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.
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.