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Two One-Way Flights or One Round-Trip: Which Is Better?

Sam Kemmis

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money .

Booking a flight involves navigating a maze of decisions. Is it better to fly with a budget airline or full-service one? How about basic economy versus regular economy ? And would you prefer pretzels or a cookie? 

Choosing between a single round-trip or two one-way tickets is the most basic decision and — you might be surprised to learn — one of the more nuanced. 

The cost between the two is usually the same for domestic flights but can vary significantly for international routes (assuming you're booking with cash rather than points and miles ).

Given that airfare was 26% more expensive in January 2023 than January 2022, according to the latest consumer price index data, budget travelers need to save every penny they can. 

In general, it can be more convenient to book a round-trip flight for a trip with specific start and end dates, but other considerations, such as cancellation policies and pricing, could make booking one-ways more appealing in some cases. And everything works differently for flights booked with miles. 

Let’s break it down.

Domestic flights

For flights within the United States on the same airline, round-trip tickets almost always cost the same as two one-ways.

There’s one caveat here: Booking two one-way tickets between separate destination or arrival airports can, in some cases, save money (or cost more). 

“Fares don’t have to be booked as returns,” says Laura Lindsay, travel trends expert at SkyScanner, a travel booking platform. “Look at flying out with one airline and back with another, or out of one airport and back into another to save money.”

Many online travel tools will automatically compare prices for these mismatched airline or airport itineraries and automatically include them in search results.

But it might be worth checking manually, especially for plans that involve different local airports or for airlines that don’t appear in search results , such as Southwest.

All that said, for domestic flights, the difference is almost always a wash. 

International flights

For international tickets, the logic changes completely. Round-trip tickets are usually cheaper than one-ways, sometimes significantly so.

NerdWallet compared fares across multiple international routes and found that, typically, buying two one-way tickets costs 20% more than a single roundtrip. 

To determine these differences, we compared routes between four U.S. airports and two airports in each destination region.

The effect is more pronounced when flying to some regions, such as Africa and Asia. That said, for flights between the U.S. and every region we looked at, it costs more to book two one-ways than a single round-trip. 

In some circumstances, such as open-ended trips where you don’t know when you’ll be returning, one-way flights might still make the most sense. But for most international travel, round-trip fares are the clear winner. 

Cards for booking flights with cash

If you plan to pay the cash fare for your ticket, consider booking with a card that will earn you points on travel purchases. Here are some options:

Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card

on American Express' website

Chase United Quest Credit Card

• 5 points per dollar spent on travel (including flights) booked through Chase's travel portal.

• 2 points per dollar on other travel (including flights).

Annual fee: $95 .

• 10 points per dollar on hotel stays and car rentals purchased through Chase's travel portal.

• 5 points per dollar on air travel purchased through Chase's travel portal.

• 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining not booked with Chase.

Annual fee: $550 .

• 2 miles per $1 on purchases made directly with Delta.

Annual fee: $0 intro for the first year, then $150 .

Terms apply.

• 4 miles per $1 spent on United purchases.

Annual fee: $250 .

Are round-trip or one-way flights cheaper if booking with points?

What about the cost difference between one-way and round-trip fares when using points or miles ?

Generally, airlines break these fares into one-way sections, meaning there is no meaningful difference between the two, in terms of cost. Yet a few caveats apply: 

Taxes on award flights can be higher when booking two one-ways. Delta Air Lines, for example, tends to charge more fees for flights originating in Europe.

Some airlines, such as ANA, do not allow one-way award flights, period. 

Flights booked with credit card points using a travel portal (i.e. not transferred to an airline partner) follow the same rules as cash fares. 

The Platinum Card® from American Express

on Citibank's application

American Express® Gold Card

• 5 points per $1 on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel, on up to $500,000 spent per year.

• 5 points per $1 on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.

• 1 point per $1 on other eligible purchases.

• 10 ThankYou® points per $1 spent on hotels, car rentals and attractions booked through the Citi Travel site.

• 3 points per $1 on air travel and other hotel purchases.

• 3 points per $1 on supermarkets.

• 3 points per $1 on gas stations and EV charging stations.

• 3 points per $1 on restaurants.

• 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.

• 4 points per $1 at restaurant plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.

• 4 points per $1 at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 in purchases per year).

• 3 points per $1 on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel.

• 10 miles per $1 on eligible car rentals and hotels booked through AA.

• 4 miles per $1 on eligible American Airlines purchases, up to $150,000 spent per calendar year (5 miles per $1 spent thereafter for the remainder of the calendar year).

• 1 mile per $1 on everything else.

• 1 Loyalty Point per 1 eligible AAdvantage® mile earned from purchases.

Other considerations

It’s also worth considering the impact of changes and cancellations on the two options.

Most airlines have eliminated change fees , making it easier to change and cancel both kinds of tickets. But canceling one leg of a round-trip ticket can sometimes be more complicated than canceling a one-way ticket.

In some cases, you might need to call customer service, instead of canceling online, to make sure the change doesn’t cancel your other flight segments as well.

And finally, there’s the question of simplicity.

Is the simplicity of having a single itinerary, managed by one round-trip confirmation code, worth these other trade-offs? This simplicity, paired with the fact that round-trip tickets are almost never more expensive than two one-ways, means that these fares make sense for most travelers.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2024 , including those best for:

Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card

Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express

Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card

1x-5x 5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

75,000 Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's over $900 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

1.5%-5% Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Up to $300 Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

2x-5x Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

75,000 Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

one way trip ticket

Find deals on flights from the United States from $24

This is the cheapest one-way flight price found by a kayak user in the last 72 hours by searching for a flight from the united states to anywhere departing on 6/4. fares are subject to change and may not be available on all flights or dates of travel. click the price to replicate the search for this deal., search hundreds of travel sites at once for cheap international flights from the united states.

Save 21% or more Compare multiple travel sites with one search.

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Flights from the United States - Travel Insights & Trends

Get data-powered insights and trends into flights from the united states to help you find the cheapest flights, the best time to fly and much more., which are the most popular places to fly to from the united states, based on kayak flight searches, the most popular place to fly from united states is new york (22% of total searches). the next most popular destinations are seattle/tacoma intl (11%) and las vegas harry reid intl (11%)., what are the most popular international flights out of the united states, there are many international destinations you can fly to from the united states. the most popular international destinations among kayak users are rome , san juan and paris ., what are the most popular countries to fly to from the united states, based on kayak flight searches, the most countries to fly to from the united states is united kingdom (8% of total searches). the next most popular destinations are canada (7%) and mexico (7%)., which cities can i fly to direct from the united states, there are loads of places you can fly direct to from the united states. the most popular destinations for direct flights among kayak users are chicago , phoenix , new york , los angeles and washington, d.c. . on average, the cheapest of these destinations on kayak over the last 2 weeks for a return flight was miami at $179, while the most expensive was washington, d.c. , at $217., which international cities can i fly to direct from the united states, there are many international destinations you can fly to non-stop from the united states. the most popular international destinations from kayak users are mexico city , milan , paris , taipei city and manila . on average, the cheapest of these destinations on kayak over the last 2 weeks for a return flight was guadalajara at $234, while the most expensive was taipei city , at $957., what is the longest direct flight from the united states, the longest direct flight you can take from the united states is to beijing, with a duration of 20h 20m. the next longest is singapore at 19h 10m, followed by a flight to chengdu at 18h 05m., good to know, faqs for booking united states to worldwide flights, where can i fly to for cheap from the united states.

  • Ogden from $151 round-trip
  • Bradford from $154 round-trip
  • San Bernardino from $157 round-trip
  • Pendleton from $207 round-trip
  • Parkersburg from $227 round-trip
  • Hoolehua from $239 round-trip
  • Lanai City from $246 round-trip
  • Beckley from $246 round-trip
  • Staunton from $246 round-trip
  • Muskegon from $259 round-trip

How does KAYAK find such low prices on flights from the United States?

KAYAK is a travel search engine. That means we look across the web to find the best prices we can find for our users. With over 2 billion flight queries processed yearly, we are able to display a variety of prices and options on flights from the United States.

How does KAYAK's flight Price Forecast tool help me choose the right time to buy my flight ticket from the United States?

KAYAK’s flight Price Forecast tool uses historical data to determine whether the price for a flight from the United States is likely to change within 7 days, so travelers know whether to wait or book now.

What is the Hacker Fare option on flights from the United States?

Hacker Fares allow you to combine one-way tickets in order to save you money over a traditional round-trip ticket. You could then fly to your destination with an airline and back to the United States with another airline.

What is KAYAK's "flexible dates" feature and why should I care when looking for a flight from the United States?

Sometimes travel dates aren't set in stone. If your preferred travel dates have some wiggle room, flexible dates will show you all the options when flying from the United States up to 3 days before/after your preferred dates. You can then pick the flights that suit you best.

Top 5 airlines flying to Anywhere

Our flight to Zurich was delayed by almost 3 hours, so we missed our next flight. There was no indication it would be delayed this much. We were told the gate had changed and then it apparently took over 2 hours to load the "catering" on the plane. We were not compensated in any way for the trouble.

Rated entertainment as Mediocre as there were major problems with the Infotainment system that took probably a half hour for them to fix.

Your crew could maybe answer the call bell at least one of the times I pressed it. I pressed it first time with 2.5 hours left in our flight bc my partner was hungry and wanted a sandwich. We finally got the sandwich with 40 mins left in the flight.

Half the bathrooms assigned to economy were out of action

Delta crushed it. Flight attendant in first was attentive and just never stopped. Honestly one of the best domestic flights I’ve been on.

They were an hour late and they didn’t have my wheelchair for me

The Flight crew didn’t serve us until about 1.5 hours into the flight because of turbulence but after it ended it was fine to move around. They served us water only and snacks and then NEVER, NOT ONE TIME came through to collect trash until right before landing about 1.5 hours later. There was absolutely no need for that. They crew was just standing around talking and visiting with each other and really never tried to see if we might want something besides water or even try to come pick up trash. This is VERY unusual for a Delta flight but it was not what I would have expected for a 4 hour flight.

The 1st class male crew member was very pleasant - the short female with round glasses , maybe in 50’s had no personality- never spoke when delivering my food, drink, & never smiled the whole trip! In fact looked annoyed when the boarding proses was happening- I would never hire this woman - unfriendly . Have never dealt with a crew member like her-

5-hour delay due to storms in Tanoa and airspace restricted by Miami traffic controllers.

A regional sized plane was used for a cross country flight with no overhead bin space. I had to "pink check" my laptop and my medications. I was NOT pleased!!!!

Fantastic. Smooth boarding with an infant. Never experienced it with any other carriers.

This was a flight operated by Lufthansa. See me prior comments, which were meant for this experience. The CSA, Ashley, should be reprimanded if not fired for incompetence, being rude, and very, very slow. She was whispering to other CSAs, blaming my flight change on others, unable to give me a seat assignment, telling me could not help without offering any advice (I travel 200,000 miles a year and am a consultant to the airlines, so I know how this gets done PRETTY DAMN WELL). Then, she gave me literally the worst seat on the airline (yes, there were other seats open) - the one right next to the bathroom that was so bad the other PAX next to me left to move to another seat. My seat kept getting rammed (3x) by the crew with their carts (no turbulence to speak of), other passengers grabbing the seat to get in or out of the bathroom, and listening to the bathroom flush all night.

This was a Lufthansa flight, not United. The CSA at the counter, Ashley, was not only incompetent, but quite rude. Me and two other PAX waited over 7 minutes standing in front of her and another CSA and they ignored us. We joked that we must have accidently taken invisibility pills. She could have at least said "I'll be with you in a moment, I'm currently....". I could go on about how rude she and the other CSAs were (whispering, not communicating with me, blaming the situation on others, etc.). She would not work for me. Then, she gave me literally the worst seat on the plane. the worst. My seat kept getting bumped (rammed twice by the crew with their carts and about every 5 minutes by someone using the bathroom), listening to the bathroom all night, crowded seat, etc.

My seat was broken. WiFi didn’t work. Gate crew at HOU were rude and condescending. Treated all the passengers badly. Bad experience, United.

First flight of the day… MINIMUM FUEL! 15 minute landing delay at HOU due to fog turned into a 2+ hour delay! Rather than circle, they had to divert to another city to refuel! Sat on tarmac at Austin to refuel. We ALL missed our connections! The crew, including pilots, were clueless. Crew was really a mess. At HOU, Untied employees were exceedingly rude to all. It was pitiful.

Food wasn’t very good, old business seating configuration on an old A340

An hour and a half late is UNACCEPTABLE. The negative impact to our family is unconscionable. And for the price we were forced to pay...

Standard flight experience, but there is only power at the seat to row 20 on the aircraft, on my initial check in it did not say that was the case

Not a fan of the diagonal partially enclosed business class seats or how they have to be converted to beds manually by crew. I prefer more isolation and user control for switching to lie flat.

No lounge access with “United First” ticket. False alarm about late flight, jeopardizing connection. Wrong meal. Loose power socket would not hold plug, could not charge device. In-flight access to text messaging did not work. Toilet seat on plane would not stay up.

Delayed so that missed connecting flight. Connecting flight was also delayed on the tarmac but they closed the gate before the rescheduled time.

Attendants were rude. Scowling. Seats were miserable and we paid extra.

Took off over an hour late with multiple mechanical issues. Gate agent in Dallas was lazy and was slow as molasses. Had a line 10 people long. Spirit bad..

The preferred seats where awful. Impossible to use them again

The flight was short. However, my bag was delayed and was put on another flight.

Flight attendant was incredible. Very efficient, friendly and pleasant. Patricia was one of the best I have ever seen. Please give her a big raise!

Delayed multiple times. Boarding was ok but getting off the aircraft was a mess. So disorganized with staff trying to help the elderly but completely blocking path for anyone else to move. Bathroom was disgusting, probably caused by one of the customers but staff couldn't care less to help clean it. No one wanted to use it since the floor was completely soaked so everyone just lined up the other restroom while the staff just chit chat with each other while looking at us.

LIT to DFW - 3 hours late; the entire plane had been boarded before they told us there was a delay due to a weather-related ground stop in Dallas. DFW to MAY - 2+ hours late due to A/C needing to be repaired after everyone had boarded, then when we finally reach the runway, the First Officer timed out and we had to taxi all the way back to the gate and wait for a new one. I arrived in New Orleans 5+ hours later than I should have. Return flights were completely cancelled; rebooked through the app to fly through CLT instead of DFW. MSY to CLT had no issues, but CLT to LIT was delayed 1.25 hrs because flight attendants had not arrived to the airport yet. At least they didn’t make us all sit on the plane to wait for them. I should have driven.

Tray table was filthy when I sat down. I needed to have someone come clean it because there was food and stains on it WiFi didn’t work after paying for in flight WiFi Food was terrible and was not filling at all Chicken was rubbery Flight attendant had an attitude, interrupted me and wasn’t able to answer basic questions about the food selection such as “does the chicken have red sauce in it”. If your flight attendants are not going to know what is in the meals so we can make an educated decision based on dietary restrictions, they shouldn’t be on the plane. My 1.5 year old niece was sleeping and dropped her binkie. I went on the ground under the chairs looking for it. It was at that time that she came up to me as I’m CLEARLY on all 4s with a flashlight and said “I need to get by”. I said one moment please I’m getting something from under the seat (while my head was literally under the seat). Her reply was “no you need to move now” and proceeded to almost push me out of the way. I looked up and all I saw was her toes under my eyes. When I looked in front of me, her private parts were inches away from my face. I then made a comment “you couldn’t waited 2 seconds?” and her response was, “no I need to use the bathroom”. I understand that and would never want to be the reason someone couldn’t get to the bathroom but I was under the seat. She could’ve gone around the other way instead of harassing me, basically placing her private parts on my head and borderline pushing me out of the way. You don’t pay (especially this much) for this deplorable experience. This was by far the worst experience I have ever had on American. I will be absolutely thinking twice and thrice about flying American Airlines again. I would rather pay more to fly delta because at least I know their WiFi will work and their flight attendants won’t have a terrible attitude for no reason, nor will they act the way this woman did. Unacceptable.

Tray table was filthy when I sat down. I needed to have someone come clean it because there was food and stains on it WiFi didn’t work after paying for in-flight WiFi. Food was terrible and was not filling at all Chicken was rubbery Flight attendant had an attitude, interrupted me and wasn’t able to answer basic questions about the food selection such as “does the chicken have red sauce in it”. If your flight attendants are not going to know what is in the meals so we can make an educated decision based on dietary restrictions, they shouldn’t be on the plane. My 1.5 year old niece was sleeping and dropped her binkie. I went on the ground under the chairs looking for it. It was at that time that she came up to me as I’m CLEARLY on all 4s with a flashlight and said “I need to get by”. I said one moment please I’m getting something from under the seat (while my head was literally under the seat). Her reply was “no you need to move now” and proceeded to almost push me out of the way. I looked up and all I saw was her toes under my eyes. When I looked in front of me, her private parts were inches away from my face. I then made a comment “you couldn’t waited 2 seconds?” and her response was, “no I need to use the bathroom”. I understand that and would never want to be the reason someone couldn’t get to the bathroom but I was under the seat. She could’ve gone around the other way instead of harassing me, basically placing her private parts on my head and borderline pushing me out of the way. You don’t pay that much for this deplorable experience. This was by far the worst experience I have ever had on American. I will be absolutely thinking twice and thrice about flying American Airlines again. I would rather pay more to fly delta because at least I know their WiFi will work and their flight attendants won’t have a shitty attitude for no reason, nor will they act the way this woman did. Unacceptable.

It was the worst ever, i will be filing a lawsuit to get a refund. Our flight was delayed 4 hours so we would miss our connecting flight, we were not rebooked to our destination the same day, we were not offered any options to get home on the same day despite being clear that we absolutely cannot get stranded at night due to family, we were forced to book our own flights on a different airline to get home, and spririt is refusing a refund because our flight wasn't cancelled, only delayed. oh yeah, and they lost our luggage on the first part of the trip and you cannot get a hold of customer service when anything goes wrong, on hold for 30+ minutes. and their app breaks so you can't use that either.

This recognisable no-frills airline gets me from point-A to point-B. I was able to get to Chicago without stress. The checked baggage collection and reclaim could be improved.

The crew was the best and very accommodating I know you don't offer any complimentary items but water and coffee will not break the bank !!

My flight was cancelled!!! I had to spend 200.00 on another flight!!

The whole day was a nightmare. Flight extremely late. Boarding was a mess of a nightmare.

When we landed, they kept us on the plane for almost 25 minutes. Could do better.

worst trip ever Spirit lost our Baggs which were never put on the plane in Atlanta. 24 hours ago they are telling me now that the bags are still missing.

Never been on this flight as i had missed it due to delayed connecting flight

Horrible. Delays, no customer support and fake promises and everything. i am suffering to help as due to connecting flight getting missed no support on ground and customer support window is closed and we are sitting o ground without anything

Missed our departing flight due to poor baggage drop staff. At the airport with 2 & 1/2 hours to spare and waited in bag check in until 15 minutes prior to gates closing before baggage staff asked us to move to the front of the line. We weren’t the only passengers that missed the flight. Poor organizational operations by Spirit staff. Otherwise , the return trip was fine.

Plane could have been more on time. More leg room .

I arrived 1 hour prior to boarding, and they said I was too late for a domestic flight. First time I heard that :-(

Check in online was easy. Seats aren’t very comfortable

Fecal matter in seat back pocket. Presumably from a kids diaper.

Worst airline to travel with. They treat you like a prisoner in a jailhouse barking out orders and threats. Nickle and dime you to the same price or higher than a respectable airline like one of the big 3 . Might as well fly with standard airlines

Well I mean u get what u pay for so 🤷‍♂️

Over an hour delay in departure but I was notified beforehand. Another delay on tarmac upon arrival at LGA. We ended up departing the plane almost 2 hours later than expected

I fly Frontier because it’s affordable. I understand that the seats are tight and not the most comfortable…but that’s part of it. The problem with this flight was that there was a group of travelers directly behind me at the back of the plane who were ridiculously loud and obnoxious the entire flight. I’m pretty sure they were drunk and I could periodically smell an odd odor that I believe was one of them using a smokeless vape pen. The stewards had to remind them to keep quiet during the pre-flight instruction, but that was it. They never said another thing to them for the rest of the flight. It was a miserable.

I checked a bag because it was $5 less than carry on. They managed to lose my bag on a 2.5 hr direct flight! Frontier has no airport staff at baggage claim to help. As soon as I got home around 11 pm I tried to use their online system to file the claim for lost bag - system wouldn't take the # on my baggage claim ticket - said it was not the correct number. Also said that I had not checked a bag, which wasn't true - even my online boarding pass showed that I had checked a bag. Wasted about an hour on that process with no luck. Tried again in the morning - same thing. So tried online chat with Frontier bot - waited 35-40" twice to be connected to a baggage agent and it never happened. Eventually drove to PDX after work and waited 2 hrs for the Frontier ticket agents to arrive prior to the next Frontier flight out of PDX and FINALLY got some help from one of them, to take me to lost luggage area where I was able to retrive my bag. Probably took 4-5 hrs. of my time and endless frustration to get my bag. This was my first -- and LAST -- experience flying Frontier Airlines. Check-in was also extremely difficult and time consuming. The flight itself (and staff) were fine but everything else about the experience was a total disaster! The fact that Frontier literally has NO WAY to connect to a human voice for customer service (in this case for lost luggage) is the WORST!!!!!

Frontier is a crappy airline nothing about it is honest

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How To Decide If 2 One-Ways Are Better Than A Round-Trip Flight

Senior Reporter, HuffPost Life

Torn between one-way and round-trip tickets? Here's what to consider before you book your flight.

When you book air travel, the airline offers many ways to filter your search results ― price limits, preferred times of day, nonstop flights versus flights with layovers, and of course, round-trip versus one-way.

As the names suggest, a round-trip journey includes both a flight from your starting point to your destination and a flight back to your origin, whereas a one-way only covers one of those segments. While the former is generally the simplest way to book a trip, some people prefer to buy two separate one-way tickets when they travel.

But are there good reasons to choose one over the other? We asked a few travel experts to share their advice on whether it’s better to book two one-ways or a round-trip reservation for your next air travel excursion.

International travel tends to incentivize round-trip bookings.

“When you’re booking international flights, it almost always pays off to book as a round-trip, since airlines typically price one-ways at much more than half the cost of the round-trip fare,” said Zach Griff, senior reporter at The Points Guy .

Indeed, a cursory search on Google Flights while writing this piece found a round-trip flight option from New York to Paris for $522. But if you were to purchase the same two flights separately ― New York to Paris, then Paris back to New York ― the combined cost would be $1,670, more than three times the cost of the round-trip booking. The price discrepancy can get even more egregious when premium cabin fares are involved.

“In general, round-trip tickets tend to be cheaper than two one-way tickets, particularly if you intend on flying with a single carrier or alliance,” said Willis Orlando, senior product operations specialist at Scott’s Cheap Flights .

So if you’re all about airline loyalty, you’ll likely find better pricing options booking a round-trip journey for your international travels.

But domestic flights have better one-way pricing.

While airline pricing tends to incentivize round-trip bookings for international flights, there isn’t as much of a disparity with domestic air travel.

“When traveling within the U.S., airlines typically price one-way flights at exactly half the cost of a round-trip,” reporter Chris Dong wrote for The Points Guy in September. “There certainly are exceptions, especially for those that fly out of smaller, regional airports.”

Thus, if you’re flying domestically out of a major hub, you have better odds of finding good deals on separate one-way tickets.

Booking separate legs allows you to combine airlines.

Once you’ve determined you won’t lose money booking separate legs for your air travel, consider why you want to do it this way.

“Booking a round-trip itinerary as two one-way segments can make sense in some cases,” Griff said. “For one, it gives you the flexibility to choose between more than one airline in your searches. Sometimes, you can save money by combining flights on different airlines.”

Perhaps you have rewards points with two different airlines that service your destination and want to cash them in during one trip. Booking separately allows you to do that. You might even find a good deal for the outbound part of your journey with one airline and for the return flight with a different carrier.

“That said, you’ll need to pay attention to different fare rules when combining two airlines on one trip,” Griff noted. “For instance, if your outbound flight is delayed or canceled, you’d only be entitled to a refund for that portion of the itinerary, if you booked as one-ways.”

There are a few scenarios where a pair of one-way tickets are better than a round-trip flight.

One-ways also offer more flexibility with return dates.

Another factor you may want to consider when booking round-trip or one-way is how sure you are of your dates.

Good one-way rates “can be useful if you’re not quite sure when you’ll be returning from your trip, which is particularly relevant in the age of remote work and extended AirBnB stays,” Orlando said.

So if you aren’t exactly sure when you’ll be ending your stay, you can make the process easier by simply booking a one-way ticket there. Then you don’t have to book your return until you’re ready, and you won’t have to spend time changing it to a later date over and over again.

Orlando said he’s even had some luck booking one-ways internationally with certain carriers, like TAP Air Portugal.

“I frequently travel to Europe for weeks, if not months, at a time, and try to make sure I end my trip in a city served by TAP, because I know I’ll be able to find myself a cheap one-way ticket home,” he noted.

Booking separate legs might help with a complicated itinerary.

Sometimes your travels might take you to multiple places and via different transit methods. For example, you might fly from Miami to New York and then take the train down to Washington, D.C. In this case, you’d want to fly back home from a different city than the one you flew into.

“In many cases, it will be possible to book an open-jaw ticket, coupling the two itineraries into a single ‘round-trip’ ticket, but occasionally that’s not possible,” Orlando said. “In that case, it can be worthwhile to look into one-way prices to see if they offer a competitive price, or favorable routing.”

When you have a more complex itinerary, it might feel simpler to break it up into one-way flights. Just make sure to compare the prices, and be prepared to manage the different airline bookings in your inbox.

As with most aspects of travel, there’s no one magic way to do things when you’re deciding whether to book two one-ways or a round-trip journey. But with research and experience, you can get better at figuring out what works best for your budget, itinerary and overall comfort level.

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one way trip ticket

Simple Flying

Is it cheaper to buy one way flights or return tickets.

The short answer still remains: it depends.

Unlike standard retail store therapy, booking a flight is rarely easy - especially for first-timers or infrequent flyers, with airline pricing being significantly more complicated. And while there are die-hard passengers on either side of the aisle, one-way ticket fanatics, and the always-prepared round-trippers, there never seems to be a consensus on which ticket type is optimal.

Even by searching through multiple third-party comparison websites, the answer to such a question is never genuinely answered and tends to get more confusing. Then, when considering how airfare pricing algorithms have plenty of constantly changing variables, formulas, frequent flyer redemptions, and much more, the water seems rather muddy. But fret not, as not all hope is lost, and there are still things to learn that could help passengers save money where needed.

When are one-way tickets cheaper?

Although it's not always the case, one-way tickets are more often than not favorable when using frequent flyer or credit card point redemptions. Since point redemptions or bookings are strategically quoted within a fixed range of prices, passengers often grab the opportunity to book two one-way tickets instead of a single round-trip since the number of points required would not necessarily change.

While this advantage does not make any of the two one-way tickets any cheaper, passengers tend to save on additional fees that would incur. One-way tickets provide much more flexibility - such as not being at the mercy of single scheduled flight days and timings and factoring in the possible accommodation, transport, and insurance costs typically incurred if return-ticket trippers wish to adjust their schedule.

One-way tickets are also considered the cheaper alternative for passengers who prefer to travel with multiple airlines along the same trip, albeit mainly for domestic flights. To further entice this type of passenger, airlines like the low-cost carriers tend to offer special deals or discounts specifically for one-way tickets on various selected routes , making the ticket type significantly cheaper than buying a return-trip ticket for the same period and same route.

The primary hassles in these cases would be for passengers to keep track of two or more separate reservations and airline schedules and hope that there are little to no flight delays during the entire journey, as missing the second leg onwards does spell disaster for the remainder as there is a risk of being offloaded by the other airlines for the later flights if passengers fail to show up on time.

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What about round-trip tickets?

Considering how purchasing one-way tickets seems like the better deal, are there instances when return-trip tickets get the upper - or, in this case, cheaper hand? Like cheaper one-way flight tickets on many routes, airlines also offer cheaper round-trip flight tickets depending on the route and carrier. This is primarily done to encourage passengers to fly the outbound and inbound sectors with the same airline.

Sometimes, passengers will notice that the one-way ticket is almost the same price as the round-trip tickets. Most times, these selected routes are international flights instead of domestic ones. They are slightly restrictive concerning the dates and timings allowed, but overall, they are less stringent than one-way tickets, especially regarding limited cabin class choices.

Round-trip tickets are also typically cheaper when bought through airline and travel consolidators since these businesses purchase tickets in bulk from the airlines and get to resell them to passengers or third-party travel agencies at a heavily discounted rate. In fact, the discounts are sometimes considered heavier than the discounts offered by the airlines themselves, saving passengers quite a sum of money.

Another option where round-trip tickets are considered the less expensive alternative is when passengers book an open-jaw flight - whereby the airlines allow passengers to book a flight to one destination and a flight back from another destination in a different direction but on the same ticket/reservation. So, instead of pricing these two flights as two one-way trips, the airline mainly prices them quite similarly to a round-trip.

What is the final verdict?

After all that back and forth, the conclusion on the cheaper ticket type still rests as it depends on the passengers' travel situation. If the passenger is booking a trip without using any mileage redemption and considering a non-domestic flight, round-trip tickets are often the cheaper alternative. But suppose the passenger plans to fly domestically using mileage redemptions or has significantly flexible timings and itineraries. In that case, one-way tickets may be the way to go.

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Pros and cons of two one-way tickets vs one round-trip (and a warning)

Pros and cons of two one-way tickets vs one round-trip (and a warning)

One of the most important things that I’ve learned as a frequent flyer is the value of two one-way tickets vs a round-trip. There are a ton of advantages for purchasing one-way tickets, such as:

  • Being able to build a complex itinerary to match your exact schedule 
  • Being able to take advantage of special deals or discounts for individual flights that might not otherwise be available with a round-trip purchase
  • Being able to build and maintain status on multiple airlines
  • Being able to try airlines and airports that you might not have had the chance to in the past

That said, there are a lot that can go wrong when you string together in itinerary built on one-way tickets.  I’ll explain all of that (with specific examples) below…

Pros and cons of two one-way tickets vs round-trip

For the most part, it’s usually advantageous to purchase one-way tickets. You’ll have far fewer restrictions than you would purchasing a round-trip ticket, and it’s a lot easier to build the exact itinerary that you want (for the price you’re willing to pay).

The easiest way to explain all of these differences is to give you a big fat list of all the pros and cons:

  • More flexibility! Instead of being at the mercy of one airline and their limited flight schedules, you’ll have far more options flying multiple airlines.
  • Contrary to what you’ve heard from your grandparents, buying one-way tickets isn’t always more expensive than buying a single round-trip ticket. The existence of ultra low cost carriers is keeping prices down (in general) for all airlines.
  • Airlines often have special deals or discounts for specific routes (one direction only). It’s a lot easier to take advantage of these good deals by purchasing one-way tickets.
  • It can help you maintain status on multiple airlines. For example, if you have frequent flyer status on both United Airlines and American Airlines (and you want to keep said status), flying one airline on the outbound portion of the trip and the other airline on the inbound portion is a good way to help you maintain / reach your goals.
  • Even if you don’t care about status, it’s just more fun flying different airlines. I know people who fly one airline for a majority of their life, and quite frankly, that sounds really boring. Trying new-to-you airlines and connecting in airports you’ve never been to before keeps travel fun!

SANspotter at San Diego Airport before flight

  • Despite what I just said about one-way tickets not always being more expensive than a single round-trip ticket, don’t be surprised if you discover that it’s sometimes more expensive. It all depends on your specific itinerary and the particular demand for the dates you want to fly.
  • Your connecting flight will NOT be protected if you miss your flight because of a delay or cancellation. For example, let’s say you’re flying San Diego to Chicago on two one-way tickets (San Diego to Denver on Frontier, and Denver to Chicago on United). If Frontier doesn’t get you to Denver in time to make United connection to Chicago, you’re out of luck.
  • Sometimes, it’s just more convenient to have everything on one itinerary. Having to juggle schedules and flight information for a handful of one-way tickets vs a single round-trip ticket it isn’t recommended if you’re even the slightest bit disorganized.
  • It’ll take longer to book a trip built on multiple one way tickets than it will by booking a single round-trip ticket.
  • If you’re flying internationally, one-way tickets might draw suspicion from airline personnel and immigration officers. Basically, they will often require proof that you’re not attempting to illegally immigrate to another country. An onward ticket (in the form of an email confirmation or boarding pass) is enough to satisfy them.
  • Some airlines frown upon buying two one-way tickets instead of a single round-trip. Even though they make it easy to do on their own websites and apps, they can flag you for “gaming the system” if you consistently buy one-way tickets to build round trip itineraries. It’s stupid, but it is what it is.

United express flight 5854 ERJ-175 first class

Warning! 3 examples of how purchasing one-way tickets instead of a single round-trip went horribly wrong:

I fly on one-way tickets most of the time, and generally, it’s a lot more convenient than flying on a round-trip ticket. I will admit that I wasn’t fully aware of the risks when I first started doing it, but overall, it has proven to be a very convenient way to travel.

That said, here are 3 examples where it completely fell apart on me (or at least gave me a good scare):

Example 1: The delayed arrival

Back in 2016, there was a special Thanksgiving weekend Delta Air Lines 747 flight from Atlanta to Seattle that I really wanted to try. To get the rest of the way home to San Diego, I bought a separate ticket on Alaska Airlines. It was just cheaper that way.

Long story short, the 747 flight was canceled . Delta held up their end of the bargain by getting me to Seattle as promised (in Delta One on the A330-300 ), but I arrived too late to make my originally-planned connecting flight to San Diego on Alaska Airlines.

Because these were two separate nonrefundable one-way tickets, I had to scramble to get on the phone with Alaska Airlines and cancel that ticket to prevent losing the full value of it. But I still had to purchase another last-minute one-way ticket to San Diego instead. Ouch.

SANspotter Seattle Tacoma airport

Example 2: The concerned airline agent

Because I really wanted to do a LOT Polish Airlines 787–8 economy review (weird, I know), I purchased a one-way ticket from Los Angeles to Warsaw. For the return, I purchased another one-way ticket on a different airline just to have some variety in my airline reviews .

I checked in online prior to leaving for LAX. Upon arrival, I went straight for the security checkpoint since I already had a boarding pass.  The TSA scanner at the security checkpoint rejected my boarding pass for no rhyme or reason , and I was told to go back to the LOT ticketing counter.

I explained the situation to the friendly LOT employee at the check-in desk, and she got to work trying to figure out what the problem was. The concerned look on her face wasn’t comforting. At all.

LOT ticketing counter LAX

It turned out that I needed to show proof that I wasn’t planning on staying permanently in Poland (because my one-way ticket looked suspicious).  Showing her my itinerary for my departure out of Poland the following day on another airline was sufficient.

Even though everything worked out in the end, it added about an extra hour of confusion and frustration that day.

Example 3: My own stupidity

Prior to flying Starlux Airlines A321neo business class for the first time, I needed to get to Taipei. To do so, I booked to one-way tickets:

  • San Diego to Tokyo Narita on Japan Airlines
  • Tokyo Narita to Taipei on Scoot

Prior to leaving San Diego, I noticed that Scoot uses the same terminal as Japan Airlines at NRT. I figured that I’d just get my Scoot boarding pass from the gate agent when I arrived.

It turned out that the gate agent couldn’t do that. I had exit security, legally enter Japan, and stand in line at the Scoot Airlines ticket counter to get a boarding pass. I had to do all of this within 35 minutes of the flight departure to Taipei. Talk about stressful!

Checking in for Scoot flight at NRT airport

Somehow I didn’t miss that flight, but it was a strong reminder of how naïve I was to think that two separate one-way tickets would be easier.

4 reasons why I usually always purchase two one-way tickets instead of one round-trip

Despite some very expensive (and stressful) experiences with purchasing one-way tickets instead of round-trip over the years, I still prefer the flexibility of building my own itinerary with separate tickets. this is because:

  • The airlines can be stupid sometimes. For example, I recently flew to Mexico City and back on AeroMexico. For some reason or another, their website wouldn’t let me pick the exact flights that I wanted when trying to book a round-trip itinerary. I had to book 2 separate one-way tickets instead in order to get the exact flights that I wanted.
  • I’ve found that it’s sometimes a cheaper way of flying business class. For example, on a recent trip to Florida and back, I took advantage of a good deal I found for American Airlines 777-200 business class from Dallas to Miami. For the return to San Diego, I booked a super-cheap (and more reasonable) one-way ticket on Allegiant Air. Although I didn’t get to fly business class round-trip, doing it one-way was enough to satisfy the itch.
  • Booking one-way tickets instead of round-trip is a great way to avoid airports that I don’t like. For example, if I’m flying to Florida to visit family on Delta, it almost certainly means a connection in Atlanta. That’s fine – as long as it’s not a chaotic holiday weekend. If it is, on the return, I might choose to fly Frontier or United through Denver instead (since DEN is usually a lot less gnarly than ATL on busy holiday weekends).
  • As an airline reviewer, I need / want to fly as many different airlines as possible. Airlines make it very easy to book one-way tickets vs round-trip tickets, so as long as they allow me to do it, I will continue to do so.

Other stuff you might like:

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner business class Los Angeles to San Diego

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner business class Los Angeles to San Diego

First class etiquette: how not to look like an inexperienced (and uncultured) idiot

First class etiquette: how not to look like an inexperienced (and uncultured) idiot

This is how much Casey Neistat traveled in 2016

This is how much Casey Neistat traveled in 2016

Comments (26).

Quite an interesting read! I usually book round-trip, but I have flown on 2 one-way tickets occasionally. Usually, it’s outbound on one airline and inbound on another, which maybe isn’t as exciting as 2 different airlines in one day, but it’s a nice way to compare airlines on a similar route.

Scott (SANspotter)

Thanks! You bring up a good point that I didn’t mention in the article. Comparing two airlines on the same route (on the same trip) is another really good reason to fly on one way tickets.

Remy Godwin

New reader to your blog, nice work and keep it up.

My family and I recently did 2 one ways from Utila to San Pedro Sula, then onward to El Salvador. The UII-SAP is serviced by CM Airlines, a very small regional carrier that connects the bay islands. Upon arrival we had to wait for our bags because they were to large to fit under seats on this Embraer 110. (Bigger Osprey bags, I’ve read your backpack post and am now contemplating getting one of those)

There’s no feeling quite like hearing your family’s name over the PA system in a foreign airport while running through security checkpoints.

Thanks Remy – welcome to the blog! Anyway, yes, it gets tricky flying on one-way tickets sometimes. I’ve heard my name on the PA (as I’m running to catch a flight) more times than I care to admit and it’s always a scary experience!

Hi! I just stumbled across your site! I typically do round trip because it seems easier haha but recently have an opportunity come up to visit my sister in California . I’m in Kentucky so I’ve been tracking flights on momondo for round trips but I was curious if in this case just doing a 1 way to California and a 1 way back to Kentucky would be better? Thanks for any tips!!

Hey Kaitlin! If you can find a really good deal on a round trip (with a convenient schedule), then it’s probably not worth searching for two 1 way segments. I only do it if I can get a better deal, or if I don’t like the limitations of the round trip schedule. Have a good time in California!

This is great information, thank you! I’m out here trying to plan a family vacation to Europe and found that booking a multi-city ticket for arrival and departure (only one flight there and one back to the US from a different city) was about $1K more than booking two separate arrival/departure tickets FROM THE SAME AIRLINE. I was looking for any reason not to purchase two one-way tickets… but, it doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal as long as we plan well and have all of our docs available. About to research landing in one country, departing from another… surely there is a reasonable way to do this! Great blog post! Looking forward to more!

Thanks Dena – glad you found it useful! Purchasing one way tickets instead of a single round trip has it’s advantages for sure (it’s how I book most of my trips these days).

The only thing you really need to be careful about is giving yourself enough time to make connections. If your inbound flight is late, which causes you to miss your connecting flight, you’re basically out of luck. Even if it’s the same airline, they won’t compensate you for the missed flight.

Hope you have a great trip!

Great article and it provides me a great option for my trip to New Zealand next year. Question – I’m looking at award flight bookings for outbound LAX-AKL. And then inbound ZQN-AKL-LAX. With my current research, looks the miles/fees are the same round trip vs. 2-one ways. If all else equal, would you just recommend the 2-one ways since its advantage is more flexibility?

Thanks Jonathan! Honestly I don’t see any advantage of booking two one-way tickets in this instance. Maybe if you think there’s a chance that you’ll want to change your return somehow (once you’re in New Zealand), then yes – having that added flexibility will be nice.

But if the details of the trip are set in stone and it’s the same cost either way, a single round-trip itinerary will be easier to manage. Have a great trip!

New to the blog, good insight here. I’m interested to see your thoughts on my below itinerary/plan.

My wife and I are planning to travel to Italy this fall. We have enough points to book one-way JFK->Milan on American. We plan to navigate from Milan to Rome on our trip, and return to the NYC area from Rome (FCO). For that return flight, I have enough points to book a ticket on United, and will need to purchase my wife’s ticket. Interestingly, United is pricing the one-way FOC->EWR at around $1,100, but if I book a roundtrip FCO->EWR (booking the direct flight to get home and then cheapest “return flight” currently via Brussels), I can get it for about $650. My plan would be to ONLY get on the FCO->EWR leg, and just no-show (or cancel) the EWR->FCO return leg.

This feels like a comfortable no-risk plan. But wondering if you see any issues or have experienced any issues in the past with something like this?

Hi Rob! Good question. Doing it once isn’t going to cause any problems. However, if you start making a habit of it, you run the risk of being banned from flying United ever again. Airlines have been known to ban people for doing this, so you need to tread carefully.

I’m going to Oaxaca for 4 months but want my return date flexible. Is it better to book one way or round trip?

Definitely book a one-way ticket! You’ll most likely have to pay change fees on a round-trip ticket if you decide to move the return date.

Hi, just found your blog. It’s very helpful. I’m looking at options for a trip that includes 3 weeks in Thailand to visit an old friend, with a stop on the return in Taiwan to visit another friend for a few days. Want to do SFO/BKK/TPE/SFO. The cash price on United was $15K per person. Yikes! EVA offers the same itinerary for $6,656 pp. Because EVA is a United partner, I will earn credit for miles with United MP even if I book through EVA (although maybe less, but I’m not concerned about that). Does it sound reasonable to purchase the ticket through EVA? Should I research other alternatives to get a better price? (I only have 155K miles in MP and my husband has 58K, not enough to score a free seat. Using Mileage Upgrade Awards, we would be waitlisted for Business Class, not an option.)

Hi Linda – wow! $15,000 per person is insane. I hope that’s business class, because anything less seems like absolute robbery to me. The EVA option is probably your best bet if you want to earn United MileagePlus credits. That’s what I would do.

If you don’t care so much about that, I highly recommend checking out Zipair from SFO to NRT (and then flying a low-cost carrier such as Scoot down to BKK). For example, I just booked a lie-flat business class seat for myself on Zipair from LAX to NRT for $1350 (one way). There are no video screens in those seats (and onboard service is limited), but it’s still a heck of a deal IMHO.

Just something to think about…

I’m not wearing your shoes but a question she asked isn’t a thing. Visiting they think without a return date is to nosey to me. I would have plead the fifth. You weren’t under oath.

They are legally required to ask for proof that you’re not going to stay in the country that you’re flying to. All airlines will ask if they don’t see either a connecting flight or a return flight as part of your itinerary.

Do you do this with checked luggage? Do you have to go to baggage claim and get your luggage and go through security again or are they able to check it through? Thank you for the insight!

Hi Michala! Yes, you can do it with checked luggage. The only caveat is that you’ll have to retrieve your luggage (and then go through security) between flights. It would definitely be nice if the airlines could check your luggage through to your final destination on two separate tickets, but that isn’t possible.

Julie Buckley

I would like to fly to one destination in Germany, and return to my same home airport from a different airport in the same country (Germany). What could be a problem.? I need to use Delta – can I use their frequent flyer miles for that? Thanks

Hi Julie – sure, that’s not a problem at all. As a matter of fact, I do that sort of thing all the time without any issues. And yes, you can use frequent flyer miles. You’ll just need to book each segment separately, that’s all.

For SEA and SFO to Italy (two people flying from two starting destinations), we are considering non-stop flights on Virgin Atlantic to LON and then booking a regional flight to Rome (and then from Brindisi Italy back to LON on the return). With a 4+ hour connection, would you recommend this route; two separate tickets each way? It would save 1000-1500 on the ticket. Also, is Economy Delight on VA similar to Comfort+ on Delta? That is the cabin choice for the US to LON flights. Thank you!

Hi Jana – absolutely, if it saves you that much money, then booking two separate tickets is the way to go. I’d do that without batting an eye.

In regards to Economy Delight: it’s essentially a standard economy class seat with a bit more legroom. Premium economy offers a much larger (wider) seat with more legroom and recline than Economy Delight. I’d definitely go with that if you can swing it.

I have a question..or two. My husband and I want to use our United miles (separate accounts) to book an award flight (hopefully biz) RDU to FRA. But we probably each would need to do the Money + Miles option. He also has Lufthansa miles in Miles & More. Would it be possible and a good idea to each book one way tickets on United, then he could use the Lufthansa miles to purchase his ticket one way back home from maybe MUC to RDU? Or I could purchase a RT for myself, and he could do the two one ways, one on United and one on Lufthansa? Thanks for your help!

Hi Gina – everything you suggested is a valid possibility. It sounds like you only have enough in your UA account to go one way? This would require purchasing a one way ticket for one leg of the trip – which could potentially end up cost more than purchasing a round trip instead.

If so, I’d probably recommend purchasing a round trip for yourself (and earn miles for future use) and have your husband redeem points for his entire round trip.

You’ll just have to do the math and figure out what makes the most financial sense.

But that’s the thing that makes booking one way tickets so nice – it gives you so much more flexibility!

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Why Are One-Way Flights More Expensive Than Round-Trips?

Ethan Steinberg

"Reader Questions" are answered twice a week by TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Ethan Steinberg .

There are many factors that play a role in determining airfare pricing, including historical demand, available fare classes (or "buckets") and daily/seasonal/holiday variations in travel. TPG reader Mona wants to know why it seems that one-way tickets are often more expensive than round-trip tickets ...

[pullquote source="TPG READER MONA"]Why is it that one-way tickets are always so much more expensive than round-trip tickets? [/pullquote]

First of all, while there are plenty of egregious pricing examples, it's not always true that one-way tickets are more expensive. Some carriers price tickets on a per-leg basis, where the round-trip price is simply the sum of the two one-way fares (JetBlue and Southwest immediately come to mind). You'll also see this happen on routes with multiple daily frequencies from a single airline, as the increased capacity makes it easier to offer a consistent pricing experience.

Take American Airlines flights from Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) to Washington-Reagan (DCA), a route I've flown close to 100 times over the last five years. On any given day, American Airlines operates about 10 non-stop flights between these two cities. It's often possible to find round-trip pricing as low as $300, such as this trip from May 7-11.

one way trip ticket

If we were to look instead just at one-way tickets departing on May 7, we'd see that they cost $150, or exactly half as much as the round-trip.

one way trip ticket

Still, there are plenty of cases where the opposite is true and one-way tickets are incredibly expensive. Take this round-trip business class ticket on Lufthansa from Chicago to Frankfurt (FRA).

one way trip ticket

$5,269 is a lot to pay for any plane ticket, but if you wanted to book just the one-way ticket it would cost you 50% more, despite the fact that you're taking half the flight.

one way trip ticket

It's no coincidence that I picked a premium cabin example to demonstrate this pricing discrepancy. One of the main reasons that one-way tickets can be so expensive is because they're often purchased by business travelers who have rigid date/time requirements and are less sensitive to price. If they need to get somewhere for a meeting, they're going to book whatever flight does that, and their company will foot the bill. Of course there are plenty of reasons non-business travelers might book a one-way ticket as well, such as an unexpected accident/illness/emergency in the family, but in this case, time is also the primary concern, and you're likely to see customers who are less sensitive to price.

Obviously the exact pricing will vary depending on the date/route/airline you choose to fly with, but in my experience you generally see this outrageous one-way pricing much more on long, international routes than on domestic routes. It's also more common in premium cabins, though it does appear for economy flights as well. In the Lufthansa example above, a round-trip economy ticket on the same dates would have cost $1,700 vs. $3,000 for a one-way economy flight.

So what should you do about this? Well, if you're booking cash fares, you (or your company) might be able to save some serious money by booking round-trips instead of one-ways. Even if you don't know the exact date on which you'll be returning, you might be better off booking a round-trip and paying a change fee once your return plans are finalized instead of booking two very expensive one-ways.

This pricing discrepancy is something you should also pay careful attention to if you're redeeming points and miles for free flights. Before you spend your miles, you should look at TPG's monthly valuations and calculate how much value you're getting from your redemption. While there's a debate in the award travel community about how exactly to calculate this number, let's focus (for today) on the simple approach: looking at the exact flight you're booking and dividing its price by the number of points or miles you're redeeming.

(Cash Price of Ticket – Award Taxes, Fees and Surcharges) ÷ Number of Points/Miles = Value per Point/Mile

Every single award ticket I've ever booked has been a one-way award, as it gives me more flexibility to look for award space on different airlines and in different cabins. But that means that the prices I'm using to calculate my redemption values are incredibly inflated. Let's take an extreme example to make this point: Cathay Pacific first class . While there are a number of different ways to book this award, your best value is typically going to come from redeeming 70,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles .

On most days, you'll find one-way first class tickets between New York-JFK and Hong Kong (HKG) selling for $18,000, giving you an approximate redemption value of 25 cents per Alaska mile, or more than 13 times TPG's valuations.

one way trip ticket

However, a round-trip flight on this route is typically in the neighborhood of $30,000, so redeeming 140,000 Alaska miles for a first class award to and from Hong Kong would drop your redemption value to 21 cents.

So which should you use for your one-way redemption? The inflated one-way price? Half of the round-trip price? Neither?

Ultimately that's a decision you'll have to make for yourself, but the lesson here is that you shouldn't put too much weight on the cash price of the ticket, especially with one-way flights. Instead you should focus more on the quality of the experience you're getting. When I took a one-way, $16,000 first class flight on ANA , I wasn't bragging to my friends about the price of the ticket. I was telling them all about the top-rate food and service, the endless Krug champagne and the incredible privacy of the seats .

Bottom Line

Airfare pricing is a complex beast. While there are some strategies you can employ and tools you can utilize to find cheap tickets, there generally isn't a way to get around disparities between one-way and round-trip pricing, and even this won't exist on every airline and on every route. You should also keep this in the back of your mind when you're looking at an award ticket and trying to decide whether to pay with cash or points, as the variation between one-way and round-trip pricing can really impact the way you do your math.

Thanks for the question, Mona, and if you're a TPG reader who'd like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy , message us on Facebook or email us at [email protected] .

one way trip ticket

Why Do Individual Flights Sometimes Cost More On Their Own Than As Part Of A Round Trip?

  • Not all airlines inflate one-way ticket prices; some like JetBlue and Southwest offer transparent pricing by summing up two one-way fares for the round-trip cost.
  • Pricing discrepancy between one-way and round-trip fares is particularly evident in premium cabins, driven by the purchasing habits of business travelers who prioritize specific travel dates and times.
  • Passengers can explore round-trip options, even if they don't use the return trip, as it may potentially save them from exorbitant one-way fares. Evaluating the value of redemptions against cash fares is also crucial for those using points and miles.

Airfare pricing involves a complex interplay of various factors that can confound travelers seeking consistency and transparency. The common notion that one-way tickets tend to be pricier than round-trip tickets isn't universally true, but there are valid reasons behind this perception. A closer look at the dynamics of airline pricing and passenger behaviors sheds light on this phenomenon.

Not always pricier

To begin with, not all airlines necessarily adhere to the practice of inflating one-way ticket prices. Some carriers, such as JetBlue and Southwest, often offer fairly transparent pricing by simply summing up two one-way fares to create the round-trip cost. Moreover, routes with frequent daily flights from a single airline can exhibit similar pricing symmetry due to increased capacity and a more consistent pricing structure.

Nevertheless, there are instances where the reverse occurs, where one-way tickets appear disproportionately costly compared to round-trip fares.

Driven by business travel

This discrepancy in pricing is particularly evident in premium cabins , attributed to the purchasing habits of business travelers. These passengers often prioritize specific travel dates and times, accommodating their rigid schedules without much sensitivity to cost. Such travelers, compelled by work-related commitments, are more likely to book one-way tickets, often covered by their companies. Although non-business travelers might also seek one-way options for emergencies, their urgency mitigates their price sensitivity.

In practice, actual pricing variations vary based on numerous factors including airline, route, and travel date, but the pronounced price difference between round trip and one-way fares is more observable on long international routes as opposed to on domestic flights. Premium cabins tend to accentuate this pricing differential, although it also occurs in economy class.

Alternate booking methods

To navigate this pricing structure, one strategy for travelers to consider is to explore round-trip options, even if they do not necessarily to utilize the return trip. While this will not always be cheaper than a one-way fare, it is worth looking into. This can lead to cost savings by potentially avoiding exorbitant one-way fares.

This pricing asymmetry presents another strategic challenge for passengers using points and miles for their flights. Evaluating the value of redemptions against cash fares is always crucial. Dividing the flight's cost by the miles or points required provides a simple metric, although there are diverse perspectives in the travel community about calculating this value accurately.

In any event, the rationale behind one-way tickets being consistently pricier than round-trip fares is deeply rooted in the dynamics of airline business and passenger behavior. Business travelers, who frequently require one-way bookings, form a market segment willing to pay for convenience.

Airlines, catering to this demand, capitalize on this by adjusting pricing structures. On the flip side, travelers seeking the flexibility of one-way travel bear the brunt of elevated fares due to the potential revenue loss airlines might incur if return flights aren't utilized. This complex interplay of factors shapes the airfare landscape, prompting travelers to carefully consider their options to optimize both cost and convenience.

What other strategies can passengers who only need a one-way fare utilize to save money? Let us know in the comments below.

Why Do Individual Flights Sometimes Cost More On Their Own Than As Part Of A Round Trip?

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Travel | Amtrak launches the Borealis, a second daily…

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Subscriber only, travel | amtrak launches the borealis, a second daily train between st. paul and chicago, the service will make the same stops as the empire builder but operate on a friendlier schedule for travelers.

Frederick Melo

Conductor Robert Vogds, right, directs passengers aboard for the inaugural trip of Amtrak's Borealis train to Chicago at Union Depot in St. Paul on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. The new service joins the current Empire Builder route, providing twice-daily trains to and from St. Paul to Chicago. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

People climb abord a passenger train.

Passengers queue to board for the inaugural trip of Amtrak's Borealis train to Chicago at Union Depot in St. Paul on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. The new service joins the current Empire Builder route, providing twice-daily trains to and from St. Paul to Chicago. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Part of the St. Paul skyline seen behind a modern train engine.

The Amtrak Borealis train pulls out Union Depot in St. Paul for its inaugural trip to Chicago on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. The new service joins the current Empire Builder route, providing twice-daily trains to and from St. Paul to Chicago. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

Comfortable-looking seats on a train.

Coach class seating aboard the Amtrak Borealis train to Chicago at Union Depot in St. Paul on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

People seated in a waiting area.

Passengers wait at Gate C of St. Paul's Union Depot to board the Amtrak Borealis train to Chicago. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

The third item on an electronic sign board says "Borealis" and "Chicago, IL | Union Station."

The schedule board at Union Depot in St. Paul lists the inaugural trip of Amtrak's Borealis train to Chicago at Union Depot in St. Paul on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. The new service joins the current Empire Builder route, providing twice-daily trains to and from St. Paul to Chicago. The Empire Builder also goes west to Seattle. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

The Amtrak logo seen on a train with numerous people in the background.

Passengers board for the inaugural trip of Amtrak's Borealis train to Chicago at Union Depot in St. Paul on Tuesday, May 21, 2024. The new service joins the current Empire Builder route, providing twice-daily trains to and from St. Paul to Chicago. (John Autey / Pioneer Press)

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It was Galileo in the early 1600s who is said to have first dubbed the seemingly supernatural northern lights the aurora borealis, combining the name Aurora, goddess of the dawn, and Boreas, the personification of the north wind. On Tuesday, following decades of advocacy and speculation by rail fans, a passenger train broke through the proverbial clouds and rolled into Ramsey County’s Union Depot transit hub in downtown St. Paul, launching Amtrak’s Borealis service, a second daily round trip between Minnesota’s capital city and Chicago.

The midday train, which originates in St. Paul at 11:50 a.m., will make the same stops as the daily Empire Builder between the Capital City and Milwaukee, and then mirror Amtrak’s Hiawatha service from Milwaukee to Chicago, arriving in the Windy City around 7:15 p.m., with tickets starting at $41 one-way.

Another Borealis train is scheduled to leave downtown Chicago’s Union Station at 11:05 a.m. daily and roll into St. Paul each evening at 6:29 p.m., meaning passengers deboarding at either location would arrive in time for a night out on the town. The westbound Empire Builder, by contrast, arrives in St. Paul from Chicago shortly before 11 p.m. The eastbound Builder arrives in St. Paul around 8:30 a.m. and is scheduled to arrive in Chicago at 4:45 p.m. — assuming there have been no delays since the train departed Seattle/Portland, Ore.

“Now a family vacation to the (Wisconsin) Dells or to Milwaukee just got a whole lot easier for families,” said Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, introducing the inaugural departure of the Borealis on Tuesday.

After opening its doors to the public for photos and walk-throughs, the Borealis — a locomotive and five passenger cars — left downtown St. Paul shortly before noon, making stops in Red Wing, Minn.; Winona, Minn.; La Crosse, Wis.; Tomah, Wis.; the Wisconsin Dells; Portage, Wis.; Columbus, Wis.; Milwaukee; the Milwaukee International Airport; Sturtevant, Wis.; Glenview, Ill.; and Chicago.

Views of Mississippi River

Amtrak officials noted that the Borealis offers the opportunity to sit in the café car — or coach or business class — and enjoy the view of the Mississippi River between St. Paul and La Crosse during daylight hours in both directions for the 7½-hour trip to Chicago, while still arriving at either major terminus in time for dinner.

It also offers wide reclining seats, no middle seats, free Wi-Fi and one-way coach fares starting at $41 to traverse the 13 stations — comparable or cheaper than flying — and fares as low as $7 each way between St. Paul and Red Wing.

That said, passengers noted that its relatively narrow, single-deck Horizon coach cars have a far different feel than the double-decker Empire Builder and fewer amenities than more modern cars. Built in the late 1980s, the Horizon trains require stairway boarding and offer limited business seating and no baggage car, so bicycles are not yet allowed.

“I need to ask the question — why can’t we get bike racks on there?” said Ramsey County Commissioner Rafael Ortega, a longtime advocate for the second train to Chicago who has chaired the county’s Regional Railroad Authority, off and on, for 20 years. “If that was on each train, that would be significant.”

Some took the relatively humble Horizon coaches in stride.

Comfortable-looking seats on a train.

“The business class is OK. It’s small,” said Diego Vazquez, a diehard rail traveler and proprietor of the YouTube channel TrainWreckPoet, noting the difference between coach and business seating was minor. “Next time I do this, I’ll just go coach. I love that they finally did this. I’ve been waiting for years.”

Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari said some states have offered to lease or buy rights to more modern train cars such as the Siemens Venture or the even newer Siemens Airo, which offer low-level platform boarding — a benefit for the disabled — as well as other modern amenities.

That would require additional investment from the state of Minnesota, which effectively leases the Horizon cars from Amtrak. “There’s no immediate plans to replace these cars with the Venture cars,” Magliari said Tuesday.

In addition to Ortega and the lieutenant governor, speakers during the morning program at Union Depot included Amit Bose, administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, and Stephen Gardner, the chief executive officer of Amtrak, as well as state Sen. Scott Dibble and state Rep. Frank Hornstein, who advocated for state funding to cover capital construction.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar phoned in remarks from Washington, where she was occupied with the work of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “There’s no such thing as a Democratic bridge or a Republican bridge,” said Klobuchar, quoting the late U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar of Minnesota, a longtime advocate for federal transit funding.

Transportation officials in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois said key funding fell into place with the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2021, which authorized some $550 billion in spending on roads, bridges and mass transit, as well as water and broadband infrastructure, from 2022 to 2026.

The 411-mile Borealis is Amtrak’s sixth-longest state-backed passenger rail corridor, and its capital costs came together through a long-sought partnership between Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. Minnesota contributed $10 million, Wisconsin $7 million, Amtrak $5 million and the Federal Railroad Administration $34 million.

The three states added additional funding to cover operating costs, with a one-time grant of $13 million from the FRA. Some 230,000 passengers are expected to use the service annually. Around 400 passengers rode each way on Tuesday.

Amtrak, which maintains 29 state-supported routes with 18 state partners, operates the Borealis on tracks maintained by the Canadian Pacific Kansas City Railway.

In 1993, longtime Pioneer Press business columnist Dave Beal opined that the fortunes of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Chicago and stops in between would be boosted by better rail connections, namely a high-speed train from the Twin Cities to Chicago. High-speed rail, which is common in Europe, China and Japan, remains largely elusive in the United States, though one line — Amtrak’s Acela Express — reaches speeds of up to 150 mph as it traverses the 450-mile northeast corridor from Washington to Boston in 6½ hours.

Reopening Union Depot

People seated in a waiting area.

With top speeds of about 80 mph, the Borealis is no Japanese bullet train. But officials in cities along the route have high hopes that improving passenger rail connections will boost commerce and tourism. Ramsey County officials, through the Regional Railroad Authority, have spent much of the past decade or more advocating for Amtrak’s second daily Chicago train — a service not seen since 1979 — spending some $243 million to begin a two-year restoration of the St. Paul Union Depot in 2011.

After decades in proverbial mothballs, the county reopened the 1923 depot’s long-shuttered waiting room and concourse and relaunched interstate passenger rail service there in 2014, with Amtrak relocating from a station in St. Paul’s Midway. The last passenger train before then departed Union Depot in 1971. The depot was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

Ortega said he saw a bright future for the Borealis and potential connecting lines, as well as for the underutilized Union Depot, which has suffered from high turnover among its small vendors. Restaurant space currently sits vacant, though he said a new tenant is on the horizon, and Choo Choo Bob’s toy train store recently moved into a retail spot.

“I’m hoping that the increased activity will bring a more family-oriented environment,” Ortega said. “People will feel safer. Choo Choo Bob’s was part of that — we did a ribbon-cutting a couple weeks ago. We’ve got a new restaurant in, and we’re making sure that it’s family-friendly.”

The Empire Builder — which honors St. Paul railroad baron James J. Hill and his Great Northern Railway — has long offered passenger rail service through St. Paul from Seattle and Portland to Chicago, but passengers have routinely complained about delays, often due to conflicts with freight railroads, which lease their tracks to Amtrak but retain priority for their operations.

Assuming there hasn’t been a weather or freight delay, the Empire Builder to Chicago rolls through Red Wing around 9:45 a.m., returning through the riverside station around 9:45 p.m. on its way back to St. Paul and points west. That would make for a long day for Twin Cities tourists, especially a family with kids out to explore Red Wing.

On the Borealis, “you can get here with kids and back in the same day,” said Bender, one of several dozen onlookers at the Red Wing station who applauded the train’s 12:35 p.m. arrival Tuesday. “It’s tough to arrive here at (around) 9 a.m. and leave at 9:30 p.m.”

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Observe Memorial Day with these events in southern Maine

Tons of towns have parades and ceremonies happening Monday.

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Kids and adults gather at a Memorial Day parade to honor and celebrate veterans in South Portland. Sofia Aldinio/ Staff Photographer

BATH 10 a.m. Monday. Parade begins at 200 Congress Ave. and concludes at Library Park and will be followed by a wreath-laying service at 11 a.m.

BERWICK 11 a.m. Monday. Parade begins at Berwick Town Hall/Sullivan Square and proceeds to Lord’s Cemetery by way of Wilson and Allen streets. After a ceremony there, the parade will continue down Saw Mill Hill Street with a pause at the Somersworth-Berwick Bridge for a brief memorial service for those lost at sea. The parade ends at Sullivan Square with a memorial service honoring area veterans.

BIDDEFORD-SACO Opening ceremony at 9:55 a.m. Monday at Saco City Hall. Parade starts at 10 a.m. from Saco City Hall and proceeds along Main Street and down York Hill into Biddeford, continues along Main Street, onto Alfred Street and finishes at Veteran’s Memorial Park with a closing ceremony at 10:45 a.m.

BRUNSWICK-TOPSHAM 9 a.m. Monday. Parade proceeds from Topsham Town Hall, pauses for observances while crossing the Brunswick-Topsham bridge, and concludes at the Brunswick Mall.

CAPE ELIZABETH 9 a.m. Monday. Parade begins at the middle school parking lot, turns right on Scott Dyer Road, right onto Route 77 and ends at the village green adjacent to the town hall. A brief ceremony and laying of the wreath will be held at the Village Green after the parade.

CUMBERLAND 8 a.m. Monday. Kids run at Greely High School followed by 5K Run and Remember race at 8:30 a.m. Parade starts at 10 a.m. at Mabel I. Wilson School and ends at the veterans’ monument in Moss Side Cemetery in Cumberland Center, where a ceremony will be held at 10:30 a.m. Advertisement

FALMOUTH 10 a.m. Monday. Parade proceeds from 65 Depot Road (Falmouth American Legion) to Pine Grove Park, where a ceremony will be held.

FREEPORT 9:30 a.m. Monday. Parade proceeds from Holbrook Street, heads north on Main and makes a right onto School Street, then right onto Park Street, ending in Memorial Park. There will be a small ceremony in Memorial Park starting at 10 a.m.

GORHAM 11 a.m. Monday. Parade starts at Village School (12 Robie St.) and ends at Eastern Cemetery on Johnson Road.

GRAY 11:30 a.m. Monday. Parade leaves the Russell School (8 Gray Park), proceeds to Shaker Road and continues to the Soldiers Monument at the intersection of Routes 26 and 3 for a wreath-laying ceremony. Parade continues north to the American Legion Post (15 Lewiston Road) for a closing ceremony.

LYMAN 1 p.m. Monday. Parade starts at Waterhouse Road/Mill Pond in Goodwins Mills and ends at the Lyman Town Hall on South Waterboro Road.

NEW GLOUCESTER 9 a.m. Monday. Parade leaves from Memorial Elementary School (86 Intervale Road) and heads down Intervale Road to Route 100/202 to Veterans Park for a memorial service. The parade will reconvene and go down Peacock Hill Road, then take a left on Gilmore Road. Advertisement

OLD ORCHARD BEACH 1 p.m. Monday. Parade starts at the corner of Ballpark Way and E. Emerson Cumming Boulevard and proceeds down Saco Avenue, Old Orchard Beach Street to First Street and ends at Veteran’s Memorial Park.

PORTLAND 2 p.m. Monday. The procession starts at Longfellow School (432 Stevens Ave.) and ends at Evergreen Cemetery for a commemoration ceremony.

SANFORD 10 a.m. Monday. The parade starts at the Sanford Armory (88 William Oscar Emery Drive), proceeds up Gowen Park Drive and ends at Central Park.

SCARBOROUGH 10 a.m. Monday. Parade starts at Scarborough High School, turns onto Route 114 and then Route 1, past town offices to the Maine Veterans Home and concludes with a ceremony there.

SOUTH PORTLAND 10:30 a.m. Monday. Parade starts at Southern Maine Community College parking lot, proceeds down Broadway to the Veterans Monument for a short Memorial Day recognition service.

WELLS 9 a.m. Monday. Parade starts at Wells High School (200 Sanford Road) and proceeds to Ocean View Cemetery for a ceremony and musical performances. Advertisement

WESTBROOK 10 a.m. Monday. Parade proceeds down Main Street and will be followed by a ceremony in Riverbank Park.

WINDHAM 9 a.m. Monday. Parade starts at Windham Town Hall and proceeds onto Route 202 toward Windham High School. At 10 a.m., there will be a ceremony in front of Windham’s Veterans Memorial Flagpole at Windham High School.

YARMOUTH 10 a.m. Monday. Parade leaves from Yarmouth High School (286 West Elm St.) and proceeds to the Memorial Green at Town Hall for a ceremony.

YORK 10 a.m. Monday. Parade starts near St. Christopher’s Church (4 Barrell Lane) and proceeds down York Street to York Town Hall.

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IMAGES

  1. Flying on a One-Way Ticket [How to Avoid Problems] • Indie Traveller

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    Domestic vs International Flights. Conventional travel wisdom suggests that one-way tickets can be a better value domestically, while international flights are a better deal when you purchase a round-trip. However, this is simply not true in all cases. On the other hand, many airlines lack policy to this end, which can make any claim difficult ...

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  21. Pros and cons of two one-way tickets vs one round-trip (and a warning

    There are a ton of advantages for purchasing one-way tickets, such as: Being able to build a complex itinerary to match your exact schedule. Being able to take advantage of special deals or discounts for individual flights that might not otherwise be available with a round-trip purchase. Being able to build and maintain status on multiple airlines.

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  25. Alaska mayor who wanted to give the homeless a one-way ticket out of

    Alaska mayor who wanted to give the homeless a one-way ticket out of Anchorage concedes election. Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson poses for a photo in his office, Sept. 14, 2023, in Anchorage, Alaska ...

  26. Amtrak starts the daily Borealis, a St. Paul to Chicago trip

    A one-way ticket to Red Wing runs as low as $7 — but no bicycles allowed (yet). ... directs passengers aboard for the inaugural trip of Amtrak's Borealis train to Chicago at Union Depot in St ...

  27. Observe Memorial Day with these events in southern Maine

    OLD ORCHARD BEACH 1 p.m. Monday. Parade starts at the corner of Ballpark Way and E. Emerson Cumming Boulevard and proceeds down Saco Avenue, Old Orchard Beach Street to First Street and ends at ...