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Airline Requirements For Nonresidents To Hold Return Or Onward Tickets

“Kathleen, since I spend most of my time in Costa Rica as a digital nomad, visiting the United States frequently, I’ve encountered airlines demanding proof of travel.

“I welcome Lief Simon’s comments on this, but the hassle with respect to return or onward ticket requirements can be worse than he described. I believe this rule enforcement is no more than the airlines attempting to squeeze more cash out of the hapless traveler. You’re correct in that it has increased in the past few years.

“An international bus ticket will not necessarily be accepted as proof of onward travel within Central America, however. Spirit Airlines forced me to buy a return ticket from Costa Rica when departing the United States for that country, despite my showing a bus ticket for Panama City, Panama. Potential visa runners should be aware of this circumstance. Since then, I’ve been very careful to show a ticket that returns as least as far as Florida!”

D.C.

***

“Kathleen, I am a retired airline check-in agent. I did that for 40 years. I was dealing with this issue myself in times past and having to get these people back to where they came from if refused.

“No airline is doing this to make money by enforcing the return or onward ticket rule, as Lief Simon said recently. I am surprised that you would even suggest this! It only cheapens your newsletter and reputation.

“If the person had residency, they should not have had to buy a return ticket. So I can’t say what transpired as I wasn’t there. If check-in was plenty early there should have been a way to explain and sort it all out. If the residency document was proper and unexpired, it should have been enough. Remember it is valid only for the named person. Often a parent is hauling spouses and children thinking theirs is good for everyone else and it’s not.

“Yes, it’s true. Often the solution is to buy a full-price ticket and then apply for a refund on arrival once clear of immigrations. End result no cost and not that big a deal should one carry credit cards.

“Making judgment on your experience and thinking that it should be the same for everyone else shows a lack of understanding. Had you been looking ragged, with backpack, long hair, and unbathed, believe me you would have been asked left and right. Airlines though are not to make those judgments, the immigrations officers do.

“There are people freeloading or living without proper docs all over the world. Many of them are Americans. And they do get deported far more than you would ever believe. You just don’t see it as you have already grabbed your bag and gone. They are still in a holding room as you’re on your way to the hotel and often much longer!”

M.W.

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