Issuing Tickets in Italy & Only Using Inbound Flight

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Every country has its own laws and Italy has very strict consumer protection laws. These also have a positive effect on flights. For flight tickets, usually, the following rule applies: If you miss a segment (single flight), all other flights on that booking expire. This is not the case if you book a flight from Italy and buy the ticket in Italy, or at least let it be issued there.

Info

This post does not offer official legal advice, but only states how we interpret these laws.

The basis of all this lies in articles 20, 21(1), and 22 of the Act 206/2005 in Italy’s consumer protection laws. These articles are not specifically about missing a flight (no show), but they state that consumers are not to be disadvantaged by the airline.

Background

When booking a flight, it is not possible to see what price a recalculation of the flight price would lead to, in the case that a passenger misses his flight. This is a criticism that has recently lead a German local court to dismiss a lawsuit from Lufthansa against a passenger, who had not used his last flight segment and had been confronted with a bill of โ‚ฌ2,112, having had only paid โ‚ฌ657 for his entire ticket. The court ruled that the airline’s terms & conditions were not transparent enough, and thus void.

The Airlines’ Reactions

In Italy, most airlines have accepted the consumer protection laws and they are therefore now in their terms & conditions, or even explicitly stated on their booking site:

Exception for tickets bought in Italy
Passengers holding a Lufthansa ticket issued in Italy (via LH.com/IT, LH ticket counter, LH call center or at a travel agency) may use the original booked return flight, out of sequence without recalculation and extra payment, even if the outbound section has not been used.
In this case, please call the Lufthansa Customer Relations team latest 24 hours after the planned first ticketed flight segment.
Phone number: 0899 198 000**Local calls rates apply, with no further charges. Between 22.00 and 08.30 customer support is provided only in English or German.

lufthansa.com/it footnote

Usually, at the same place you would find the following notice:

The fares are only valid if the flights/dates are taken in the booked sequence. Otherwise the fares will be recalculated based on the actual flight routing.

lufthansa.com footnote

Every airline has to inform the passengers about this in an acceptable manner. If they don’t, the Italian consumer protection agency takes strict measures against them. British Airways and Etihad Airways were already handed fines of โ‚ฌ500,000 for not telling their passengers their rights.

British Airways has now added the following point to their conditions:

3c4)ย For tickets sold in Italyย the following shall apply
If you have missed, or you have not used for any reason, your outbound flight (for the purpose of this clause, this means the entire outbound journey, as originally booked), you are entitled to use the return flight (for the purpose of this clause, this means the entire return journey, as originally booked), without application of any surcharge, provided that you inform us, by calling us as soon as possible to advise us of your intention to use the return flight, and in any case:

(i) no later than 24 hours after the scheduled departure time of the first leg of the outbound flight;

(ii) at the latest 2 hours before the time of the scheduled departure of the return flight, when the scheduled departure time of the return flight is within 24 hours from the scheduled departure time of the outbound flight.

You should call British Airways and provide your booking reference number and the names of the affected passengers. For more information (including the phone number to use) see our FAQs. We will issue a new electronic ticket for the return flight, without application of any surcharge.

If you do not provide the above information as required, or fail to do so within the prescribed timeframe, we shall be entitled to request payment of the recalculated fare, in accordance with clause 3c2) and 3c6), subject to availability on the return flight.

British Airways General Conditions of Carriage 3. Tickets

Cheap Oneway Flights Thanks to This Exception?

At first sight, it often seems rather strange that a roundtrip flight such as Milan to New York is far cheaper than a oneway flight from New York to Milan. The airlines, however, know that a passenger, such as a businessman who only wants to fly from New York to Milan, is prepared to pay much more for a flight than e.g. a tourist, who flies once a year to his vacation destination.

A roundtrip flight with United Airlines bought through lufthansa.com/it from Milan to New York costs roughly โ‚ฌ330, while the same flight from New York to Milan costs US$579 (~โ‚ฌ526) as a oneway flight!

A roundtrip from New York to Milan at US$446 (~โ‚ฌ405) is also more expensive than the roundtrip from Milan. If one is only really interested in the New York – Milan flight, one could use this special clause of the Italian consumer protection laws to save over โ‚ฌ70.

Lufthansa MXP NYC 1
As a roundtrip
Lufthansa NYC MXP
As a oneway flight
Lufthansa NYC MXP NYC
Roundtrip from New York

How to do it

Warning

For now, this entire story is just theoretical. We, ourselves, have not yet had an opportunity to test this law. If you try it, feel free to leave a comment with your experiences!

We see the greatest challenge in the hotline representatives that have to reissue your inbound flight. You should expect them to be hearing about this part of their own terms for the first time. If they refuse to reissue the flight, you could be forced to book a separate inbound flight and let the airline reimburse you. You might even have to sue the airline, in which case the court handling the case would be in Italy. It should be clear to you, that this could happen.

If you don’t want to fly your outbound flight but still want to use your return flight, you have to call the airline up to 24 hours after the scheduled time of departure of your outbound flight, to inform them that you want to fly on your return flight. The airline then has to make this possible, without charging any money.

This is, as stated before, only possible with a ticket that was issued in Italy. Generally, for that, you have to book over the Italian website of the airline or through an Italian travel agency. The Italian website is mostly available in English.

In theory, you could also inform the airline directly after booking your flights. You have to have done it, however, 24 hours after the scheduled departure time, at the latest. If you inform the airline too late, the airline can refuse to reissue your return flight, or recalculate the price.

Only Using a Part of the Outbound Flight?

You might be asking yourselves if you can also only use a part of the outbound flight, e.g. starting your trip in Frankfurt on a Milan – Frankfurt – New York booking.

As we interpret it, no. Even though there are some reports of multi-way flights (source) or multiple-segment flights (source) – these could be interpreted as multi-stop-flights, where a ticket doesn’t only have an outbound and inbound flight, but various flights with stopovers, such as Milan – New York – Los Angeles – Milan. British Airways even explicitly states that this law is about missing the entire outbound journey.

If you would book a Milan – Frankfurt – New York flight with a stopover in Frankfurt of over 24 hours, this could be interpreted as a multi-stop-flight. This is, however, rarely permitted by airlines in their cheap fares.

Conclusion

Not flying your complete booking can, in theory, always lead to a recalculation of the flight price. It is absolutely not transparent, how this recalculation is done, and therefore passengers are massively disadvantaged by the airline. This is why this Italian law absolutely makes sense. It would be great if other countries could follow Italy in passing such a law.

You can find further views on this topic at Head for Points, God save the Points, Live and let’s fly, and You have been Upgraded.

Ditmar Lange

German-Argentinian IT-student with a passion for collecting frequent flyer statuses for as little money as possible. Happy to share dealz with you, so that you can reach those statuses as well.
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