Though it may not seem like it, people get turned away at customs all the time. Short of having stinky breath, usually the most common reason to turn a traveler away from a country is because they can’t prove they’re only visiting for a short time. One-way tickets are usually a huge red flag for this and if you get asked for proof of onward travel, don’t be surprised.
Though it seems strange that an airline employee might also get in your face about it, realize that it’s also on the airline’s dime if you’re rejected from a country. If they decide to let you board the plane, be aware they may ask you to sign a waiver that excludes the airline from any personal or financial responsibility. Basically, they want to make sure that the buck is going to be on you. Was I freaked out when the United check-in agent told me it was a $10,000 fine for being rejected from immigration and whatever else it would cost me to send me back at 5 in the morning? Only just slightly.
There are a couple of options available to you when showing proof of onward travel, though, short of creating your own fake itinerary. There are a lot of gray-area methods I’ll cover later, but be forewarned, these definitely carry their own risks. If you have proof of an onward ticket to somewhere that’s not through a traditional routing, make sure you have a copy of that. Whether it’s an airline ticket, bus ticket or ferry ticket, this is the easiest out you have with authorities.
The second-easiest solution is to buy a fully refundable fare (side note: they are also great if you have to show proof for a visa). If you buy the correct ticket, and I do mean, the correct ticket, you should be able to refund your ticket later in full without any penalties. Unfortunately, in some cases, this might mean temporarily absorbing a $9,000 first-class ticket on your credit card. But if you’ve got a great credit limit and want to keep your options open, this is your best bet.
Of course, praying that no one asks you about your travel plans is always an option. If you plan on winging it, I would suggest allocating a lot of time at the airport just in case you have to resort to buying another ticket just to be allowed to board. It’s also worth pointing out that depending on what time you’re at the airport, well, the ticket sales counter can be closed. That’s a problem you definitely don’t want to run into and something to keep in mind.
Short of all of that, the other options involve using actual e-mails from real airlines and carry their own risk. One traveler I ran across once suggested using KLM’s Trip Planner, which allows you to create and print an itinerary without booking a ticket. While I can’t seem to get it working on any of my browsers or computers, it seems like it’s primarily designed for group travel and for sharing with others. The video seems to indicate that you’ll be able to send a copy of the itinerary to someone, so you may be able to use it if you aren’t traveling by yourself.
The other option would be to book a ticket on any American airline—United, American, etc.—that allows you to immediately cancel your ticket within 24 hours. Once you have the actual confirmation of the e-ticket in your inbox, you can then proceed to cancel the actual ticket and print out the now-void email to present to authorities. I’ve actually done this once myself, but if anyone bothers to verify your ticket with the airline, you could be in some deep doo doo. Here’s a better idea: wait until you get off the plane to cancel your ticket.
Lastly, the most controversial method is to create your own fake e-ticket. Before I can continue, though, you guys should realize that I am not endorsing this in any way, shape or form. (There’s no way this blog can handle getting sued!) It’s pretty easily done by amending an old e-mail confirmation—no, I’m not going to provide you one—and changing the details on it. While you can probably take the risk of showing an airline employee a fake e-ticket, you should never present fake documentation to an immigration, consulate, or embassy officer. Getting caught has the potential for much farther-reaching consequences, like getting blacklisted for good.
Also, practice your biggest smile.