Imagine paying hundreds, sometimes even thousands of dollars less for a flight simply by adding an extra stop to your itinerary. Yes, that’s correct, booking an additional leg to your flight can sometimes save you a lot of money through a travel hack method called Hidden City ticketing.
In simple terms this travel hack is carried out by changing your actual destination when searching for your flight to another specific destination which would include a stopover in your original destination and then simply getting off and not taking the last leg of your trip. For example, someone looking to fly one-way from Los Angeles to New York searches for flights from their origin (Los Angeles) to their destination (NYC) and finds a nonstop fare of $300. Because of the way the airlines’ pricing scheme works what will be displayed for you is the highest possible fare for that route simply because it is a very popular and competitive flight route in the airline industry. However, when this same trip is searched just by changing the destination to Albany, NY, for example, one can now sift through the search results and find the itineraries that have a stopover in NYC. Many times this altered flight search will have the original LA to NYC nonstop flight in it and a price tag less than the $300 original search.
You might be wondering how it is possible to have a lower fare quoted for you by taking more flights in a single itinerary than if you were to take only one single flight. The best example of this is seen when in your flight search results the cheaper fares are the ones with stopovers as opposed to direct flights. The airlines don’t care how many flights you take to get to your destination, rather that you pay the highest possible fare preferably for the most direct routes.
There are, however, many factors that come into play when looking for a hidden city fares:
One, you cannot check any luggage because your bags will end up in the final destination while you will end your journey in the stopover location.
Also, this only works for one-way itineraries, for a number of reasons, but mainly because when you skip out on any single flight in your itinerary the airline tends to cancel the remaining flights in your itinerary, including the return journey, as they consider this foul play that goes against their terms of carriage.
This might seem a little complicated for the first timer, so naturally, in these modern times we live in, someone will find a way to make doing this a lot more convenient, and the website Skiplagged.com does just that. With the flight search tools offered on this website it easily allows you to enter in your origin and destination details and provides you the best combination of flights for you to get that cheapest fare utilizing the hidden city fare method.
For the longest time airlines have been trying to crack down on this practice by punishing those who partake in a variety of ways from closing frequent flyer accounts and confiscating all miles/points that have been accrued to outright banning them from flying the airline again. In the bigger picture there isn’t much the airlines can do other than go the legal route as they aren’t willing to modify the way their pricing scheme works, because it is that way that earns them the most revenue. CNN recently reported on the most recent instance of an airline fighting back where German airline Lufthansa, “which made $41.5 billion last fiscal year, sued an unnamed passenger for $2,392 for using the hidden city technique,” claiming the passenger went against their terms of carriage and was responsible for the loss of potential revenue.
In another similar situation which made headlines back in 2015, United Airlines sued and tried to take down the website Skiplagged for promoting this hidden city ticketing practice. Eventually the judge threw out the case citing the fact that it was out of his jurisdiction.
Although this hidden city ticket practice isn’t technically illegal, it does go against the rules of the airlines which might get you banned from flying them on top of possibly receiving legal notices stating that you must repay what they lost in revenue. One definitely needs to tread lightly when utilizing the practice, and depending on the degree it is taken to one must be prepared for the potential consequences.