Is it legal to purchase a ticket going, for instance from LGA to HOU with a connection in DFW and not use the DFW-HOU connection at all?
Can I then on the return flight fly back from HOU to LGA without problem? Do airines issue extra charges on such changes in travel plans, since a ticket like this would work out cheaper than two seperate one way tickets?
The practice you speak of is known as hidden city ticketing. That is you buy a ticket from point A to C, connecting in B, and you actually leave the airport in B rather than continuing to C as you are ticketed. As you mentioned, this can sometimes be less expensive than buying a ticket from A to B.
The practice violates airline rules, though it is not a criminal (or illegal) act. In theory, an airline perhaps could take someone to court, in the civil court of course, and try to revoer the actual cost you "should" have paid from point A to point B (what you actually flew). However, such a court action is extremely unlikely, and its even more unlikely the airline would win......but anybody can sue anybody so it could happen.
If you do this rarely, with any one airline, then nothing is most likely to happen to you. E.g. if you do this 1 to 3 times a year.
You should be aware, however, that once you miss any flight in your itinerary, the computer (depending on the airline you are using) may cancel any other reservations held in the record. E.g. your entire connecting and return reservation would be cancelled. So if you try to use the hidden city ticket on the return, you might have difficulty. Whether to allow you on the plane for free, charge you $75, or charge you full fare would be at the discretion of the agent you happen to deal with when you check in.
If you often do hidden city ticketing, it is somewhat likely the airline will audit your frequent flyer account. They may take miles, lower your status, or otherwise disquallify you from all or part of the FF program. Again, this is a lot easier and cheaper for them than trying to take you to court, and it throws the ball back in your court (e.g. you would have to sue them to get your miles back). Delta Airlines, in fact, has a department called the Revenue Protection Unit RPU (aka the cust audit department). Search the DL board for the word audit, and you'll find stories you can read over about DL. I would say that AA and UA, because of their size, also probably have similar departments, though most airlines have some employees who try to deal with customers who violate the FF rules or the fare rules.
If you search for the phrase "hidden city" on FT, you'll also find a lot of debate from posters on whether the practice is ethical, what recourse the airline could/would take, etc.
Pro Hidden City Argument: Suppose you go to McDonalds and buy a happy meal. You decide not to eat the cookie that comes with it, and you throw the cookie away. Would McDonalds charge you extra money, because you did not eat or consume the contents of the Happy Meal? Of course not, so then how can an airline even think to charge you if you voluntarily don't use all of your ticket coupons.
Anti Hidden City Argument: The airlines operate on a hub and spoke system, etc. Fares are not related very much to the distance traveled, and more relate to the market. If everyone used hidden cities, this would cause financial ruin to the airlines. Furthermore, the airline has the right to charge and price its goods as it so chooses, and it has a right to pursue those who knowingly and actively violate the terms of its contracts as any other business does.
I have little to no personal experience with the using of hidden cities, so others will have to fill you in on the details from the field.......though many are "nervous" to admit airline wrongdoing on these boards. If history is any predicter of the past, you'll also see a debate in this thread start on whether hidden city ticketing is ethical, and what can happen to those who choose to do it.
This is a tricky issue. The airline may not let you board your return flight to LGA if you skip DFW-HOU-DFW as Jetsetter correctly pointed out. If it was the last segment of your itn. then there wouldn't be a problem but right smack in the middle might cause something unexpected.
There are ways to get around hidden city rules and I just read a post today about a travel agency that does it very skilfully.
Programs: DL Gold Medallion; UA Premier Executive; WN sub-CP; AA sub-Gold
You don't need to buy two one-way tickets to fly LGA to DFW and then HOU to LGA. This is called an open jaw ticket; the price is approximately 1/2 the roundtrip LGA-DFW fare plus 1/2 the roundtrip LGA-HOU fare.
Hopefully you haven't bought roundtrip LGA-HOU tickets yet. Skipping an intermediate flight is almost guaranteed to cancel your remaining flights. Don't do it!
Although your trip does not involve a hidden city (you are actually going to Houston), the right way to fix the problem of price discrimination is through legislation, as discussed here:
Programs: Bootless and unhorsed; once a longtime UA Premier Exec; NW silver (legacy), Alaska Gold
The real coup would be to find a cheap domestic open jaw trip, with the outbound coupon being a direct flight from A to C, with a stop in B, and the return coupon being a flight from B to A. Get on in A, checking in to C (because that's where the coupon goes), then get off at the stop in B. Don't check baggage. You are already checked in from B to C. The B-to-C pax count will be one short (because you aren't there), but if you are in coach the FAs probably won't determine which pax is missing. (It's not as if there's a stowaway.) Because it's domestic, the airline won't worry too much about unaccompanied checked baggage (I think).
Your B-to-A return doesn't get cancelled, because you showed up, checked in, and boarded with your A-to-C coupon. You get miles for A to C and B to A without having to endure the B-to-C leg.
Am I missing something? Can anyone see a flaw?
"Yes, but at least mine will be found in a first class seat." -- Peattie and Taylor
Location: From and of Boston. LH: disgraced SEN, now FTL; everyone else: Bupkis; SPG Gold, IC Amb, OBE, MBA, Rainy, lows in upper 30s, e=MC^2
[Ed note: This space was previously occupied by a note that provided unassailable proof that its author has a reading deficiency. The author, not wishing for all the world to know this, has washed clean the evidence.]
[This message has been edited by wideman (edited 11-14-2000).]
Programs: DL Gold Medallion; UA Premier Executive; WN sub-CP; AA sub-Gold
Law Lord, yes you could do that (absent a fully accounted head count on the B to C segment). If you get off at B to stretch your legs and get back on the plane, you just show your boarding pass at the gate; there is no transaction (e.g., another boarding pass or another portion torn off or something like that).
The problem is that a situation like that (as opposed to a change of planes at B) is quite rare. Plus, your choice of schedule is greatly reduced. And, finally, you only get 1/2 of the fare savings of flying to C instead of B.
After your aircraft from B. to C. pushes back from the gate, at some point, the gate agent reconciles the pax list with the tickets-boarding passes which were pullsed as pax boarded the given craft. So if you were on the list, but your ticket was never "lifted" (inside term for taking your ticket) then the gate agent should take you off the final list of pax that boarded the craft. This process is often done in a room which is sometimes called Post Departure.
One reason the airline goes through this process, besides for the accounting reasons, is in the event the aircraft gets into an accident this way the authorities know exactly who was on board that airplane. In news reports re plane crashes, they will often speak of the process of reconciling the tickets with the pax list.
Even if you are e-ticketed, generally they will take/retain/lift some sort of boarding pass/authority as you board for the reconcile process. It's kind of like balancing your checkbook, e.g. you look at the notations on the statement, and then make sure you have xld checks for said notations/debits on the statement.
I have read anecdotes where a pax will actually board a flight (get their ticket lifted), and then later disembark from the airccraft. E.g. they might say they are going to use the facilities, make a phone call, etc........but they never board again. In this case, there would be a discrepancy in the pax list and the ticket lift count, vs. the hand count the crew does just before the plane pushes back. This may also impact weight and balance figures, though I'm no weight and balance expert.......so someone else will have to tell you whether/if such would ever have a real impact (probably 99% of cases no). As someone put it on this board once, until that aircraft pushes back, the gate agent doesn't really kno whose on first or whats in coach! I suppose in this latter board-disembark scenario you would stand a better chance of not having your name "offed" from the flight, because firuing out who "you" are would probably be more trouble than its worth the airline as noted on a domestic flight.
Ah, the hidden city question... How many times per year do we get this questions and how many times do we get the "your itinerary will be cancelled" bit.
I think it's valid to point out that there is a possibility that the return segment could be cancelled, but to go through an entire diatribe about the "reconcile process" in hidden rooms somewhere is silly. Although the airlines may do that, I believe they rarely go into no-shows' records to delete follow-on segments. And even if they do it would not take much on the passengers part to convince personnel that you had indeed flown the segment and want the reservation restored. (I know from what I speak)
I have a fair bit of experience doing this with several major airlines and have never had follow-on segments cancelled, or not been able to restore the record by a phone call. The airlines simply don't have the manpower to keep up with it.
I would, however, heed Jetsetter's advice about not doing this with impunity. The rarer the occasion the better. But otherwise go ahead, you should have no problem, I never do.