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Here's Why One-Way Flights Keep Getting Way Cheaper

If you find yourself increasingly drawn to the alluring prospect of a one-way flight to Europe in lieu of a traditional round-trip jaunt, just know that your head is in the right place.

A new study from the Airlines Reporting Corporation maintains that prices for one-way flights have been trending massively downward the last few years, and that on occasion -- GASP -- they’re actually becoming cheaper than round-trip tickets. As ARC tells it: “the long-held belief that it is better to purchase roundtrip tickets whenever possible to get the best fares, is simply no longer true.”

The study, which “examined data dating back more than three years and included over 350 million tickets, specifically consisting of one-way, roundtrip and other complex itineraries,” found that people are being increasingly drawn to one-way flights. One-way ticket purchases have experienced a 12% surge since 2014, when they accounted for just 29% of tickets bought from travel agencies. Now, they make up 41% of the tickets purchased. Interestingly, round-trip ticketing experienced a nearly identical decline in the same time period, plunging by 13 points -- from 71% to 58%.

The surge seems to be driven by “leisure and unmanaged travelers,” as opposed to people who are flying on business trips. As the report notes, “historically, the percentage of one-way tickets by business travelers has been higher than average,” but that’s finally starting to change. The proportion of one-way ticket purchases made annually by business travelers has only grown by 2.5% since 2014.

As Bloomberg indicates, there is no specific reason cited for the upswing in one-way ticket popularity. The trend could be driven by the presence of discount carriers making their initial forays into new markets, such as Norwegian Air, which regularly offers flights to Paris, London, and various other destinations in Europe for a fraction of the usual cost.

One possibility for the cause is the decline of one-way premiums, which have shrunk significantly since 2014. “Historically, the one-way premium could be as much as 50 percent or more vs. a roundtrip ticket for a similar journey,” the report states. “While some markets still have a premium, there are many markets where the premium is starting to -- or already has -- disappeared.” You definitely won’t find any premiums for flight deals like this, mind you.

In any case, keep your eyes peeled for the glistening one-way fares that sometimes materialize at double digit prices. After all discount carriers are carving out new territory all the time, and don’t seem to be going anywhere soon.

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Sam Blum is a News Staff Writer for Thrillist. He's also a martial arts and music nerd who appreciates a fine sandwich and cute dogs. Find his clips in The Guardian, Rolling Stone, The A.V. Club and Esquire. He's on Twitter @Blumnessmonster
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