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Does Italian law mean you can book a cheap British Airways ticket from Milan but get on in London?

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We cover ex-EU flights deals (cheap flights which start in a European country, not the UK) now and again on Head for Points, although they are not for everyone.  There are two types of ex-EU deal if you live in the UK:

saving money (not on BA) by starting your trip outside the UK, which is usually cheaper because you avoid long-haul UK Air Passenger Duty (up to £160) and because other markets generally have fewer corporate travellers willing to pay full fare

saving money on BA flights by starting your trip outside the UK, which involves flying back to London and then onwards to your final destination.  This is cheaper because you avoid long-haul APD and because BA has to price these indirect trips cheaply to compete with direct flights from the same cities. 

British Airways BA A320neo

As a random example of the latter, take a look at this article we ran last week showing £1,150 British Airways Club World return flights to Cape Town, as long as you start in Amsterdam.

Of course, flying to your European starting point costs time and money.  I did a few trips like this when I was single, because I was happy to trade the time for the money saved and the extra Avios and tier points earned.  There is no way, however, that I would drag my wife and children around Europe on a similar route.

You MUST take the first leg of your flight.  If you book Amsterdam – Heathrow – Cape Town and just turn up at Heathrow, you’re stuffed.  Your entire itinerary will have been cancelled when you failed to board the flight in Amsterdam.

But has Italian law thrown all this into disarray?

Take a look at this article.

In June 2017, British Airways and Etihad were each fined a whopping €1 million for not telling customers that they would NOT lose their entire booking if they missed the first leg when flying from Italy.

It appears that Italian law does not allow airlines to cancel the rest of your journey if you fail to take the first flight.  The article makes it clear that this applies both to multi-leg outward trips and return trips.

Italian law does not give you, the passenger, carte blanche however.  You must notify the airline of your intention to fly the subsequent parts of your ticket within 24 hours of the original departure time (two hours for a round trip same-day ticket).

If you do this, and your ticket was sold in Italy, the airline is obliged to let you continue your trip.

Here is an example in practice

Take a look at this page of the Qatar Airways website.

It tells passengers who have bought tickets in Italy that they can ring a specific number, or email a specific inbox, within 24 hours of their original flight and have the rest of the ticket reinstated.

What does this mean?

I am not a European aviation lawyer.  Let’s get that clear from the start.

However, the implication here is that you could potentially book a cheap Milan – London – XXXXXX business class ticket on British Airways, and not bother to take the first flight.

All you would have to do is call BA after the departure of the first leg and insist they reinstate the remaining flights.  You could then turn up at Heathrow and jump on as usual, having made a substantial saving.

One potential risk is the definition of “a ticket sold in Italy”.  Flights booked on from Italy will probably be ticketed locally but can you be certain of this? Is there a way of knowing where the “sale” took place?  You could, of course, use an Italian travel agent or Italian website to make your booking which would ensure it was “sold” in Italy.

Let’s be very clear ….

I am NOT recommending you go out and try this.  I am simply highlighting the fact that Italian law seems to imply that it should be possible. 

However, I am NOT going to be taking a risk here and I don’t recommend that you do either, unless you are brave (or on a fully flexible ticket.  I’m sure at some point we will find out one or the other whether it is possible.

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Comments (107)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Evan says:

    I’m not knocking ex-EU flights (or the people who take them) – but I think they are a total faff when you just want to get somewhere – I did it once on a long weekend trip to New York. Never again. I was knackered when I got there. I’d consider doing it if the EU airport was “on the way” say CDG on AF to Asia etc. but I wouldn’t double-back on myself to LHR/LGW again. I’d rather go PE direct if going west on a day flight.

    • Jamie says:


      I’d rather not waste hours and hours of my own time for the sake of flying business – economy/PE with a more direct and convenient route is always preferable! The only exception I can think of would be Australia/NZ where I’d be already resigned to a stop over. I can never understand people flying to South Africa via the Middle East (which can literally double the journey time) when it’s an easy and relatively painless direct flight.

      • Chris says:

        But if you were a few tier points shy of Gold and the trip in CW would get you there?

      • John says:

        You’re talking like the route is the only consideration. Why wouldn’t you stop over in the ME if it was £500 cheaper? And economy flyers might not mind spending 5 hours extra to save £100

    • Rob says:

      It makes more sense if you live near Heathrow and can exploit the 24 hour rule, ie you can have up to 24 hours between flights.

      Monday AM fly to Amsterdam, bit of sightseeing, fly back, go home. At some point on Tuesday, leave home, go to Heathrow and take your long haul leg.

      • Evan says:

        I do live in Central London but I’m still not convinced! But you know horses for courses.

        • Rob says:

          My option above is a no-brainer tough if you’re single and overrun with holiday time. Why wouldn’t you do a day trip to Amsterdam if it saved you £750? You still get to sleep in your own bed.

      • alan young says:

        Do you have to check in baggage in AMS or can you do that the next day at LHR.

        • ChrisC says:

          yes you can check it in the next day.

          But when doing OLCI always select ‘not sure’ when asked the number of bags you want to check-in. Putting in a number (including 0) messes up some airline systems

    • Doug M says:

      I actually enjoy the positioning. I’ve become very fond of Stockholm and Helsinki in the last couple of years. I’ll be spending a hopefully enjoyable day in Dublin come October. Before going home for the night, and flying to Miami the following day. It’s all part of the experience for me, a holiday within a holiday.

    • John says:

      Well, I don’t understand why people do ex-EU to New York, as it adds 4-5 hours to a flight that is 6-7 hours in the first place – especially if it’s a back-to-back in the European airport. In particular the ex-CAI examples where the “positioning” might take longer than the actual flight.

      And J to NYC doesn’t make sense to me anyway unless you actually need to be at work 2 hours before takeoff and 2 hours after landing.

      But I think it makes sense for flights 10+ hours long, and I try to schedule activities that I need to accomplish in the European city too, so I actually need to take all the flights.

  • Simon says:

    O/T as no bits today – AVIOS booking with American Airlines – NYC to Orlando. The only available seats are Hand Baggage only. How easy is it to add luggage – Do I need to create an AA login etc, or is it all doable on manage my booking on BA site? Thanks

    • Anna says:

      Do you mean basic economy? (I.e only 1 small piece of cabin luggage?) All checked baggage has to be paid for on arrival at the airport with AA, it’s $25 for each Paz’s first bag.

      • Anna says:


      • Simon says:

        Thanks. Im just a Blue Exec member as only fly on redemption bookings…. Looks like its basic economy. 7500 avios and 8 quid seems a winner though. Just wondered if you can pay for baggage in advance, to save getting stung for a larger amount on the day. If its just a flat $25 per piece on the day, I’ll just pay then. Thanks for your help.

        • Anna says:

          You couldn’t pay in advance as per 2 weeks ago, I don’t know if they’ll ever change this it’s just the way they operate in the US. Another trick worth knowing is that there always seems to be too much hand luggage for the flight and they will offer to check your wheelie cases in for free at the gate.

        • Callum says:

          You’ve needed to pay for ages. Most US airlines don’t have a free baggage allowance with their standard economy fares so I wouldn’t imagine there’s such a thing as “basic economy” for redemptions.

          But no, you can’t pay for it in advance (nor are you penalised – it’s the flat $25).

    • Doug M says:

      Do you have OW status? I’m sure I read on FT that AA allow a bag to Emeralds on HBO fares. Have a look at the AA forum of FT.

      • Anna says:

        Also if any AA First redemption seats (sort of between CE and CW), this is a very pleasant way to fly and you get your checked bags free. We flew MIA to BOS this way last month for 20,000 avios plus £4 pp!

  • Memesweeper says:

    I’ve actually sent my partner & 2 kids via AMS “back to back” while me & eldest daughter slummed it in the lounge at Heathrow waiting for them (we were on Avios so direct is cheaper; they were on cash fares). As it gave them their first taste of long haul in business, they were delighted!

    If this really is doable and legally enforceable IAG will come up with a wizard wheeze to discourage too many folks from trying: no TPs or Avios for journeys not entirely completed start to finish would be an obvious place to start.

    Having said that I hope it is enforceable. Someone should take one for the team and nip over to Italy and book a connecting flight and see what happens!

  • TheFamousJames says:

    Apropos of the ex-Milan discussion, I stumbled across an Emirates flight that appears to be operating a fifth freedom leg from MXP to JFK, and back. This may be old news to this group but has anyone tried it? If so, how did the premium pricing work out?

    • Rob says:

      This has been around for a few years. I occasionally look at it for a redemption but the times are not great.

  • Walty says:

    OT – My AMEX Gold charge card showing 400 MR points for a £10 spend at Tesco
    (Apologies if already mentioned over the weekend!)

    • Rob says:

      Not mentioned, although someone emailed me about it too. Not on any of our cards, possibly because we live 45 seconds walk from a Tesco.

  • Anna says:

    OT – we made a car purchase yesterday on PCP which can be overpaid. We have had to set up a direct debit for the monthly payments but of course I would prefer to over pay using a method which will earn some kind of loyalty points. Apart from Billhop, has anyone found any options to achieve this? I am assuming Curve would see it as a payment to a financial institution and not allow it.

    • Rob says:

      You never know with Curve, it is worth a try. Some financial institutions do slip through.

      • Anna says:

        I’ll give it a go, it’s too much money not to earn any points on!

        • Bill says:

          My car dealer wouldnt take credit card for any amount over 500 GBP. So I topped up my Revolut account using the credit card and then moved the cash to a current account to pay by bank transfer. I got the points for the Revolut top up as if I had used the credit card in the car dealersip

    • TGLoyalty says:

      BMW made me set up a DD but I cancelled it and paid the monthly via Amex with a call

  • Lady London says:

    Doubling back on yourself can be.made better by doing the first leg back to your teal starting point the day before. Then sleep a night in between. Provided there’s not more than 23hrs59mims between the flights that’s fine

  • Alex says:

    I buy extra annual leave days at a cost of £1,000 a day. Once you’ve got that valuation in your head it starts to make a lot less sense wasting half a day of your holiday at each end faffing around with an ex-EU.

    • Rob says:

      What you want to do is work for a company like my old one, where you were meant to self-report by emailing HR that you were not coming in, but you might sometimes forget ….

      • Georges says:

        As a business owner, I consider intentional non reporting of absences as fraud and dishonesty. In our books it is now a case of gross misconduct subject to immediate termination. What is the difference between that and stealing cash from an employer?

        • Chris says:

          I might be wrong here but I’m prety confident Rob’s worked while not ‘in’ more than he’s not worked…

        • Rob says:

          You don’t run a City firm. They work differently. If you deliver you can effectively do what you like (or you could, back in the 2000’s ….).

          Since I was brought up on that culture, I tend to stick with it. Anika has generally come and gone as she pleases – we don’t track holiday time – and it will be a dark day in hell before either of us turns up before 10am. The downside is that you are in a 24/7 job and you never actually get a day off. As I said last week, I was behind my desk replying to HFP emails literally 15 minutes before I got married and was back at it three hours later.

      • Mikeact says:

        Having spent numerous ‘unpaid ‘ weekends travelling on business, particularly having to fly out on a Sunday to get somewhere, my company was very flexible and accommodating with time off. Just try Sydney and back, with only one day spent there, or a day return to Minneapolis…all in the line of business.

    • John says:

      Quick, get back to work! That’s £5 you’ve wasted posting on here.

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