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Can You Be Denied Boarding If You Don’t Have an Onward Ticket?


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Most of people travel with a return ticket/onward ticket.

But, what if you don’t have an onward ticket? Can you be denied boarding if you don’t have an onward ticket? Well, the thing is, it might actually happen. You may be denied boarding if you don’t have a proof of onward travel. In this blog post, we will explore this question in detail and help you understand what kind of complications you might face if you decide to travel with just a one-way ticket.

So, let’s get started!

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Bahrain airport

1. What Is an Onward Ticket?

An onward ticket is a ticket that confirms your departure date from your destination country. It can be a return ticket back to from where you are flying, or it can be a ticket to some other destination.

It is usually required by immigration officials to ensure that travelers do not overstay their visas or work illegally in the country they are visiting. While onward ticket requirements vary by country, you may be asked to show one by the airline staff at the airport of departure. Yes, even if the country doesn’t explicitly require an onward ticket for arriving tourists.

So, the question is…

2. Can You Be Denied Boarding If You Don’t Have an Onward Ticket?

Yes, you can be denied boarding if you don’t have an onward ticket.

Failure to have an onward ticket may result in being denied boarding. This applies to all passengers, especially those with tourist visa/traveling for tourism.

Airlines may request an onward ticket before boarding to avoid liability issues if you are refused entry into your destination country. They don’t want to be held responsible for transporting you back, just in case there are any problems and you aren’t allowed to enter the country of destination.

We have a dedicated guide to onward tickets. These here are just the basics. To learn more about the topic, check out our complete onward ticket FAQ.

Read more:

3. You Don’t Have an Onward Ticket/Return Ticket. Here Are the Most Likely Scenarios

Let’s assume, you don’t have an onward ticket.

Here are the most likely scenarios that you should be aware of.

3.1 No One Asks You for an Onward Plane Ticket, You Travel as Usually

You check in for the flight as usually.

You board the flight as usually. And arrive to the country.

3.2 You Are Asked for an Onward Ticket (Before the Flight)

In most situations, it’s airline staff asking for an onward ticket.

You tell them that you don’t have an onward ticket, and this is where it ends. You board the flight in a hour or two, and arrive to the country as normal. Sometimes, though, you will be asked to share your travel plans at check-in – intended length of stay, when and how are you planning to leave the country.

  • It may work out just fine.
  • You may be asked to sign an agreement, agreeing to take full responsibility just in case you aren’t allowed to enter the country – meaning that you, not the airline, will pay for your flight out of the country in case of any problems.
  • You may be asked to buy an onward ticket on the spot, or you’ll be refused to board the plane.
  • You may be denied boarding right away.

Be polite and respectful. And in 99% of situations you’ll avoid the latter. Be prepared to act quick and have a plan B, to make it for the flight in time, in case things don’t go the way you were planning.

3.3 You Are Asked for an Onward Ticket on Arrival (Immigration)

This is the second most likely place, where you are asked to show a proof of an onward travel – on arrival, when going through passport control.

Similar like with check in (3.2), that may lead to several possible scenarios:

  • You are asked about your travel plans, and let in the country.
  • You are asked to buy an onward ticket on the spot. To be on the safe side, it’s always a good idea to have an internet connection for that, so you don’t have to rely on airport WiFi availability. We recommend you to buy an eSIM for that (Airalo is a good option).
  • You are denied entry into the country.

The latter is the worst possible scenario. Because this may also mean a permanent or temporary ban to travel to the country. Plus, you can’t leave the airport, and have to fly back or onwards as soon as possible. And you have to pay for that. Everyone knows that last-minute flights can be very expensive.

3.4 Travel Prepared

If you do not have an onward ticket, you may be able to provide proof of your onward travel plans, such as an itinerary, hotel bookings, or a bus or train ticket that confirms your departure date.

However, these may not be enough to satisfy immigration officials or airlines. It is always advisable to carry an onward ticket when traveling to avoid any issues that may arise with immigration officials or airlines, especially when traveling to countries with strict immigration policies.

Read more: Airport Facilities and Areas

Turkish Airlines airplane in Riga airport
Turkish Airlines airplane

4. Why Do Airlines Ask for a Proof of Onward Travel?

The main reason airlines ask for a proof of onward travel is to avoid liability. They don’t want to be responsible for transporting you back. Just in case they don’t allow you to enter the country, which – if you don’t have an onward ticket – is more likely than if you have a ticket.

5. Check the Entry Requirements

In conclusion, an onward ticket is not always mandatory, but its requirements vary according to the country you are visiting. If you are unsure whether you need an onward ticket, it is important to check the latest entry requirements and airline policies to avoid being denied boarding.

For stress-free journey, print the ticket/confirmation or any proof that you have of your planned trip, and remember – be polite and respectful.

Safe travels!

About the author:

Co-founder and Chief Editor at Connecting Flights Guide

Kaspars is a digital nomad and travel blogger who’s been traveling the world extensively since 2013. Since 2017, Kaspars has been writing about the less-known aspects of air travel, things like air passenger rights laws and regulations. He’s really good at simplifying complex concepts and making them easily understandable. Kaspars favorite airlines are Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines.


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Connecting Flights Guide

Your go-to guide to air travel rules and regulations. Connecting flights, self transfer, onward tickets and more – we want you to understand air travel better

This article may contain compensated links. Learn more in our disclaimer.

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