outside (obviously, like any new country you visit, you need to check visa requirements).
The other option is to create a multi-destination itinerary on the flight search tools, which compared to one of our flight deals at a greatly reduced price, will usually significantly increase the price, even on the same dates and for the same route. If you are not looking at a deal but at a flight at regular price, a multi-destination route may be more expensive, but the difference might be insignificant.
Some airlines also advertise “free stopovers” in their hub airports, which is a great concept in theory. But in practice I tried it myself a few times without ever being able to book a routing at the same price, so it was never really “free”… if this is your case, share your experience with us in the comments!
Finally, the other way to visit more cities on the same route is to use the method we like very much, namely multi-ticket itineraries. The difference between this and the multi-destination flight search engine option, which we just talked about, is that in this case you buy tickets on completely separate bookings, completely independently, on different transactions. This is different.
The best example is for Europe. It can often save you money to buy two separate tickets, for example Montreal-London (often $500 roundtrip) and London-Milan (often $100 roundtrip) compared to Montreal-Milan in one booking (often $1,000). And it also gives you a free couple of days in an amazing city, London! We explain it in great detail in our article on multi-trip itineraries, but be aware that like any travel trick, it will not work in 100% of cases. You always need to compare.
You absolutely cannot drop parts of your flight itinerary because doing so violates airline rules and they will likely cancel the rest of your flight automatically.
Unless you do not want to use the very last part of your itinerary (and you travel without checked baggage).
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