It’s pretty common knowledge that (at least among major airlines, excluding budget airlines and the likes of Southwest, Jet Blue, and Virgin America, which tend to charge by segment) that one-way flight bookings are usually more than half the cost of a round-trip. This is basic microeconomics: the one-ways are targeted at people who have some weird or unexpected plan that requires they be somewhere by a certain date or time but not necessarily back (or with a return from a different location).
We have a name for these type of people: business travelers. Obviously others fall into this bucket at various times in their life and for various circumstances, but for the most part, you’ll find yourself booking round trips.
This is actually kind of a pain for award bookers as well, since most of the time it’s not economical to only do an award one-way and pay cash for the return. Unless you’re willing to take some crazy connection or circumnavigate the globe.
Anyway, I was poking around at one-way flight prices to complete a round-the-world trip constructed when I managed to convince 8 of my friends to jump on a mistake fare in Qatar Airways Business Class between Algeria and China for $177. I’m not planning on buying now because our tickets are almost certainly going to be canceled, but I love thinking about travel so naturally this is what I did on my lunch break.
Here’s the one-way return price to SF on American Airlines, which I’d ideally like to fly since I’d earn 15,000-20,000 Alaska miles by virtue of having status (the miles would negate up to a $250 price premium for me):
That’s a lot for a route that round-trip will average around $1200 (on AA; it gets as low as $600 or $700 on other carriers, and $500 for a one-way).
It was therefore much to my surprise when I decided to click and see just how much the one-way ‘premium’ was (I assumed I’d see an $1100+ ticket):
I got nothing.
So moral of the story: check the round-trip price before booking a one-way! (And you might even get a second trip out of it if there ends up being a schedule change that would allow you to change the second leg for free!)