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How to Book the Cheapest One-Way International Flights

Have you ever noticed that booking one-way flights can be very expensive? Especially compared to domestic flights, I have often found one-way international flights being more expensive than adding a return flight. But sometimes a return isn’t always necessary, and it can be difficult to find a good deal.

Throughout my own trial and error in booking one-way international plane tickets, I have learned some tools and tricks to make sure I get a decent price.

Read on to see how I score the best prices for traveling one-way internationally.

Why Are One-Way International Flights So Expensive?

Passport and Ticket

Before we dive into the tips to save money, we should first understand why one-way international flights can cost nearly as much or even be more expensive than their round-trip counterparts.

It seems counterintuitive to charge less to transport you a second time, doesn’t it?

Airline fare pricing is an extremely complex process, and we as average travelers will probably never have access to the true reasoning behind ticket costs.

However, we know some things for sure which can help us determine what’s most likely to be expensive and what’s not.

Airlines that Price Per-Leg

First of all, it’s worth mentioning that not all airlines engage in this one-way, round-trip price difference complexity.

Some airlines simply charge on a per-leg basis, meaning that a one-way ticket costs half of a round-trip ticket (or at least each leg adds up to the total round-trip price).

The Travelers Who Need to Travel One-Way

Second, think about which types of travelers are usually booking one-way tickets.

Business travelers come to mind, as when something comes up overseas and they need to travel, their company is usually the one paying.

The business’ budget is less sensitive to expensive prices, and they are likely to buy the ticket anyway as the purpose is important.

Travelers who have an emergency situation or are moving residences may also be the type to buy one-way tickets.

Again, these trips serve an essential purpose; and without other alternatives, they are likely to pay a premium to get there. Airlines know this and capitalize on it.

The Benefit to the Airlines

Finally, airlines prefer you book a round-trip ticket because it is more convenient for their planning and scheduling purposes.

Airlines want to efficiently schedule flights and staff planes, and when passengers just book one-way tickets here and there as they please, it can throw off this process. So, they incentivize you to make a decision in advance.

Furthermore, the airline can ensure they are making money by transporting you on two flights rather than one. Putting you on a second flight opens the opportunity for them to collect fees for changes, upgrades, baggage, and more.

So, How Do We Find Cheap One-Way International Flights?

Understanding all of this, there are still opportunities to get cheap one-way international flights if you are know where and how to look for them. The key to most strategies is searching as frequently as possible, as these deals can come and go quickly due to how rare they are. 

Some tools exist to help you maximize your search volume and score the cheapest one-way international fares. Whether paid or free, they can take the burden off of having to search constantly to know when the best deals pop up.

We will take a look at our favorite three of them below, as well as an alternative in case you prefer to do it yourself.

Scott’s Cheap Flights

Scott's Cheap Flights Logo

One of the favorite secret weapons of frequent fliers, Scott’s Cheap Flights is a site dedicated to finding awesome flight deals and sharing their discoveries with members.

It can be a great way to save huge amounts of money on airfare. We at ViaTravelers have done a full review of their service before, but let’s see below how it can help for one-way flights.

Scott’s Cheap Flights Memberships and How It Works

Scott’s is not a search engine to find your own flights like Google Flights or Kayak. Instead, there are real people (not bots!) behind the scenes constantly searching for flight deals for departure and arrival destinations everywhere. They then alert you when a deal that matches your travel plans is discovered.

You’ll have to become a member to get these alerts, but joining is fast and easy. As long as you have an email address, you can be signed up in a matter of seconds. There is a free version, as well as a Premium and Elite subscription with annual fees.

The free version allows you to choose up to five departure airports to follow deals from, which should be sufficient for most people. And just by selecting these airports, you are already set to receive emails or even text messages whenever their team finds a deal departing from one of them.

Upgrading to a Premium or Elite membership can get you access to premium economy, business, and first-class fare deals, as well as ‘mistake fares’ airlines erroneously offer when they occur.

You can also get more deals sent to you in general, choose more departure airports to follow, and overall customize your deal alerts more.

Let Scott’s Cheap Flights Find The Cheapest One-Way International Flights For You

As mentioned, this site is not another Google Flights or Kayak- you won’t be searching and seeing on Scott’s. To use Scott’s Cheap Flights to get the cheapest one-way international fares, all you need to do is wait for a deal to pop up and let Scott’s find it.

The team at Scott’s is constantly searching, whether it be one-way or round-trip deals. When they see something really impressive and worth alerting you about, they will send you an email.

You don’t have to worry about getting spammed as Scott’s will only send the best deals. You can always log onto Scott’s and visit their Deals page to see some of the destinations that they’ve recently found really low prices for, in case you are too eager to wait or need some trip inspiration.

Premium membership will give you more information about each destination including the average and lowest prices to expect.

When you get an email alerting you of a deal, click on the link to get a summary from Scott’s about that particular flight and what to know about it. A link is usually provided to go to Google Flights or another site to actually complete the booking if you want to.

See Related: Top Sites for Booking Tours

Thrifty Traveler Premium

Thrifty Traveler Logo

Another service with real people behind the scenes constantly searching for the cheapest airfare, Thrifty Traveler goes even further and also keeps you up to date on things like points and miles deals and Covid-19 restrictions.

Their subscription product, Thrifty Traveler Premium, can be a wise investment for your one-way international flight search endeavors.

The Benefits of a Thrifty Traveler Premium Subscription

We’ve done a full review of Thrifty Traveler Premium already, and found it to be an excellent travel-hacking tool.

Besides having their team of 24/7 deal-searchers, the team also posts credit card bonus opportunities, points and miles strategies, Youtube videos on various ways to save money on travel, and more.

There is not a ‘free’ version of Thrifty Traveler Premium. Anyone can visit their site to view their tips, and the only free service is signing up for their daily newsletter.

This can still be a valuable resource as it contains some of the top deals found by their experts lately.

The Premium service costs only $7.99 per month or $49.99 per year, and ViaTravelers readers can get $10 off with the code VIA10 at checkout!

Subscribing can easily pay for itself, as Thrifty Traveler reports savings of up to 90% on your flights’ thanks to their deals.

Simply choose your home airport or airports, and wait for a deal alert to hit your inbox. Besides that, Premium subscribers get access to free points and miles consulting and can become members of the TTP Facebook Group.

Your subscription price is locked for life and will never go up, and there is a 100-day money-back guarantee.

How to Get the Cheapest International One-Way Flights with Thrifty Premium Traveler

Once again, this service is one of convenience as you won’t be the one doing the actual searching.

The team over at TTP is searching 200 US and Canadian departure cities every day for destinations all over the world, and they will make sure you know when something great has been found from your home.

Thrifty Premium Traveler is searching all deals, not just round-trip ones, from these departure cities. We know it’s key to find those low one-way international flights as soon as they are published, and the power of TTP’s constant search is the value here.

When you do get an email with a deal that catches your eye, you will be pleased to see that it won’t be on a budget airline. Thrifty Traveler Premium is mainly searching American, Delta, and United Airlines and will never show you a low-cost carrier deal that will require you to pay more in the end anyway.

Furthermore, the flight booking will be made directly with the airline in the end. I appreciate this concept very much, as it allows you to add your frequent flier number and earn miles.

When booking with a third party, this is rarely allowed. That makes Thrifty Traveler Premium an even more efficient source of getting the cheapest price on one-way international flights.

See Related: Best Ways to Get Cheap Flight Alerts

Dollar Flight Club

Dollar Flight Club Logo

To finish off our cheap one-way international flight-finding subscription tools, we come to Dollar Flight Club.

But this one differs in that rather than a human-based service constantly searching for great deals and notifying members, their in-house software takes care of scanning the skies around the clock. 

Noticing a pattern here?

That’s because repetition and experimentation in your search are key when trying to find this type of air travel, and the average person doesn’t have the time or patience to do it all themself!

The Advantages of Dollar Flight Club

Our team had great things to say about Dollar Flight Club in our full review of it. Along with having a team dedicated to finding the cheapest flights leaving from all over the country, they also post some very handy travel guides for visiting various cities and countries on a budget.

Signing up for Dollar Flight Club couldn’t be easier, and there is a free version. Simply enter your email and password, before finally choosing your preferred departure airport. At that point, you’ll be able to decide between the free version or the paid subscription, but you may want to think about this one before sticking with the free one.

That’s because DFC only sends international flight deals to Premium members, as free members are limited to domestic flights. As our mission is to find cheap one-way international flights, a Premium membership is a wise and relatively inexpensive investment here!

As a Premium member, you’ll get access to five times the deals that free members get, plus the ability to select up to four departure airports to search from. We also did a side-by-side comparison of Dollar Flight Club and Scott’s Cheap Flights, which may be useful if you decide that only one deal-searching subscription is in your budget.

Using Dollar Flight Club for Cheap One-Way International Flights

As we mentioned, it will be the computer systems at DFC doing the hard work of constantly searching flights from your city and informing you when they find something great; rather than you using their site to search for anything.

One-way or round-trip, domestic or international, economy or first class; if a great deal materializes, Dollar Flight Club will let you know.

If you aren’t in the mood for waiting, you can always visit your account on the site to see the top deals that they’ve found most recently. It can also be a great way to inspire your next destination, especially when it’s a cheap one!

DFC aims to save its average user 60% to 90% on usual airfares, which like the others we’ve covered is some serious savings.

If you manage to score even just one booking at that discount, you will probably have made your money back on your subscription fee plus some.

By clicking on the deal that you like, you’ll be able to see the standard fare that you would normally expect and the savings that you are getting on the deal.

You can also see the dates the deal was found for, plus alternative departures if available. To make the booking, you’ll be sent over to Skyscanner or Google Flights.

See Related: What is Hacker Fare? Easy Steps to Hack fare

Finding Cheap One-Way International Airline Tickets Yourself on Google Flights

Google Flights Logo

So far, we’ve seen three different services that will do the hard work of tediously searching flight databases to find you the best deals. And while they are powerful tools that do their job very well, they may not be for everyone.

The free versions of those sites don’t come with all the functions, and not everyone wants to pay for a monthly or annual subscription.

Furthermore, you sometimes have a set destination and general dates in mind and don’t need the service to search hundreds or thousands of destinations for you across the calendar.

My favorite tool for DIY one-way international flights is undoubtedly Google Flights. One of the best flight search engines, Google Flights searches multiple airlines at the same time and works very well to find cheap one-way flights. To use it best for this purpose, there are some things to keep in mind.

Search By City, Not Airport

Take one of the world’s most traveled routes, for example, New York to Paris. Someone from the New York area might input the airport code JFK for their departure, and read that CDG is the main airport in Paris.

They will probably be disappointed to see airlines like Delta and Air France offering ridiculously high one-way fares between the two airports.

However, whether you know the area and its airports or not, you should always use the city name in Google Flights.

By searching New York (NYC) to Paris (PAR), the search automatically includes all airports nearby: Newark, LaGuardia, JFK, and others for New York; and Charles de Gaulle, Orly, Beauvais, and others for Paris.

You’d be glad to see that French Bee, a low-cost carrier, offers exceptionally low fares between Newark and Orly. Both are just as convenient to access their cities, you could find yourself saving thousands thanks to this easy expansion of your search!

See Related: Cheapest Places to Fly Around the World

Use the Calendar To See Nearby Dates

As one-way international deals can be rare, a little bit of flexibility in your departure and arrival can go a long way. I love the fact that once I start my search, I can see prices over the entire month by clicking on the calendar.

Some airlines only fly certain routes a few days per week rather than daily. For example, Hawaiian only flies to Tahiti every Saturday. Searching for a one-way flight between Honolulu and Tahiti on a Friday without looking ahead by just one day could cost you thousands! If at all possible, build some flexibility into your schedule when flying one way.

Consider Budget Airlines

You may have noticed that the subscription sites above often exclude budget airlines from their deals. The logic is simply that while fares can be obscenely low, you will have to pay for literally everything else, including things that should normally have been included.

In the end, it can end up not being a deal at all. But, on the other hand, it sometimes can! In our previous example, French Bee is a low-cost airline.

Even if you have to pay for a bag and food, your one-way flight to Paris is very often going to remain cheaper than it would with a major airline. One of my proudest travel successes was paying €1 for a flight ticket between Italy and Greece.

Sure, it was with Ryanair, one of the most infamous low-cost carriers; and even if just I wanted to even bring a normal-sized carry-on it would have been $15 more.

But even so, I still would have paid about five to ten times less than I would have on Alitalia or Aegean.

See Related: Top Sites Like Skiplagged

Enable Price Tracking for Flight Deals

Possibly the most important tool when doing it yourself is to track the prices of the route you want. Google Flights offers this feature along with the option to track any dates.

Whenever prices change for your flights, you will receive an email alert.  This is similar to the offers of the three tracking sites mentioned above, with the benefit of being able to specify routes and dates.

While less personalized and without the included insight of Scott’s Cheap Flights, Thrifty Traveler Premium, or Dollar Flight Club, this can be one of the most effective ways to ensure you snag a cheap one-way international flight when a deal does appear.

Consider Taking Advantage of Hidden City Tickets for Cheap One Way Flights

You may consider taking advantage of hidden city tickets, where you book a destination city that is completely useless to you, intending only to use the first half of the ticket. Your intended destination is the stopover city, and you abandon the connecting flight to your final destination on purpose.

How exactly does this make sense, you may ask? Airlines are often much happier to sell you tickets on two flights or more than just one. Therefore, the displayed fares for these connecting flights can be far lower than a single direct leg.

Most airlines formally prohibit the practice of taking advantage of this ‘loophole’ that you agree to when buying your ticket, but it is extremely rare to be proven not to mention penalized for it.

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