Do you have proof of onward travel?

It’s the question that most regular travellers despise more than “would you please step this way for an intimate body search?”

The most unneccessary, the most irritating and the most expensive expectation of the international traveller is that we should have an onward ticket from the port of destination.

I was asked this in Italy once before checking in for a flight to Dubai. I explained that my friend and I planned to drive to Oman from Al Ain and then fly from there. I was fortunate that Emirates were satified with that response.

But it doesn’t always work.

Commercial flights are not the only way to travel but many immigration authorities seem to have made a sinister pact with the airlines which means travellers are required to have a ticket. Most countries with strict immigration policies, such as Japan, require proof of funds in lieu of a ticket. Airlines like to create their own laws and therefore ask for an air ticket, even if you stand before them with fistfuls of cash and a bag of gold bullion. The fact that many travellers carry several thousand dollars in cash and can therefore (in theory) buy a first class ticket to Fiji is of no consequence to airline staff who are checking your tickets.

And here I stand in Hong Kong International Airport, furiously writing these notes on my iPhone and refusing to buy an onward ticket. I am terribly sorry, Cathay Pacific, but no immigration officer in my 12 years of hardcore travels over 6 continents has ever even asked me about my return flight – it’s only the airline staff who carry on with this nonsense. I guess that the South African/Emirati/Indonesian/Japanese governments, realising that I am not a North Korean passport holder, are in no doubt that I will leave their country of my own accord.

Thank you, Cathay Pacific, for offering to sell me an onward ticket for 2.5 times the price on Expedia, however I think I will have to refuse on principle.

Forget planes - there are much better ways of getting around

Forget planes – there are much better ways of getting around

I have a solution: let’s cut out these greedy airlines with their financially motivated “immigration rules” and contact the immigration departments directly before travelling. Perhaps if enough people send proof of funds and a receipt from a hire car company or a statement of their intention to exit by boat we may be able to get around this. After all, travel by land or sea where possible is more ecologically sustainable and helps to support the local economy.

Cathay Pacific caved in the end, by the way. They made me sign a waiver stating that I take full responsibility in the event that I am turned away from the borders, which has never happened and I doubt that it ever will. It was 2 hours of arguing but I saved $500 and made it to the lounge in time for breakfast. I’ve since discovered that many travellers get a “confirmation of itinerary” online, the step before you pay for your ticket on a website, to print it out and present at check-in for proof of onward travel. There is no e-ticket number but there is a booking number.

Good luck on that overland trek, fly the flag of eco travel and let’s hope that they put an end to this ridiculous system.


4 responses to “Do you have proof of onward travel?

  1. Thats very narrow minded for the airline to think that because we fly into a place, that automatically means we are going to be flying out. Seeng as though they are in the travel industry, you would think that they would know better. Good for you for sticking to your guns.

    • Thank you, John! Most people think I am wasting my time but I don’t really need corporate bullying from an airline, none of us do.

  2. The Problem is not the Airline. If you overstay your Visa, the Imigration of that country will charge the Airline that flew you in a steep fee of about 1000-2000$ for not checking for onward travell.

    • You’d think that would be the case but it NEVER is: Japanese airline staff in both Tokyo airports have held me up for ages – a bus ticket from Singapore to Malaysia (which is a few dollars) is not proof of onward travel to them. They want you to buy an air ticket, that’s all. I’ve had the same problem with Cathay Pacific in Hong Kong. They are all just greedy.
      Also, I believe this is not the policy in countries such or Oman where the next country can be reached by car – how can I prove onward travel from Oman to Abu Dhabi, a set of car keys? According to the immigration laws that is a valid onward travel plan. The airlines want to see return tickets and don’t want us taking a $10 boat ride.

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