I have booked air tickets every which way. For my trip to New Zealand, I went to STA Travel, thinking I would get a good price and flexibility. I never change tickets once I buy, but I didn’t know when I was going to return, so I thought I would try STA. I bought my ticket in September 2006 for outgoing in February 2007.They just booked me on the latest return date they could at the time, which was August 2007. I was told I could change my ticket as many times as I wanted for a $25 fee per change through the website. I asked all the questions I could think of at the moment and bought my ticket. The price was just slightly higher then rack rate online, but since I wanted the flexibility on the return, I didn’t mind the extra cost. Out going was fine. Once I got settled in Auckland with a fantastic job, I moved my return date to January 2008. In October 2007, I got another job, which was now going to take me until June 2008, so I emailed to rebook my ticket for September 2008. I got an email back with dates and times and I said it was okay to cancel my old ticket and rebook the new one and that I should be getting a confirmation email back within 48 hours. When I hadn’t gotten anything back within 36 hours, I called STA (a 1800, US number I might add) after being on hold for 30 minutes (no, not a typo!) they said that I couldn’t rebook the ticket, because it was more then 365 days after my outgoing ticket. I was so mad! If I had known that upfront, I would have not bought the ticket. I closely read all my T&C’s provided by STA and nowhere does it say that the return portion has to be used within 365 days. They said it was Qantas’s rules, but shouldn’t STA have disclosed it before purchase?
I was so fed up that in a fit of rage, I bought a one-way from AKL back to the US in September 2008. In another catch-22 situation, this had to be a hard ticket (what the hell is that anyway?) and they don’t mail to addresses overseas. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! Luckily, I was dealing with this in October 2007 and my parents were coming to visit in December, so I had them mail the ticket to them and they just brought it to me.
In a funny turn of events a few months later when I was researching Australian visas and realized they opened up the WHV to Americans for 12 months, I ended up canceling the ticket anyway. I didn’t return the ticket to the US until I had entered Australia on my WHV, just to have proof of return to the US (even if it was from AKL) and as usual, no one at immigration cared. I mailed the ticket back to Arizona as soon as I entered Australia and got a refund minus $100, so for nearly a year I didn’t have a ticket back to the US.
Moral of the story? Ask how late you can use your return portion!