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United Airlines

What’s Skiplagging and Why Is United Reporting Passengers Who Do It?

What’s Skiplagging and Why Is United Reporting Passengers Who Do It?
Anya Kartashova

United Airlines is taking new steps in preventing skiplagging and is now asking its airport agents to monitor suspicious activity from passengers abusing the practice.

What’s Skiplagging?

Skiplagging, aka hidden city ticketing, is purchasing a cheaper airfare that has a layover in your actual destination and getting off the plane in that city with no intention to continue the rest of your trip. Your true destination is hidden in the middle, and it’s possible to save a handsome amount of cash by booking such itineraries.

Is Hidden City Ticketing Legal?

Technically, it’s not illegal in a sense that it’s not a crime. However, booking such tickets violates most airlines’ contracts of carriage, which you agree to by purchasing a flight in the first place. If an airline catches you practicing hidden city ticketing, it can force you to pay full price, nullify your loyalty account or refuse future service.

Related: Why I Don’t Book Hidden City Tickets

Because booking hidden city tickets isn’t illegal, there’s a number of airfare search engines that help you find these tricky tickets, such as Skiplagged and Fly Shortcut.

What Is United Doing to Prevent Skiplagging?

First, United attempted to sue Skiplagged four years ago. However, a Chicago judge threw out the lawsuit because the website’s founder doesn’t live or do business there.

Now, the airline is going after flyers instead and has sent a memo to gate agents with instructions to monitor “a growing trend” of hidden city ticketing. Airline employees are advised to be careful, ask questions and understand a passenger’s circumstance before making accusations.

“Our priority is to safely get our customers and their baggage to their final destinations, so always try to understand the customer’s situation and avoid confrontation when handling hidden city ticketing instances,” the memo said. “Corporate security is better positioned to follow up on the situation and taking appropriate action to ensure customers are following contract of carriage rules and United policies.”

What FlyerTalk Readers Think of the New Procedures

Of course, the FlyerTalk Forums have some thoughts on the matter.

  • “I’m hard-pressed to believe UA is actually losing money that means something material to Scott Kirby’s bottom line due to hidden-city tickets.” – FlyerTalk user PsiFighter37
  • “I foresee a funny reverse-Dao scenario: ‘United Gate Agent calls airport police and force a passenger onto a plane, strap them into their seat, and make them take the last leg of their flight.’” – FlyerTalk user narvik
  • “Good luck with that UA. As long as airlines make going from Point A to Point B cheaper by originating at Point C, I am going to take advantage of it when possible. If UA wants to sue me for not taking a flight I paid for, then I wish them luck.” – FlyerTalk user bitterproffit


What do YOU think of United’s position against hidden city ticketing?



[Image: Shutterstock]

View Comments (6)


  1. RustyC

    August 2, 2019 at 2:24 pm

    As part of a long overdue passenger rights law, we need a section that nullifies any penalties over hidden cities in the last leg. Fundamentally, we also need more competition, so that airlines like United have to spend more time and energy on improving the passenger experience and have less for things like this. It’s another example of rampant mergers leading to corporations having too much power.

  2. OZFLYER86

    August 3, 2019 at 12:43 am

    if a passenger doesn’t board the 2nd leg of a 2 leg booking, the airline has a chance to either sell that seat or let a standby passenger on. United stop carrying on about this nonsense. It’s terrible PR & won’t gain you any revenue at all. United already has a terrible name in some parts of the world, especially Australia, where UA is known as airline of last resort if wanting to go to USA. As a result it’s often the cheapest nonstop & attracts those on very tight budgets. When I was a student with “no” money I flew UA.

    The United Plus frequent flyer programme is also very poor, cf. what it used to be 20 years ago.

  3. ayrshiredude

    August 3, 2019 at 5:04 am

    This is clearly a case of the airlines being able to have their cake and eat it. The fact its cheaper to buy a ticket to one destination via the destination you actually want to go to rather than just to the place you actually want to go to is crazy and is clearly just greed on the airlines part perhaps if they didn’t charge more for the shorter flight this wouldn’t be an issue.

  4. Sabai

    August 6, 2019 at 7:54 am

    And UA (and DL, and AA) all whine about the ME3. Competition too much for you?

  5. MEaton

    August 21, 2019 at 8:32 am

    My other favorite is to visit my daughter in DFW every few months…
    Buy BOS-DFW 10/1 return 2/5. Buy DFW-BOS 10/5 return 2/1. Cheap tickets…
    Nothing illegal and not a violation of contract…
    Good Luck!

  6. SFRower

    November 20, 2019 at 4:06 pm

    I’ve seen skip lagging backfire…. noobs booked SFO to IAD to RDU, but when boarding in group 4, were told that the overhead bins were full and they had to gate check their bags. Noooooo! Had every excuse in the world as to why they had to have their bags in the cabin with them. It was quite a scene. I don’t know the end of the story as I boarded before it was over.

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