One-Way Tickets, Round-Trip Tickets – Which are Cheapest?

One-Way Tickets, Round-Trip Tickets - Which are Cheapest?

Sometimes what you really need are one-way tickets. Maybe there's an emergency; you need to fly but don't know when you'll return. Or maybe you want to do a fly-and-drive vacation so you can hop a plane to your destination then leisurely drive back home. What to know before you buy.

Best airlines for one-way tickets, round-trip tickets

There’s a common misconception that one-way tickets are half the price of a round-trip or return ticket. Sometimes this is true, sometimes it's not. It often depends on the kind of airline you fly. Some general guidelines. Note: All airfare prices were found in February for travel in March.

Discount carriers (such as Frontier, Spirit, Ryanair): One-way tickets on what are called discount or low cost airlines are often half the price of round-trips fares. Here's an example from Spirit; note that the one-way fare is precisely half the price of the round-trip ticket:

  • Baltimore-Chicago
    Round-trip: $102.60
    One-way: $51.30

Legacy carriers (such as American, United, British Airways): One-way tickets on these major airlines can be a little or a lot more than half the price of the round-trip fare. Here's an example from American; the one-way fare is significantly higher than half the round-trip price:

  • Los Angeles-New York
    Round-trip: $352
    One-way: $204

Tip: Airlines constantly tweak prices for both round-trip and one-way fares so no matter how you fly, compare fares – every time you shop.

What to do if plans are uncertain

Many airlines charge a change fee to cancel any part of a flight (unless you purchase the significantly more expensive refundable fare). In the U.S., change fees cost up to $200. If you’re not sure you need a one-way or round-trip ticket, some things to consider:

  • The change-your-mind rule: U.S. airlines have a 24 hour grace period in which you can cancel a flight with no financial penalty. Some airlines in other countries do too; check your carrier's policy on the website before you book the flight.
  • Southwest has no change fee: If you need to change or cancel tickets, Southwest is the lone U.S. carrier that does not charge a change fee.
  • Book one-way on discount carriers: As we've noted, it won’t always be half the price of a round-trip ticket but it's often a better deal for one-way fares. Again, always compare fares so you'll know for sure.
Rick Seaney
Want to Learn How to Save More Money on Travel?
Start Here

We are updating our Cookie Policy. FareCompare will use cookies and other tracking technologies to assist with navigation and product selection, analyze your use of our services, assist with our promotional and marketing efforts, and provide deals content from third parties.