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.
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?