If you have plans to visit one or more of the countries in the Schengen region, you will most likely be asked by the officials to provide them with a booked flight reservation and/or itinerary. The reason for this is that it provides proof of your travel plans, particularly that you will be leaving the Schengen area again at the end of your visit. This factual evidence indicates that you don’t intend to overstay your visa. Depending on the Schengen country where you are applying for a visa, it is also possible that you will be asked to show a valid flight ticket.
There is no reason to be overly concerned about any of this. Below we will clearly explain terms like air ticket booking, flight itinerary, flight confirmation, and dummy ticket.
All of these terms really refer to the same visa requirements in that you must provide proof that you have a valid flight itinerary.
How can I get a flight itinerary without paying for a flight ticket?
Fortunately, consulate and embassy officials are fully aware of the fact that Schengen Visa applicants will be taking a huge risk if they spend a large amount of money on a ticket before knowing whether they will get a visa or not. The good news is, therefore, that you do not have to purchase a full flight ticket before you can apply for a Schengen visa. You do, however, have to provide proof of a valid flight reservation. Let’s take a closer look at what this means.
What is really wanted from you is to have an itinerary or reservation with flight numbers and dates that specify when you will enter and exit the Schengen region. Most of the time the officials will just ask that you present them with a detailed flight itinerary. Sometimes, however, you might be asked to show original flight tickets before your Schengen Visa application can be processed.
What the flight itinerary entails
The following information has to appear on this document:
- The visa applicant’s last and first names
- The number of the flight on which you will travel
- An identifier or reservation number
- The dates on which you will arrive in the Schengen area and leave again
- The precise hours when your flights will arrive and depart
- IATA airport codes
- The total cost of the flight ticket(s)
If you are not aware of any reason why you might be denied a Schengen visa, and you are happy to pay the full price of the ticket(s) before applying for the visa, you are of course free to do so. This is a valid choice if you have successfully applied for a Schengen visa several times in the past. In that case, we recommend that you use one of the airlines that will only charge a modest cancellation fee and refund the rest of the ticket price if your visa application is rejected.
If you are not prepared to take this risk, there is still no reason to be overly concerned. There are quite a few ways in which one can get hold of a flight itinerary/reservation without having to risk losing a relatively large amount of money.
At this stage it is crucial to be aware that the flight itinerary you hand to the officials should be convincing. Make sure that it agrees with your actual travel dates and arrange your activities in such a manner that they fit in with the purpose of your trip and your other plans. If the officials spot obvious discrepancies, there’s a very good chance that your visa application will be rejected straight away.
What other methods are there of obtaining a flight itinerary for my trip to the Schengen Area?
Dummy flight tickets – There are nowadays quite a few airline companies that sell ‘dummy’ flight tickets/itineraries, complete with a reservation number. Please note that these still come with a fee (although much lower than paying for a full flight ticket). There is also still a possibility that the Schengen country you want to visit will insist that you provide them with a confirmed reservation for an actual flight.
Using a local travel agent to reserve a flight ticket – Although a travel agent will typically charge a relatively small fee for the service they provide (around 10% of the price of the airline ticket), using one is a great idea because they will be able to hold the flight ticket for a week or longer. If you cancel within that period, you will only lose whatever you paid them for their services, not the full cost of the ticket.
Booking a flight ticket with the option to hold it – Not every airline offers this facility, so you should do proper research to find one that does. These airlines will hold your flight ticket(s) for a relatively small fee. How long they will be able to hold it depends on which airline you use. In most cases, it will be around three days, or sometimes a little bit longer. This will help a lot if you want to have a valid flight ticket to show at your Schengen visa interview, with the option to cancel it if the visa is not approved.
Making an online reservation with an airline booking service – Quite a few airlines (but not all of them) are prepared to hold a reservation for two days (48 hours). Don’t make any assumptions, however. First call to confirm this, even if their website states that it’s an option. It might only apply to specific flights or customers. Airline booking services sometimes advertise that they can hold bookings for as long as three days without any costs involved. Before using such a service, double-check to make 100% sure there is no misunderstanding.
Using an airline that offers a guaranteed refund if your visa application is rejected – Certain airlines have a policy to fully refund the ticket price (even for an otherwise non-refundable ticket) if a client’s visa application is rejected. Once again double-check this with the specific airline before the time to prevent costly misunderstandings.
Why do consulates or embassies require proof of a confirmed reservation?
There are several reasons why Schengen countries have adopted this policy. These include:
To prevent people from overstaying their visas – The most important reason why Schengen countries try to control the duration of your stay is to make sure that you won’t outstay your welcome. If they didn’t require proof of a valid return ticket, it could easily happen that visa applicants stay longer than allowed. Requiring them to show a valid return ticket serves as somewhat of a deterrent.
To determine for which period the Schengen visa should be issued – The consulate or embassy often uses the arrival and departure dates mentioned in the flight tickets that you provided to determine the duration for which they will issue your Schengen visa. Once again, we can’t stress enough how important it is that the dates on your approved flight ticket should match the dates in your application form and travel itinerary. Any discrepancies here will at the very least result in administrative hassles but they could also cause your visa application to be rejected.
To make sure the applicant isn’t applying at the wrong consulate or embassy – The country where you should apply for a Schengen visa is determined by your travel itinerary. There are certain rules to follow here that are discussed in more detail below.
If you will only be visiting one Schengen country, you should obviously apply for your visa at one of their consulates or embassies. If you plan to travel to more than one country in the Schengen area, however, you should apply at the consulate or embassy of the country where you will be spending the longest period of time. If you will be spending an equal amount of time in more than one Schengen country, you have to apply for your visa at a consulate or embassy of the country where you will first arrive in the Schengen area.
What is the difference between a return ticket and an onward ticket and will the latter be accepted when I am applying for a Schengen Visa?
As the name applies, a return ticket involves a flight back to where you came from. An onward ticket refers to a ticket that will take you to another country, in this case outside the Schengen area. In an era of globe trotters and digital nomads, the good news is that the Schengen authorities do not specifically require that you should produce a ticket back to where your journey started. If you, for example, have a ticket from New York to Austria and an onward ticket from there to Istanbul, that would normally be perfectly acceptable for visa purposes.
Technically speaking, that means you can fly to the Schengen area with a one-way ticket, as long as you buy an onward ticket to a non-Schengen country to prove that you will be leaving the region at the end of your approved stay.