When you travel long distance, for example by train or in a plane, in other languages like Spanish (my native language) there are specific words that all the people use the same way: "ida" and "vuelta".

Nevertheless when I try to understand what are the preferred ways in English I'm a bit confused.

For something like "vuelo de ida" I hear both "outward flight" like in Linguee as well as "outbound flight" like un Word Reference

The same happens with "vuelo de vuelta". I've both heard "return" as well as "inbound".

My thoughts (to be cleared out):

I'm suspecting this, but please, I need advice in understanding if this is true or not:

  1. Outward is the flight that takes the passengers from "home" to "abroad". More meaning "Vuelo de ida"
  2. Instead Outbound is the "flight that departs" from somewhere. More in the sense of "Vuelo de salida".
  3. Return is the flight that takes the passengers "from abroad" back to their "home city". Similar to "Vuelo de vuelta".
  4. Inbound maybe meaning more from the point of view of the "receiving airport". "Vuelo de llegada".

Imagine a traveler T based in New York flying to meet a family member F located at Montreal:

  • Day 1-jan flight from New York (NYC) departing @ 9h00 to Montreal (YUL) arriving @15h00
  • Day 6-jan flight from Montreal (YUL) departing @ 7h00 to New York (NYC) arriving @13h00

Please help me understand if this is true:

  • NYC-YUL on 1-jan is outward both for T and F

  • NYC-YUL on 1-jan is outbound for the Traveler T (before departure), but not for F.

  • NYC-YUL on 1-jan is inbound for the Family F (always)

  • YUL-NYC on 6-jan is return for both Traveler T and Family F

  • YUL-NYC on 6-jan is outbound both for the Family F (always) and for Traveler T (when he is in Montreal)

  • YUL-NYC on 6-jan is inbound for the Traveler T (when he is thinking from the "home perspective"), but not for F.


Please, help me clarify if two people are sharing information about a flight (or train, or bus, or ship...), how to call "the first" flight and "the second flight" regardless if both speakers are located in the same location or each one is at opposite ends of the trip.

  • It has nothing to do with home. [clear up thoughts, not clear out.]
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 15:45
  • 1
    Outbound isn't the 'flight that departs from somewhere'. [Place]bound always means with [that place] as the destination, so an outbound flight is one that is heading out of the airport (as is an outward one). Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 15:55

1 Answer 1


I'm answering for the U.S.

If you have an airline ticket, the two legs are called the outward/outbound trip and the return trip. We don't use inbound for this.

From the perspective of a family member who's meeting you, they might call it the "arriving" flight, but not the "inbound" one. When you leave, it would be your "departing" flight.

On the other hand, if you have commuter trains going out and in from a city, in some cities we call them "outbound" and "inbound". It's clear which ones are outbound and which are inbound: the outbound trains go away from the main downtown train station, and the inbound ones go towards it.

But if you have a train from, say, New York City to Washington D.C., there is no inbound or outbound direction (except from the perspective of specific travelers). We'd call New York City to D.C. a "southbound" train, and D.C. to New York a "northbound" one.

  • Likewise, British railways seem to use outward and return for the two legs of a return ticket. I'm sure it would be possible to compile a list of usage for different travel companies and official bodies in English-speaking countries, but I don't imagine it would differ much from the above.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 16:33
  • Yes, the 'inbound' flight isn't usually a flight you are actually on. It's from the point of view of a particular location. Commented Sep 20, 2022 at 16:43

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