Consolidated "Hidden City Ticketing Questions"

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Throwaway ticketing is purchasing a ticket with the intent to use only a portion of the included travel. This situation may arise when a passenger wants to travel only one way, but where the discounted round-trip excursion fare is cheaper than a one-way ticket
Throwaway Tickets , such book RT and only use OW - any issues with UA?

Hidden city ticketing (HCT) is a variant of throwaway ticketing. The passenger books a ticket to a fictitious destination (the "hidden" city) with a connection at the intended destination, walks away at the connection node, and discards the remaining segment.
Related threads
UA sues "hidden city" search site Skiplagged.com
United asking gate agents to report hidden ticket travelers
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Old May 18, 12, 7:45 am
  #1  
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Consolidated "Hidden City Ticketing Questions"

I have a round trip, non-refundable ticket on US Air. The outbound flight is Saturday, the return flight is on Monday evening, both are connecting at PHL. The return flight on Monday lands in my hometown after 10 PM, and I now need to be back in Philadelphia by 11 AM on Tuesday. I have reviewed my options, and even tried to change the flights on usairways.com, but the most affordable (& convenient) option is to skip the last flight on Monday evening and remain in Philadelphia. I am able to book a United flight home on Tuesday night for less than the US Air change fee of $150.

What are the risks? Are there any risks to future flights? Any risks to my mileage account? I am a United MileagePlus customer, I have a US Air Dividend Miles account that has not been used since Continental joined the Star Alliance in 2009.
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Old May 18, 12, 7:58 am
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On PMCO at IAH I've had luck a few times arriving at the connection point and then having a TA at the airport cancel the onward connection. The last time I did it, I actually needed to wait for my wife and daughter to land. I told them, I'd just use miles to meet the connecting flight since my ticket from that point was non changeable/non refundable.

She was happy to help.
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Old May 18, 12, 8:06 am
  #3  
 
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Mostly copied from my answer at http://www.quora.com/Economics/Why-i...-York-directly:

Let's suppose you're trying to fly CLE-PHL-EWR and get off the plane at PHL instead of continuing to EWR. This is basically responsive to your scenario (where you're flying xxx-phl-yyy, yyy-phl-xxx and want to get off instead of taking phl-xxx).

To understand the theory behind hidden-city ticketing, check out United's contract of carriage, http://www.united.com/web/en-US/content/contract.aspx. It's pretty scary stuff! Technically, breaking the fare rules means they reserve the right to try to charge you the fare difference, cancel all other flights on your itinerary, revoke your frequent-flyer account, etc. But you are probably more interested in what will actually happen if you do this.

If you are a travel agency and routinely do hidden-city ticketing: Every couple of months United will send you a huge "debit memo" (invoice) for the fare difference between the flights your clients took and the flights they had booked. You will pay this "debit memo" or you will lose the ability to book United flights. So, if you book hundreds of people on CLE-PHL-EWR and they all only take CLE-PHL, you may save the client some money in the short term, but it will come back to bite you later.

If you are an ordinary person and occasionally do hidden-city ticketing: United technically could get mad at you, but in practice their revenue protection group has better things to do. After all, a one-off emergency might have come up that kept you from boarding that PHL-EWR, or your plans might have changed, and it's not in the carrier's interest to make your life hard for a rare accident.

As an individual, booking the occasional hidden-city ticket is harmless in terms of practical consequences to you.

However, you will face the following important side effects if you buy a ticket CLE-PHL-EWR and only travel CLE-PHL:
  • You won't be able to check bags to PHL; your checked bags will go to your final destination. "Short-checking bags" is a no-no. It's possible that you may be able to check bags to PHL if you're booked overnight in PHL and continuing on the first flight out in the morning.
  • As soon as you miss a flight segment, all further flight segments in your itinerary will be cancelled. So if you book CLE-PHL-EWR // PHL-BOS on a single reservation as soon as you fail to show up for PHL-EWR you'll find that your PHL-BOS is cancelled.
  • In the unlikely event that CLE-PHL or PHL-EWR is delayed or cancelled, United may try to reroute you to satisfy its contractual obligation to get you to EWR. They have no contractual obligation to get you to PHL. You can imagine an overzealous agent "helping you" by putting you on a nonstop or, worse, routing you through another carrier's hub…
  • In the very unlikely event that you do this a whole lot, United revenue protection may decide that you're not a good customer and may prevent you from earning frequent-flyer miles or flying on them again. Or they might send you a letter asking for a lot of money (the fare difference between all the CLE-PHL flights you could've bought and the CLE-PHL-EWR flights you actually booked). This is very rare, because in practice it is not worth their time to do this to people who book a few tickets like this once or twice a year.

You may also, depending on your personal convictions, need to wrestle with your conscience. I think an individual booking the occasional hidden-city ticket is the kind of thing that many people know is wrong, but do anyway because they think they're only cheating a soulless megacorporation which cynically exploits them at every opportunity. (Like making free unlicensed copies of music instead of buying the album on iTunes.)

Airline employees tend to have a heightened sense of empathy for their employer and can generally offer a convincing explanation of why it's not cool for you to break the contract between yourself and United. For an interesting conversation, try asking a UA ticketing agent what they think about hidden-city ticketing some time! There are some on FlyerTalk and you'll read great feedback from them on hidden city ticketing questions.

Personally I think that moral actions can fall on a spectrum of wrongness; I think hidden-city ticketing is less "wrong" than putting a brick in an iPod box and returning it to Wal-Mart for a refund; but it's more "wrong" than jaywalking. It's certainly not a polite thing to do to a carrier.
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Old May 18, 12, 8:21 am
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Hidden City

Thanks for the response.

Since my original flights xxx-PHL-yyy (Saturday) & yyy-PHL-xxx (Monday) are on US Air, I'm thinking there shouldn't be any impact to my United MP account.

I have already purchased this US Air itinerary, and my schedule changed. I plan to fly the first 3 of 4 segments as planned, but now need to fly PHL-xxx on Tuesday. I attempted to do the right thing and reschedule with US Air, but the fees and fare changes are nearly 3x the cost of booking a new one-way to return on United. It is actually cheaper to fly the original itinerary and then book a completely new round trip for Tuesday, adding two unnecessary flights.

I will not be checking bags, so that will not create an issue. Also, yyy is a very small airport, only served by US Air & one other discount airline. US Air only flies to PHL and one other location, so very little chance I'm rerouted.

I have never done this before, with the exception of the old ZFW-EWR trick a few years back. If US & UA were not Star Alliance partners, I wouldn't even ask this question, but I have a concern about whether they would actually exchange this kind of information.
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Old May 18, 12, 8:31 am
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Originally Posted by mcgettge View Post
If US & UA were not Star Alliance partners, I wouldn't even ask this question, but I have a concern about whether they would actually exchange this kind of information.
You should really only expect to face problems with the ticketing carrier (in this case US). The contract of carriage between you and US, http://www.usairways.com/en-US/about...fcarriage.html, is what you actually get when you buy a plane ticket and spells out your rights and your agreement not to do hidden-city or throwaway ticketing.

UA will not be offended if you violate your contractual relationship with US, especially not these days. I have to imagine the relationship is not rosy -- US is still miffed at being cynically exploited by UA to make the CO-UA merger a more attractive proposition. And it seems unlikely that if US merges with AA they will stay in the Star Alliance.

Originally Posted by mcgettge View Post
It is actually cheaper to fly the original itinerary and then book a completely new round trip for Tuesday, adding two unnecessary flights.
Many people on this forum would advise that you do that. Extra EQM!
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Old May 18, 12, 10:19 am
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I had a similar situation in the past on pmUA - vacation plans and work plans collided. The pmUA agent actually suggested that I simply not use the return portion of my vacation ticket and I booked a new ticket originating in the city that I was vacationing. The minor difference (or possibly major difference from the UA point of view) was that this was simply not flying the return portion of a RT, which may or may not have changed the original revenue that UA got from me.

The bottom line IME is that most airline employees can understand when this occurs due to circumstances beyond your control as opposed to a deliberate attempt to game the system. As for the morality discussion, I draw the line at intentionally doing hidden city ticketing vs having your plans change.
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Old Mar 17, 13, 6:28 pm
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Hidden city on award?

I am traveling from country A to NYC to country B on an award ticket. If I just take carry-on along, can I simply fly to NYC and not use the second leg to country B? The award is actually cheaper this way than simply doing country A to NYC. Thanks for your help.
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Old Mar 17, 13, 6:31 pm
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I've seen odd routings such as intra-Central America trips showing up as SAL-MIA-PTY but it always seems to want to charge the higher mileage so I'm not sure how you're getting the lower mileage for what you're doing, but good luck!
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Old Mar 17, 13, 6:31 pm
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Yes. Some caveats

1. Don't make a habit of it.
2. Be careful - if there are IRROPs, you could be redirected on another routing to that other country.
3. Will the departing country still want to see proof that you can fly (visa, passport) to Country C?
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Old Mar 17, 13, 6:38 pm
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thanks.

i can fly to country A, country B and to the U.S. without a visa.
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Old Mar 17, 13, 6:49 pm
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Note that if you no-show for a segment, your entire trip will be cancelled after that segment. This is fine if you're literally just booking AAA-JFK-BBB and missing JFK-BBB (no consequences other than the ones aacharya outlines), but this is not great if this is the first part of a round trip.

If you're only booking a one-way award, note that UA international round trip awards are pretty flexible (free stopover + two open jaws) and it may actually be a better deal for you to book a proper round trip + stopover (sort of like getting "three trips for the price of two").
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Old Mar 17, 13, 6:53 pm
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thanks. it is really only the last leg that i would not be using.
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Old Mar 17, 13, 8:09 pm
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Originally Posted by flyinghigh77 View Post
I am traveling from country A to NYC to country B on an award ticket. If I just take carry-on along, can I simply fly to NYC and not use the second leg to country B? The award is actually cheaper this way than simply doing country A to NYC. Thanks for your help.
(Bolding mine) Technically, you could check your luggage if you absolutely had to, since you and your luggage would have to clear customs in New York, even though your bags will be tagged to country B. After clearing customs, you would just head for the exit (after removing the baggage tags to avoid a possible question from airport/airline staff), instead of the recheck station.

All the aforementioned caveats (especially IRROPS) apply.
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Old Mar 17, 13, 8:15 pm
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thanks.

(the award is almost half the miles usually needed. i think i will go ahead and book)
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Old Mar 17, 13, 10:26 pm
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The other caveat is that you need to have a valid visa for the final destination.

If you have an overnight layover, then it can be considered reasonable to pick up your visa at the transit point. Common on Europe-ICN-VVO runs where people don't want to spring for the visa.
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