As a frequent flyer with BMI, I tend to book my flights as far in advance as possible to get the best deal. One consequence of getting the best deal is that my tickets are usually non-refundable and non-changeable, and I understand and accept that. However, I have just discovered that an additional restriction of these tickets is that if for some reason you no longer need the outbound leg of a ticket and don’t want to use it, you will not be able to use the return leg either. To clarify, I called BMI customer  services and they confirmed that if I did not fly on the outbound leg, I could not use my return ticket.

Of course, if you don’t need the return leg after booking, that’s fine – what exactly can they do after you get to your destination and cancel your return? This is, of course, nuts. The airline already have the money for the flight and would now have the opportunity to resell the unused seat and take in a bit more revenue. I struggle to see how allowing this would be anything but a win opportunity for the airline.

It makes even less sense when you consider that not allowing me to not use a flight I no longer needed has just cost the airline an additional £250 in revenue over and above whatever they could make reselling the seat. I wanted to change an outbound flight but couldn’t because of my ticket status. I was then planning to just buy a whole new outbound ticket, and use the existing return flight which I had already paid for. The new outbound flight would add approximately £100 to BMIs coffers. The reason for me wanting to change my flight was so that I could travel that outbound leg with my wife and young child who were considering a trip to see friends and family. The tickets for my family to travel would have been approximately another £150 for BMI, except that as I’m unwilling to pay for exactly the same flight twice, and because the timing just doesn’t work with the existing booking, the proposed family trip probably won’t happen.

The only explanation I can come up with is that the airline manages to make a reasonable amount of extra income by forcing people who really have no alternative to buy a completely set of new tickets. The argument that you can buy a flexible fare doesn’t really come in to this either, since the cost of that is far more than taking the hit of booking a whole new set of flights. For example, booking flexible flights in mid January for a flight at the end of April would cost £750, while the non-flexible flights are £175. So even if I have to spend £500 booking a whole new set of flights because I had to change a travel date, it would be cheaper than a flexible fare.

Given all the factors, this whole situation seems like a lost opportunity to provide flexibility to your customers while continuing to bring additional revenue into the business. At worst, the airline can’t actually lose anything since even the orignal ticket is booked and paid for regardless of whether it is used.