An ARC study has found an increasing trend of one-way ticket
purchases, a finding ARC called a "major shift in traveler behavior."
"In summary, the long-held belief that it is better to
purchase roundtrip tickets whenever possible to get the best fares is simply no
longer true," ARC said in a report on the study, "Myth Busting the
Cost of One-Way Tickets."
Since 2014, the percentage of one-way tickets has increased
each year, from 29% in 2014 to 42% in 2017 (January through May). Meanwhile,
the percentage of roundtrip tickets has decreased each year, from 71% in 2014
to 58% in 2017.
Leisure travelers and unmanaged business travelers started
the trend and are driving it. A parallel study using data from agencies that
primarily serve government and corporate travel did not find the same trend.
ARC's study looked at purchasing windows for one-way tickets
versus roundtrip, which historically, have been higher for close-in departures
of three days or less. The study found an increase in one-way ticketing in
longer purchase windows.
One-way tickets purchased at least three days in advance of
departure were in the 50-60% range from 2014 to 2017, experiencing moderate
growth. One-way tickets purchased more than 21 days in advance of travel
increased from a little over 20% in 2014 to nearly 40% in 2017.
ARC said the premium cost for one-way ticketing vanished in
ARC combed data over the past three years from
ARC-accredited agencies, both leisure and corporate, amounting to more than 350
million tickets. One-way travel was defined "as a single directional
journey from one airport to another," whether on nonstop or connecting
flights. Roundtrip travel was defined as "out-and-back from one airport to
another and returning to the original airport," also including nonstop
flights and connections.
ARC said those two types of tickets -- one-way and roundtrip
-- account for about 95% of all air travel.
"Historically, prior to 2014, the percentage of one-way
tickets versus roundtrip tickets stayed in the upper 20% range. This number did
not change in any material way over the years," ARC's report stated. "The
travel behavior driving this tendency to prefer roundtrip tickets versus
one-way was largely driven from the belief that on a per-leg basis, fares would
be generally lower if a roundtrip ticket were purchased."
That was the case, ARC said, until 2014, when the shift
toward one-way ticketing began.
To track that trend, "ARC isolated the premium paid for
one-way tickets versus the cost of an equivalent trip ticketed with a roundtrip
itinerary," ARC's report stated. "The data in the study revealed that
in some markets the one-way fare premium shrunk to almost zero since 2014."
In the past, ARC said a one-way premium could be 50% or more
compared with a roundtrip ticket.
"Markets vary greatly due to demand and other factors,
so blanket statements such as, 'You should always use one-way ticketing,' is
not the take-away from this study. However, the number of markets where the
one-way premium is disappearing is big," ARC's report stated. "Additionally,
this is not a one-time or short-term event. This study clearly shows that
one-way ticketing should not be ignored as it may have been in the past."