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Hidden city ticketing dilemma, with QR and AS

Hidden city ticketing dilemma, with QR and AS

Old Oct 20, 2023, 2:28 am
  #1  
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Hidden city ticketing dilemma, with QR and AS

I have an interesting dilemma with a planned big family trip over the holidays this year. My wife, son, and I are traveling with extended family to Southern Africa, meeting up for a stopover in Johannesburg with extended family, before we all fly together to Botswana.

I found a decent deal on Qatar Airways in business class PDX-SEA-DOH-JNB-DOH-SEA-PDX, departing 12/19 and arriving back in Portland on 1/1. (It was only about twice the cost my brother is paying for similar flights in coach, but transiting through Europe instead of DOH.) The PDX-SEA and SEA-PDX legs are of course on AS metal. I'm MVP Gold 75K and my wife and son are both MVP Gold. This part of the trip is set, but we are trying to plan the rest of our son's holiday break from college.

Right now our plan after arrival back in the United States is to immediately travel to Whistler to do some skiing with Canadian friends for most of a week. Our DOH-SEA flight is scheduled to arrive at 11:50 AM, and the SEA-PDX flight is scheduled to depart at 2:00 PM and arrive at 2:54 PM. I can book a separate AS ticket PDX-SEA-YVR on 1/1, departing 4:45 PM, arriving at YVR at 10:17 PM. But preferably, we want to drive to Whistler that night. Obviously, it would be a lot more convenient to simply drop the last SEA-PDX leg, and instead fly SEA-YVR directly. There is a 3:40 PM flight SEA-YVR, arriving at 4:48 PM. There is a ticket cost savings of about $200 per ticket versus booking the PDX-SEA-YVR flight. But the convenience is more important than the cost. There is also a direct PDX-YVR flight on Air Canada, with a 6 PM departure and 7:19 PM arrival. Although we generally prefer to fly Alaska, in this case, the much earlier arrival and cheaper flight would make this our likely choice. But it would still be way better to get into YVR at 4:48 PM than 7:19 PM, as we could be in Whistler in time for a late dinner at our friends' house.

We won't have checked bags, and if we did presumably we would need to pick them up in SEA to go through customs and immigration.

I'm generally aware of hidden city ticketing rules by airlines, and that QR and AS would frown on us dropping the last SEA-PDX leg. But when I go to Qatar Airways' website, there isn't even an option for me to change our flight to see what the fare difference would be to fly to YVR instead of PDX. While I'm a seasoned traveler domestically, I have less international travel experience, and I've never dealt with a situation even remotely like this one. Here are my questions:
  1. In this situation, how likely is Alaska Airlines to "punish" us for dropping the final leg? My general understanding is that an occasional dropped leg isn't a bid deal, but airlines can ban passengers or remove mileage earnings for repeated offenses.
  2. Would booking a separate ticket SEA-YVR that overlaps our SEA-PDX flight make it more likely that Alaska would find out and take action? I could book SEA-YVR on AC instead of AS to avoid this.
  3. Is there any possibility to go to the Alaska counter at SEA or to call Alaska after arrival in SEA to change the final leg from SEA-PDX to SEA-YVR? Obviously there would be a risk of the flight being booked.
  4. Are there other possibilities that I haven't thought of, or do you have any other suggestions?
  5. This last question is unrelated to my hidden city ticketing dilemma, but I thought I would ask for clarification. When I first booked the Qatar Airways flights, I thought that we would be able to earn Alaska miles for the flights, which would help tremendously with status qualification. But after checking Alaska's website, it looks like we only earn AS miles on QR flights booked via Alaska as codeshare flights. Has anyone ever been able to earn AS miles on QR flights booked at qatarairways.com? (I looked at booking the flights at alaskaair.com, but Alaska doesn't offer the flights as codeshare flights.)
Thank you so much for reading my long post and offering any thoughts that you have.
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Old Oct 20, 2023, 8:17 am
  #2  
 
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I would just book the AC flight SEA-YVR. I've dropped the last AS leg in similar circumstances without consequence.

You definitely earn eqms on QR flights. Look further down the page: https://www.alaskaair.com/content/mi...partners-qatar
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Old Oct 20, 2023, 8:22 am
  #3  
 
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Why not just drive from SEA straight to Whistler? That would get you to Whistler about the time the earlier flight arrives in YVR, never mind the later or much later flights. And with multiple people in a rental car compared to buying multiple plane tickets, it may be cheaper, though it depends a good bit on how you plan to get back. (A one way car rental from the US to Canada would likely be very expensive if its possible at all.)

I wouldnt worry much at all about skipping SEA-PDX as the last flight on the ticket as a one-off. I would worry more about having an impossible booking on AS (flying SEA-PDX and SEA-YVR at the same time), especially if your frequent flyer numbers are in both reservations. Not a factor if you buy the AC flight.
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Old Oct 20, 2023, 9:56 am
  #4  
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Just to be technically accurate, this is not hidden city ticketing and does not break any TOS.

The prohibition is against booking something that you have no intention of flying. That's different than booking something that you intend to fly, and later having your plans change.

Does QR really not provide a way to make changes online?
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Last edited by VegasGambler; Oct 20, 2023 at 11:58 am
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Old Oct 20, 2023, 11:40 am
  #5  
 
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If you're going to book the overlapping Alaska flight do it with slightly different name which is technically true e.g. "FirstName MiddleName" as the first name, and ofcourse do not add your mvp numbers in there at all.

Given that you're mvp though i wouldn't risk it and just book AC, no issues with that.
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Old Oct 20, 2023, 4:19 pm
  #6  
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Originally Posted by flytoeat
You definitely earn eqms on QR flights. Look further down the page: https://www.alaskaair.com/content/mi...partners-qatar
Thanks for clarifying that. I'm not sure how I missed it, as it is quite clear on that web page, which I'm sure is the same one I looked at before. It looks like we will earn 24,878 EQMs in 2023, and get a jumpstart of either 4,740 EQMs or 5,490 EQMs for 2024 depending on whether we drop the SEA-PDX leg or not. Should easily help my wife and son requalify for MVP Gold, but I've got to do some work to see if I can requalify for 75K.

And thanks for your suggestion to take the AC flight SEA-YVR.
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Old Oct 20, 2023, 4:32 pm
  #7  
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Originally Posted by ashill
Why not just drive from SEA straight to Whistler? That would get you to Whistler about the time the earlier flight arrives in YVR, never mind the later or much later flights. And with multiple people in a rental car compared to buying multiple plane tickets, it may be cheaper, though it depends a good bit on how you plan to get back. (A one way car rental from the US to Canada would likely be very expensive if it’s possible at all.)
Dropping the last leg and driving up was my first instinct. There's no doubt that the least expensive option is to rent a car at SEA and drive to Whistler and back (despite the fact that rental cars appear to be cheaper at YVR than SEA). We are actually retuning to LIH on January 7, and flights home are much cheaper from SEA (or even PAE) than they are from YVR. However, my wife doesn't want to deal with the drive and border crossing, so this isn't our preference at the moment. For the trip from SEA to Whistler, the arrival in Whistler would probably be similar if not earlier by driving, given the flight schedules SEA-YVR. But for the return on January 7, things aren't quite so convenient, and the unpredictability of the drive time and border crossing time (especially on a Sunday) are troublesome. But it's still something we will consider.

I also looked at driving SEA to Whistler, and then driving back Whistler to YVR. But when I checked with National, they didn't have any cars available for a one-way trip between countries. I haven't checked other companies yet, but I'll keep looking to see if that's an option.

Originally Posted by ashill
I wouldn’t worry much at all about skipping SEA-PDX as the last flight on the ticket as a one-off. I would worry more about having an impossible booking on AS (flying SEA-PDX and SEA-YVR at the same time), especially if your frequent flyer numbers are in both reservations. Not a factor if you buy the AC flight.
Originally Posted by nomiiiii
If you're going to book the overlapping Alaska flight do it with slightly different name which is technically true e.g. "FirstName MiddleName" as the first name, and ofcourse do not add your mvp numbers in there at all.

Given that you're mvp though i wouldn't risk it and just book AC, no issues with that.
Thanks for the suggestions for booking SEA-YVR on AC. I'll probably go that route if we decide to drop the leg and not drive.
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Old Oct 20, 2023, 4:41 pm
  #8  
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Originally Posted by VegasGambler
Just to be technically accurate, this is not hidden city ticketing and does not break any TOS.

The prohibition is against booking something that you have no intention of flying. That's different than booking something that you intend to fly, and later having your plans change.
I'm not sure how the airline would know whether or not I didn't plan to drop the leg when I first booked. But thanks for your thoughts.

Originally Posted by VegasGambler
Does QR really not provide a way to make changes online?
When I go to change the ticket online, the website doesn't let me change the origin, just the destination. I could probably call to change it. But I'm quite sure that due to how international ticket pricing is done especially for business class tickets, if the change could be made it will cost thousands of dollars more (probably at least $6,000 for the three tickets). So it's not worth it. I'd rather take the flight all the way to Portland and then take AC direct PDX-YVR, if I decide not to drop SEA-PDX.
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Old Oct 20, 2023, 5:00 pm
  #9  
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Originally Posted by PDX-RDM-AVL-TPA
I'm not sure how the airline would know whether or not I didn't plan to drop the leg when I first booked. But thanks for your thoughts.
They don't know. That's not relevant. If you look at the terms or condition of carriage for any airline, you will never see anything that says that you must fly all the segments that you book (at least, I've never seen it). But you will almost certainly see something saying that you can't book an itinerary that you don't intend to fly.

When I go to change the ticket online, the website doesn't let me change the origin, just the destination. I could probably call to change it. But I'm quite sure that due to how international ticket pricing is done especially for business class tickets, if the change could be made it will cost thousands of dollars more (probably at least $6,000 for the three tickets). So it's not worth it. I'd rather take the flight all the way to Portland and then take AC direct PDX-YVR, if I decide not to drop SEA-PDX.
That seems highly unlikely. What about how the tickets are priced makes you think that? Are you thinking that you would be charged for two one ways? Because that's not the case ... you would almost certainly be charged for two half-round-trips. In fact it wouldn't surprise me if it was a free change, or even got you a small credit.

You should be able to figure this out yourself. Just look at your fare basis, read the rules (to make sure it's combinable as a half round trip, and that open jaws are allowed) and see if you can find a similar one from SEA. If it's too late to get the same pricing (due to advance purchase requirements) you can wait until you start travel; that will cause historical fares (ie, the fares at the time of booking) to be used to price the half-round-trip return.
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Old Oct 20, 2023, 5:34 pm
  #10  
 
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Originally Posted by PDX-RDM-AVL-TPA
When I go to change the ticket online, the website doesn't let me change the origin, just the destination. I could probably call to change it. But I'm quite sure that due to how international ticket pricing is done especially for business class tickets, if the change could be made it will cost thousands of dollars more (probably at least $6,000 for the three tickets). So it's not worth it. I'd rather take the flight all the way to Portland and then take AC direct PDX-YVR, if I decide not to drop SEA-PDX.
For sure if its $6000 its not worth it. But as far as I can tell you just made that number up. Its possible, but you wont know until you call. You could do sleuthing to try to guess what the fare difference and change fee will be, but whats the harm in calling?
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Old Oct 21, 2023, 2:12 am
  #11  
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Originally Posted by VegasGambler
That seems highly unlikely. What about how the tickets are priced makes you think that? Are you thinking that you would be charged for two one ways? Because that's not the case ... you would almost certainly be charged for two half-round-trips. In fact it wouldn't surprise me if it was a free change, or even got you a small credit.
Originally Posted by ashill
For sure if its $6000 its not worth it. But as far as I can tell you just made that number up. Its possible, but you wont know until you call. You could do sleuthing to try to guess what the fare difference and change fee will be, but whats the harm in calling?
I did make up the $6,000 number. But as I stated before, for the dates we are flying, the price we paid was VERY good. It was about $5,600 per ticket round trip PDX-JNB-PDX. Prior to booking , I checked dozens of gateway cities on numerous booking sites looking at all airlines; cities I checked included two or three of the airports in Hawaii, most major cities on the west coast, and a couple of options on the east coast. The only business class ticket that I found that was priced anywhere in this ballpark was LIH-LAX-LHR-JNB-LHR-LAX-LIH, with three redeye flights going east. Everything else was closer to $7,000 or $8,000 per ticket, or even more. I checked SEA-DOH-JNB-DOH-SEA using the same flights as our PDX itinerary; the price was about $24,000 total instead of about $17,000 total. Today, that's jumped to $33,000; the price is almost exactly double what I paid. Similar PDX-JNB-PDX routings are also about $30,000 round trip, if booked today. When I booked these tickets a month ago, other dates for PDX-JNB-PDX were notably more. There just happened to be a really good price for those cities on those days. So I jumped on it. That's how I know that any change made now will be significantly more than what I paid.

Originally Posted by VegasGambler
You should be able to figure this out yourself. Just look at your fare basis, read the rules (to make sure it's combinable as a half round trip, and that open jaws are allowed) and see if you can find a similar one from SEA. If it's too late to get the same pricing (due to advance purchase requirements) you can wait until you start travel; that will cause historical fares (ie, the fares at the time of booking) to be used to price the half-round-trip return.
Thanks for that suggestion. By the time we get to Africa, I'll likely have fully figured out our route to Whistler in a manner that may not be easy to cancel. But I will check to see what price kicks in to change the return to JNB-DOH-SEA-YVR.
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Old Oct 21, 2023, 2:34 am
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For what it's worth, Qatar's Conditions of Carriage says they care about whether you actually fly each leg, not intent when booking:
3.4 Should you change your transportation without our agreement or fail to fly the complete itinerary booked, we will assess the correct price for your actual travel. You will have to pay any difference between the price paid and the total price applicable, together with any applicable administration charge, for your revised transportation.
I am not saying this would dissuade me from skipping the last leg. I was just curious about the rule.

I was also curious about Alaska's rule (I know that doesn't apply to you but I fly them a lot). They have different language but again, the rule involves where you fly rather than intent:
7.E.3. ...Tickets may not be purchased and used at fare(s) from an initial departure point on the Ticket which is before the Passenger's actual point of origin of travel or to a more distant point(s) than the Passenger's actual destination being traveled, even when the purchase and use of such Tickets would produce a lower fare....
A later clause says that, in such a case, they can "assess the Passenger for the actual remaining value of the Ticket, which shall be no less than the difference between the fare actually paid and the lowest fare applicable to the Passenger's actual itinerary". It's not clear if this means they can charge you more than you already paid. It also, of course, says they can close your Mileage Plan account and impose other horrific punishments.

Last edited by seattlebruce; Oct 21, 2023 at 2:45 am
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Old Oct 21, 2023, 9:58 am
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Originally Posted by PDX-RDM-AVL-TPA
I have an interesting dilemma with a planned big family trip over the holidays this year. My wife, son, and I are traveling with extended family to Southern Africa, meeting up for a stopover in Johannesburg with extended family, before we all fly together to Botswana.

I found a decent deal on Qatar Airways in business class PDX-SEA-DOH-JNB-DOH-SEA-PDX, departing 12/19 and arriving back in Portland on 1/1. (It was only about twice the cost my brother is paying for similar flights in coach, but transiting through Europe instead of DOH.) The PDX-SEA and SEA-PDX legs are of course on AS metal. I'm MVP Gold 75K and my wife and son are both MVP Gold. This part of the trip is set, but we are trying to plan the rest of our son's holiday break from college.

Right now our plan after arrival back in the United States is to immediately travel to Whistler to do some skiing with Canadian friends for most of a week. Our DOH-SEA flight is scheduled to arrive at 11:50 AM, and the SEA-PDX flight is scheduled to depart at 2:00 PM and arrive at 2:54 PM. I can book a separate AS ticket PDX-SEA-YVR on 1/1, departing 4:45 PM, arriving at YVR at 10:17 PM. But preferably, we want to drive to Whistler that night. Obviously, it would be a lot more convenient to simply drop the last SEA-PDX leg, and instead fly SEA-YVR directly. There is a 3:40 PM flight SEA-YVR, arriving at 4:48 PM. There is a ticket cost savings of about $200 per ticket versus booking the PDX-SEA-YVR flight. But the convenience is more important than the cost. There is also a direct PDX-YVR flight on Air Canada, with a 6 PM departure and 7:19 PM arrival. Although we generally prefer to fly Alaska, in this case, the much earlier arrival and cheaper flight would make this our likely choice. But it would still be way better to get into YVR at 4:48 PM than 7:19 PM, as we could be in Whistler in time for a late dinner at our friends' house.

We won't have checked bags, and if we did presumably we would need to pick them up in SEA to go through customs and immigration.

I'm generally aware of hidden city ticketing rules by airlines, and that QR and AS would frown on us dropping the last SEA-PDX leg. But when I go to Qatar Airways' website, there isn't even an option for me to change our flight to see what the fare difference would be to fly to YVR instead of PDX. While I'm a seasoned traveler domestically, I have less international travel experience, and I've never dealt with a situation even remotely like this one. Here are my questions:
  1. In this situation, how likely is Alaska Airlines to "punish" us for dropping the final leg? My general understanding is that an occasional dropped leg isn't a bid deal, but airlines can ban passengers or remove mileage earnings for repeated offenses.
  2. Would booking a separate ticket SEA-YVR that overlaps our SEA-PDX flight make it more likely that Alaska would find out and take action? I could book SEA-YVR on AC instead of AS to avoid this.
  3. Is there any possibility to go to the Alaska counter at SEA or to call Alaska after arrival in SEA to change the final leg from SEA-PDX to SEA-YVR? Obviously there would be a risk of the flight being booked.
  4. Are there other possibilities that I haven't thought of, or do you have any other suggestions?
  5. This last question is unrelated to my hidden city ticketing dilemma, but I thought I would ask for clarification. When I first booked the Qatar Airways flights, I thought that we would be able to earn Alaska miles for the flights, which would help tremendously with status qualification. But after checking Alaska's website, it looks like we only earn AS miles on QR flights booked via Alaska as codeshare flights. Has anyone ever been able to earn AS miles on QR flights booked at qatarairways.com? (I looked at booking the flights at alaskaair.com, but Alaska doesn't offer the flights as codeshare flights.)
Thank you so much for reading my long post and offering any thoughts that you have.


I found a much better option for you. Harbour Air Seaplane from Seattle Lake Union to Downtown Toronto Waterfront. $199 one-way, perfect timing too, and you will reach Vancouver even faster because you won't have to deal with the immigration at YVR.

In my opinion it's better to pay $199 on harbour seaplane than $154 on AC. But of course you would have to get a Uber from SeaTac to Lake Union.

​​​​​
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Old Oct 21, 2023, 10:39 am
  #14  
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Originally Posted by 985X
I found a much better option for you. Harbour Air Seaplane from Seattle Lake Union to Downtown Toronto Waterfront. $199 one-way, perfect timing too, and you will reach Vancouver even faster
​​​​​
Probably not.
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Old Oct 21, 2023, 1:20 pm
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Originally Posted by seattlebruce
For what it's worth, Qatar's Conditions of Carriage says they care about whether you actually fly each leg, not intent when booking:
3.4 Should you change your transportation without our agreement or fail to fly the complete itinerary booked, we will assess the correct price for your actual travel. You will have to pay any difference between the price paid and the total price applicable, together with any applicable administration charge, for your revised transportation.
I am not saying this would dissuade me from skipping the last leg. I was just curious about the rule.

I was also curious about Alaska's rule (I know that doesn't apply to you but I fly them a lot). They have different language but again, the rule involves where you fly rather than intent:
7.E.3. ...Tickets may not be purchased and used at fare(s) from an initial departure point on the Ticket which is before the Passenger's actual point of origin of travel or to a more distant point(s) than the Passenger's actual destination being traveled, even when the purchase and use of such Tickets would produce a lower fare....
A later clause says that, in such a case, they can "assess the Passenger for the actual remaining value of the Ticket, which shall be no less than the difference between the fare actually paid and the lowest fare applicable to the Passenger's actual itinerary". It's not clear if this means they can charge you more than you already paid. It also, of course, says they can close your Mileage Plan account and impose other horrific punishments.
It is not a very clear statement, but seems clear they can charge more.

Last edited by Aliquot; Oct 21, 2023 at 1:26 pm
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