Onward Travel Extortion

By , 24 January 2009

Onward Travel Extortion

When I left for Singapore in December I gained some unfortunate insight into the nature of the airline business. I was checking in for my flight was asked about my itinery. Since the assistant was having a bad hair day and I was traveling without a return ticket she insisted that I had to buy a return flight before I was allowed to board, citing that proof of onward travel was required to enter Singapore.

Puuuuuurlease!! Singapore?! A laissez-faire democracy covering 650 square km that issues 90 day tourist visas on arrival? I mean, the country is so small you could crawl out on your hands and knees if you had to. No. Nobody in Singapore cares, least of all the immigration officers processing queues and queues of people. BUT, the airlines care because the sooner they get your money the sooner they can put it to work.

Onward Travel Extortion

I can't see any other explanation. Cashflow is hugely important to businesses, so if you can extract 1000 bucks out of all your customers a year in advance (or even a month), why wouldn't you? With thousands of people flying every day that's going to add up pretty quickly. I'd do it if I was an airline, but as it happens I'm just a passenger.

So what do you do if this happens to you? Well, the terms and conditions of my flight only contain a fairly lame clause stating 'Some countries may require proof of onward travel'. That's it. Nothing about refusal of service. I don't know, but I reckon if they're going to bullshit you, just bullshit them back. Get a quote on a return flight printed from your travel agent, or if you're really worried, actually book a return flight but make sure it is fully refundable.

In my case, I was able to board because my first flight was domestic to Darwin; the conflict was delaying other passengers; and I said I'd buy a return flight in Darwin. Funnily enough no one in Darwin seemed to think that was necessary.

Oh. BTW.. I've blogged about debt collectors a bit before (did I mention I was sent a debt recovery notice for $6?). Well I had my credit file sent to me, and surprise, surprise... none of those horrendous debts that I defaulted on had been recorded. Hooray for Appeal to Fear tactics.

About Roger Keays

Onward Travel Extortion

Roger Keays is an artist, an engineer, and a student of life. He has no fixed address and has left footprints on 40-something different countries around the world. Roger is addicted to surfing. His other interests are music, psychology, languages, the proper use of semicolons, and finding good food.

Leave a Comment

Please visit https://rogerkeays.com/articles/onward-travel-extortion to add your comments.

Comment posted by: Roger Keays, 10 years ago

I saw Tiger Airways pull this one a Laos lady traveling from Vietnam to Thailand. When I asked why I did not need a return ticket but she did, the reason was because I am a westerner. Pretty harsh. They wouldn't let her on the flight unless she could prove she had USD 500 for a return flight.

Air China also got upset when I flew from Bangkok to Seoul on a one-way ticket. I told them I would buy a return ticket if I was refused entry into the country. They asked if I had a credit card, but didn't bother to check that I actually did.