What is an Open Air Ticket? How to book it?

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Don’t we all wish to spend one more night in that room looking right past the serene mountains or soak just a few more days of sun on that beach with a glass of some fizzy cocktail and the azure ocean waves? We understand how travelling can be a blissful escape and how it can be somewhat difficult to just pack your stuff and head to the airport. Why? Because you have a return ticket waiting to welcome you back home.

Sometimes, apart from wanting to enjoy your vacay longer, you may need to stay back due to some discrepancy or the other. In that case, your return ticket (and the money you spent on it) goes down the drain.

This is why open tickets or open-ended tickets were introduced. So, what exactly is an open-ended ticket? How can you book it? And, are there any alternatives to it? We’ll discuss all that and much more to walk you through what ways you can exploit flight tickets to make your stay longer on your very deserved vacation. 

What is an Open Air Ticket?

An open air ticket or an open-ended air ticket is a travel document that has a set departure date for a passenger but a flexible/adjustable return date. This means that when you book an open-ended flight ticket, you depart on a fixed date for when you booked, but you can schedule a return for ‘whenever’ you want.

Now, the ‘whenever’ part is subjective and depends on the type of open-ended ticket you are booking (which we will discuss right as we finish elucidating what open air tickets are). An open air ticket may give you flexibility on return dates, but it has a certain validity period, after which it is rendered useless.  

What makes open-ended air tickets so feasible is the fact that you do not have to cancel your return ticket if you want to linger a little longer on your trip or if there’s a business or medical emergency that you’ve met with during your trip. Since cancellation charges are hefty, when you cancel at the last moment, and sometimes completely non-refundable (if you haven’t booked a refundable ticket), open air tickets are the easier way around the whole travelling scenario. 

Open Air Tickets – Restricted Vs. Unrestricted

So, just a while back, we were talking about the part of open-air tickets that claims ‘you can return whenever you want to return’. This ‘whenever’ depends on the type of open-air ticket you’re booking. Having said that, open air tickets are of two types – restricted and unrestricted. 

Restricted Open Air Tickets: Restricted open air tickets are exactly what they sound like – with restrictions applied on the booking of your return flight. This type of open air ticket includes a return date that has been set by the airline company on the fine print. So, how is it an open air ticket, after all? 

The answer lies in the flexibility of changing the return date. You can change the return date given in the fine print. However, you are not only charged steeply high fees for adjusting the date, but you’re also given a time window within which you can choose to return. You also have to incur any other relevant charges that often come as the fare difference between the flight that was initially booked for return (on the date decided by the airline) and the flight that you will be booking as per your choice (on the date decided by you).


For example, if you have a restricted open air ticket that has a return date of 25th of a month, say July, and you wish to postpone the return to the 17th of August, you can do so for a certain fee that can be as high as $300, plus fare differences between the old flight booking (25th of July) and the new one on 17th of August. 

However, if you’re given a time window of only 7 days (time windows depend on the booking and the airline), meaning you can extend your return date by a maximum of seven days, then you’ll not be able to make a return booking for 17th of August. In this case, you’ll either have to book for a flight departing within 7 days from the 25th of July or cancel the ticket incurring a certain cancellation fee. 

Unrestricted Open Air Tickets: These open air tickets are truly open-ended, which means they do not have a return time window specified by the flight that you can adjust. Instead, they give you the convenience to book a return for whenever you want. They do, however, have a fixed validity period, post which they expire, and you may need to return immediately once the validity period has passed. Some countries may not let you stay as long as the validity of the open air ticket remains; in that case, you’ll need to book a return ticket before you’ve even landed in the country you’re flying to.

Since these open air tickets give you greater flexibility than the restricted open air tickets, these are some of the most expensive ones to book, only offered by a handful of airline companies. 

Advantage of Open Air Ticket

No matter what reasons you have for extending your stay on a trip, the major advantage you can reap from an open air ticket is the ginormous flexibility (we’re starting to use that word a lot now) of deciding your return date without really having to incur cancellation charges. Since you’ve already paid for your return in advance, you can book for any time that you want to return without having the rigidity of a return date dangling over your head.


Okay, so open-ended tickets let you book a return flight for whenever you want, right? Turns out, not so much. Buying an open air ticket is like staying on standby. You may not get to return whenever you want if the date of return you’ve decided for yourself has already been packed. This translates to the fact that you may be bulldozed over by other travellers if your flight is already booked or not available at the moment. 

But why do airline companies do this when you’ve already paid for your return? That’s because you’ve not specified a date for your return, and any airline company would obviously not leave one seat unbooked, hoping you will be booking on that date.

Do Open Air Tickets still exist?

Hate to break it to you, but sadly, open air flight tickets are in rarity these days, unlike back in the 20th century, when they were quite common. It would not be completely erroneous to state that these tickets have more or less vanished in today’s era. In the 20th century, not everyone flew as regularly as they do now, so not only did airlines charge much more than they do today, but they also provided premium services – one of them being open air tickets. 

The system of open air ticketing is not completely abandoned; some airline companies still offer it, but the price you need to pay is heftier than for all other tickets. Open air tickets are fully (or sometimes partially) applicable during RTW bookings. RTW or round-the-world bookings allow multi-destination open air passes. Sometimes, students may be given an open air ticket. However, it is not always applicable.

How to book an Open Air Ticket?

As we’ve mentioned before, open air tickets are very rare to come across, but if you’re looking to fly via airlines that allow open air tickets (although the chances are shaky), here is a step by step guide on how you can book an open-air ticket. 

Since open-ended air tickets can cost up to 100% higher than standard tickets, and might even come off as pricier than business class tickets. Therefore, we suggest thinking through the decision of buying an open-ended flight ticket before rooting for your card to make payment.

Step 1

The first step to buying an open air ticket is deciding where you wish to go, when you wish to go, and most importantly when you wish to return. We’re not saying it has to be completely specific, but deciding on a loose return date allows you to have an idea if your open air ticket will be valid for that long or not.


Since some airlines only allow a time window of a month, sometimes just a week, to adjust your return date, contemplating the duration of your stay is important. If you wish to fly internationally with an open air ticket, it is highly difficult because most countries require you to have a return ticket when flying internationally. This is due to security purposes; this is why knowing where you want to travel to is important before buying an open air ticket.

You also need to reconsider your budget because international open air tickets are not only costly, but they charge a burly convenience fee to make it all possible.

Step 2

Go through the list of airlines that offer open air tickets to your destination, and then compare the rates using comparison tools such as Fare Compare or Airline Analyzer. It is obvious we do not have to suggest that you should go for the most economical airline on the list.

Step 3

Once you’ve selected your airline, call their service helpline and inquire about open airfares and the convenience offered. Make sure to know what time window they offer on the fine print because if the return is not much adjustable, there is no point in paying higher than you usually will for a standard flight ticket.

Once the service helpline has walked you through the fares, purchase your ticket using a credit card. This will not only earn you rewards and miles points but may also get you some exciting offers on your next flight tickets.

Step 4

Once you’re all set, let it settle in that an open air ticket might get you bumped multiple times since flights may not be available for when you want to return. Therefore contact the airline service regarding the same and keep checking for dates when the flights are available. Adjust your return date accordingly.

Are there Alternatives to Open Air Tickets?

We’ll walk you through 7 alternatives of open air tickets that provide more or less the same flexibility that an open air ticket will. 

  • Buy flexible fares
  • Book One (Way) at a time
  • Buy a fully refundable flight ticket
  • Fly Business or First Class. Multiple airlines offer adjustment of return dates on these classes.
  • Use Miles and Points – this will save you much more on cancellation fees if you choose to extend your stay.
  • Book RTW Flights or Air Passes. Although this is not very logistical or rational, if you have multiple destinations on your trip, this could be one way to be more flexible about the return dates.
  • The Gift Card Workaround. If you’re gifting flight tickets to someone, you can buy them a one-way fare for the trip, then give them gift cards that will allow them to book a return flight at their convenience.

Read More

  1. How to Find Historical Data of Arrival and Departure Times of a Flight
  2. What Should I Do After Buying an Airline Ticket?
  3. How Much Cash Can You Carry On a Domestic Flight?
  4. How Early Can You Go Through Airport Security?
  5. If your flight is delayed, can you turn up late for check-in at the airport?
  6. How Far Out Can You Book a Flight?
  7. Can You Transfer a Plane Ticket to Someone Else?
  8. Can You Buy a Plane Ticket With Cash?
Author - Willa Carson
Happywayfarer author Willa Carson
Hi, I'm Willa Carson, a passionate traveler who has been exploring the world for 7 years. Whether it's trekking through the Himalayas, exploring ancient ruins in South America, or simply savoring a cup of coffee at a local cafe, I believe that travel has the power to enrich our lives in countless ways. So join me on my journey and let's discover the world together!
Read more about me here.


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