Lonely Planet Writer

Booking two one-way flights could be a lot cheaper than a return fare

You might have heard that booking two-way flights is the best way to save money while travelling, rather than booking a one-way ticket from each departure point. According to travel app Kayak that’s not always the case.

Kayak has a new tool that could help you bag cheap flights. Image by Jaromir Chalabala / EyeEm / Getty Images

Kayak has just released its Flight Hacker Guide, a tool that will find you two one-way flights together that make a round-trip flight at a lower cost. That means booking two separate flights when planning your holiday through Kayak.“Sometimes that means you might have to take a different airline home than the one you took to your destination. Other times, it’s the same airline but you’ll be logged in the system as two one-ways,” explains Kayak. Either way, the company says they’ll “get you there and back while usually paying less than you would if it were a regular round-trip flight.”

So how does it work? First, you need to visit the app and search for a flight. When you find the destination you’re looking for, you’ll see ‘Hacker Fare’ identified under the price. Simply select the ‘View Deal’ button to start the process. Just be sure that prices for both tickets are available before booking.

It’s a good idea to do your research before booking. Image by Yuri Arcurs/Getty Images

Data from the flight booking platform shows that two one-way tickets to destinations including Tel Aviv, New Orleans and Dallas work out up to 21% cheaper than booking a return. While Hacker Fares can save you money, there are a few things to bear in mind. In cities with multiple airports, sometimes the most affordable combination of flights may arrive and depart from different airports. If you need to pay for transport to get you to and from each airport, the overall flight price might not work out as a bargain. You also need to check baggage fees as different airlines have different rules for carry-on luggage. While the airline flying to your destination may allow for a free carry-on, the ticket on your return flight may not.

Woman on the phone walking with a rolling suitcase in the city.
Be sure to research airline baggage fees to avoid hidden costs. Image by Westend61/Getty Images

Lonely Planet Travel News tested the cost of a return flight to New Orleans from New York, departing on Friday 10 May and returning a week later. A hacker fare when booking two separate flights (Delta and American Airlines) costs €185 ($210), while a return flight with JetBlue is €227 ($258).

Hacker fare savings don’t apply across the board. In another test, return flights from London to Dallas (departing on Friday 5 April and returning on 12 April) are priced at €421 ($478) with a hacker fare but a return flight is just €391 ($444) with Lufthansa.

“It’s important to note that isn’t always the case that making two separate bookings will save you money on the flight,” a Kayak spokesperson told Lonely Planet Travel News. “In fact, in most cases it won’t. However, when this is possible, Kayak highlights this for users.”