Split ticketing or split-city ticketing is buying two separate round-trip tickets for a single trip. The two round-trip flights take advantage of the airline’s pricing schemes to create a lower total airfare. In addition to paying less, there may be other benefits to booking split-city tickets.
An example to illustrate the split ticketing strategy:
A friend found $600 fares to fly from San Jose, California to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. I checked a couple of sources and confirmed that $600 was the lowest available fare. I also discovered that all flights connected through Los Angeles or Phoenix. I then researched two separate itineraries:
1. (San Jose-to-Los Angeles) AND (Los Angeles-to-Cabo)
2. (San Jose-to-Phoenix) AND (Phoenix-to-Cabo)
At that time, Los Angeles-to-Cabo round-trip flights cost $198 and San Jose-to-Los Angeles flights were $98 (a total of $296). By simply buying separate round-trip tickets through Los Angeles, anyone could save 50%–over $300 ($600 – $296). I concentrated on using Los Angeles as an interim airport, since there more options–airlines and flights–and better prices.
These, and most, split ticket flights are not less convenient, since the through fare (in this case, the $600 fare) required changing planes in an interim airport (i.e., Los Angeles) anyway. In fact, not only are split ticket flights usually as convenient but often include some advantages.
One advantage is that travelers can book flights with preferred airlines and add points to active frequent flyer accounts. At the time, only two airlines offered San Jose-to-Cabo flights while several offered San Jose-to-Los Angeles and Los Angeles-to-Cabo flights. Instead of paying $600 to fly on one of two undesired airlines, buy separate round-trips on airlines you like and pay $298. This is very typical of split city routes.
Another advantage of split ticket itineraries is that travelers can create stopovers, which are not permitted on most discounted round-trip fares (such as the $600 fare). For instance, fly from San Jose to Los Angeles the night before flying to Cabo. Spend a day in Los Angeles before taking an afternoon Los Angeles-to-Cabo flight. The time spent in Los Angeles is a created stopover. Create a similar stopover on the return flights, if you wish. Stopovers counter the major potential difficulty of split ticketing, possibly missing the connection flight if either flight into Los Angeles is canceled or delayed.
With split tickets, travelers usually must claim baggage from the first airline, carry them to the second airline, and check in with the second airline. Bringing only carry-on baggage is the best way to eliminate this disadvantage but travelers must still check in with the second airline.
Some typical split ticket routes include:
- East coast US cities to Hawaii, Australia, or Asia (through San Francisco or Los Angeles)
- US cities to South America (through Miami or New York)
- US cities to Europe and Africa (through London or Paris)
There are countless routings that offer split ticketing advantages. Try it while researching your next trip. You may be pleasantly surprised.