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Hidden-City Ticketing Can Save You Hundreds

Hidden-City Ticketing Can Save You Hundreds

Have you secretly been wondering if hidden-city ticketing could be the sneaky, savvy way to get to the places you want to see without paying a ton? Hidden-city ticketing is definitely one of the more controversial topics in the travel world. The perks can be pretty big if you know what you’re doing. Of course, hidden-city ticketing could result in some unintended headaches if you’re not careful. Let’s start by breaking down exactly what this exotic-sounding method of booking airline tickets is all about. Welcome to the ins and outs of hidden-city ticketing!

What Is Hidden-City Ticketing?

Hidden-city ticketing has been around for a long time. However, the thirst for budget-friendly travel has brought a secret trend to mainstream prominence in recent years. Exploiting the hidden-city loophole simply means getting off a plane at a layover destination instead of staying on until the final ticketed destination as a way to travel for less money. You are essentially booking a full journey even though you know you’ll be ditching your flight once you reach the itinerary’s layover destination. How does this look in practice? Let’s say you really want to go to Memphis. However, you discover that flights from New York to Memphis are pretty expensive at the moment. It could be possible that there’s a flight being offered from New York to Dallas with a Memphis layover that is less expensive than direct flights between New York and Memphis at the moment. You would simply book the longer flight with the intention of getting off your plane to stay in Memphis!

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Hidden-city ticketing seems like an obvious choice if you can get a cheaper ticket. However, this method isn’t perfect. Anyone who has traveled enough knows that there are no free lunches in the airline world. Airlines aren’t exactly excited that so many travelers are now exploiting a ticketing loophole to book cheaper flights. Of course, there are other issues that need to be considered even if you don’t get “caught” by an airline. The first big issue to consider before you go all in with hidden-city ticketing is your baggage.

One of the big deterrents of going with hidden-city ticketing is that you can’t really check a bag. Any baggage you check with your airline is going to be sent to the final ticketed destination on your itinerary. That means your bags would be circling the luggage belt in Dallas with nobody to claim them if you got off in Memphis. The only time there might be an exception is if you select a flight with an overnight stopover that will provide you with an opportunity to get your baggage from the luggage belt.

Another issue that may arise is unexpected changes to the flight plan. Flights can be re-routed due to inclement weather or mechanical issues.

Some of us are perfectly content to simply live off of a carry-on bag when flying if it means we can save a few hundred dollars. However, baggage isn’t the only reason to be wary of hidden-city ticketing. Airlines are increasingly lashing out against travelers who try to use this savvy loophole to get to their destinations without paying “full price” for tickets. American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have all added clauses to their contracts of carriage that give these carriers permission to take punitive action against any customer who exploits fares using hidden-city ticketing. The layman’s version of this is that your airline can sue you if you try to pull a fast one.

Would an airline really sue a customer for using hidden-city ticketing? Some already have. Lufthansa sued a passenger for $2,385 in compensation last year after he stayed behind in Frankfurt during a layover on a journey between Oslo and Seattle. Iberia also sued a passenger for a similar offense. However, the case caused the Supreme Court of Spain to rule that hidden-city ticketing is perfectly legal in Spain.

There’s no serious threat that you will be sued by a carrier here in the United States if you decide to try out hidden-city ticketing. However, it is possible. Customers who try the strategy have been receiving warning letters from carriers in recent months. Carriers in the United States are threatening to close loyalty accounts, clear mileage balances and collect payment for fare differences. Threats of lawsuits have even been thrown around. Travelers with big mileage balances definitely have the most to lose when it comes to testing airlines. You have to ask yourself if getting caught is worth potentially losing all of the miles you’ve been diligently collecting.

You Might Be Inconveniencing Other Passengers

There’s one more thing to remember before you pull the lever on those hidden-city tickets you’re eyeing. Your fellow passengers could be stuck with a delay if you decide to skip out before the final leg of your journey. Many airlines will actually wait for hidden-city travelers to show up. This is just something to consider if you’ve ever been stuck on the tarmac waiting for a fellow traveler to board!

Should You Try Hidden-City Ticketing?

Deciding whether or not to try hidden-city ticketing is really a matter of personal discernment. It’s hard to resist trying a method that could save you hundreds of dollars on a flight. The reason why hidden-city ticketing is so popular is because it’s a really easy way to save money without jumping through a lot of hoops or waiting for flash sales. Of course, you may be running out of time to try the strategy. There’s no doubt that airlines are currently pouring resources into creating technology that will spot and anticipate hidden-city travelers. Many airline employees are already trained to notice when travelers on layover flights show up with larger-than-average carry-on bags or rolling bags. The big thing to remember is that you are assuming any risk that’s involved when you decide to break your contract with an airline. Always assume that airlines are watching! While you may not get caught if you do it occasionally, some have been busted for using a hidden city ticket. While some would argue about the morals of hidden city ticketing, it’s hard to argue when you could save hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars on tickets.

View Comments (5)

5 Comments

  1. SJOGuy

    December 10, 2019 at 4:50 am

    The writer forgot to mention another big disadvantage to hidden-city ticketing. It doesn’t work for roundtrip tickets. Say you’re booked for AAA-BBB-CCC, but you really want only to travel to BBB. Breaking your itinerary at BBB cancels all subsequent legs of the reservation. If you have a return CCC-BBB-AAA , you can’t simply board the flight at BBB to go back home.

  2. DCAFly

    December 10, 2019 at 6:28 am

    “Many airline employees are already trained to notice when travelers on layover flights show up with larger-than-average carry-on bags or rolling bags.” Please. 99.9% of the people who show up with refrigerator-sized bags are not hidden-city ticketing.

  3. LukeO9

    December 10, 2019 at 10:50 am

    If the airline is going to price a greater product at a lower cost, serves them right.

  4. eric0001

    December 11, 2019 at 10:47 am

    When the airline comes out ahead on it, why do they care? They use that much less fuel and have an open seat they can resell…

    I don’t understand why a shorter trip would ever cost more than a longer one. The airlines should simply charge the lowest through fare to any given location so they can charge another fare out of that location to the following location. If they can sell that second leg for about $10, they’re coming out way ahead.

  5. catsfroggy1

    December 16, 2019 at 11:11 am

    They do this because they control hubs. We did this when we flew into Cincinnati 20 years ago. Delta controlled the airport. If you wanted to fly to Cincinnati from BWI it was $900. If you wanted to stop in Cincinnati and continue across the country it was $200. So we Fed-ex’d our luggage to our hotel and got off in Cincinnati. Delta called us up and let us they knew they were on to our scam and we better pony up the $700 if we ever wanted to get back to BWI via airplane ever again.

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