Don’t Forget Your Return Ticket, Or Else!

 170 total views,  9 views today

This week one of our colleagues was to fly out of the country.  She turns up at the check-in counter with her passport and ticket.  Much to her surprise, she’s asked to provide a copy of her return airline ticket.  She doesn’t have it.  Actually, she doesn’t have one at all.  She’s got a flexible schedule so she’ll be more clear on her return date (definitely before the expiry date of her visa) while she’s overseas.


She’s told she may not board the aircraft if she can’t present her return ticket and naturally she’s in a panicking mood.  There’s a sense of anxiety that the airline will not allow her to board unless a return ticket is presented.  Thankfully, the airline waives that requirement and she’s free to board.  But before she proceeds to the departure lounge, she’s warned that, going forward,  presenting a return airline ticket will be mandatory.


How many of us have checked-in without ever being asked to provide evidence of a return ticket?  Our Twitter colleagues provided mixed responses.  Some have been asked to provide proof of a return ticket and some, just like our colleague, have never been asked at all which is why there was a sense of confusion and of course a bit of panic.


A good friend, Tau, with experience in the airline industry gave us some helpful information on this issue.  Requesting a return airline ticket is, in fact, normal practice in the industry especially for those travelling international routes.  These requirements aren’t set by the airlines but by each country and  as such, requirements can be expected to vary from country to country.


Tau actually went into a little more detail on this and added that many airlines use what is known as a Timatic system.  Timatic is an abbreviation for Travel Information Manual Automatic.  In simple terms, this system is a database containing documentation requirements for passengers travelling internationally and is often used by travel agents or airlines to determine whether a person can be carried.  The typical information can include passport, visa, health, customs and return ticket requirements.


From our colleague’s experience, having a valid visa to travel isn’t enough to get you on board if you do not meet the requirements.  It does appear however that the airline has some discretion as to whether or not to carry a passenger in situations where that passenger does not satisfy all the requirements but there are certainly risks.


One of the risks is for a passenger to not be allowed entry on arrival in which case that passenger may need to board the next flight back, presumably at the expense of the airline.


Our colleague despite arguing that she had never been asked in previous travels is irrelevant.   Just because they’ve never asked you before doesn’t mean you will be exempt from the requirement. And it’s not the airline’s fault either.


But the message clear for travellers. Have a return ticket handy!


If the airlines are being a little more stringent in their approach especially during that festive season, then it’s fair to assume that there may be a growing number of “no return” passengers.


You’ve been warned!