Back-to-back ticketing is when a passenger books two flights to get around ticketing restrictions like Saturday night stay requirements or to avoid paying high prices for mid-week travel. Although it's a complicated task to pull off saving money by buying multiple tickets, frequent fliers may use this trick to get special deals on discounted tickets.
Airlines don't like practices like back-to-back ticketing since passengers do it when they're trying to get around the restrictions of discounted tickets, especially the Saturday Night Stay rule. As a result, regular business travelers might book two discounted roundtrip and only use one leg of each roundtrip ticket, which is still less expensive than non-discounted airfare.
The Saturday Night Stay rule is used by some airlines to exclude business travelers from leisure travelers (and vice-versa) when it comes to offering discounted flights. The Saturday Night Stay rule requires that a passenger must stay overnight on Saturday night at their destination in order to qualify for round-trip fares.
Roundtrip airfare is typically higher if completed during the weekdays but discounted if travel includes weekend stay, meaning many business travelers can't take advantage of the deals and oftentimes resort to back-to-back ticketing to find a loophole in the restrictions. The best way to understand how this works is to look at an example.
For instance, if a person is staying in New York City wants to travel to Dallas on Tuesday but return to the city on Friday, in order to get discounted round-trip tickets, he would have to purchase two, separate round trip tickets but with opposite starting points.
The first ticket would be a round trip ticket leaving from New York on Tuesday and returning the following Monday, and the second would be a round trip ticket departing Dallas on Friday and returning to Dallas the following Monday. The traveler would then use the first leg of the first set of tickets he bought for his departing flight and the first leg of the second set of tickets for his return to New York.
If the total cost of both of those round-trip tickets, discounted by weekend stays, is less than a round-trip flight completed within a week, you've successfully planned a back-to-back ticket.
Airlines Don't Technically Allow Back-to-Back Tickets
Purchasing back-to-back tickets to take advantage of travel deals reserved for leisurely travelers is highly frowned upon in the airline industry—especially among business travelers. However, you can still get away with this trick if you're careful.
Unfortunately, if an airline discovers that a traveler has been issued back-to-back tickets, it may cancel the tickets, deny boarding, issue a warning (which flags your account for future purchases), or takes some other form of action like barring you from using their services in the future.
Successfully purchasing and utilizing back-to-back tickets is hard, and truly only worth it if you're trying to get somewhere and back quickly but the roundtrip flights that take place during the weekdays of one week are too costly. Most of the time, you'll already be eligible for airline discounts if you're traveling for vacation as you'll likely want to stay at your destination through Saturday night anyway.