An Interesting Travel Hack

This topic came up in an article from The Independent. No comment yet from Trent Crimm for the Ted Lasso fans out there.

Hidden city ticketing is simply buying a ticket where you don’t plan to fly all the legs. People do it to save money because airlines will price a flight not terminating at a stopover for less if it goes onto another airport many times because the pricing is based on factors related to competition at or empty seats to the final destination rather than actual cost of fuel, staff, etc.

For example if you are flying from LAX to RDU with a stopover in MSP, you would just get off in MSP if that’s where you really wanted to go and it was cheaper than a ticket from LAX to MSP without the RDU leg.

A Controversial Travel Hack?

I don’t think it’s really all that controversial. Airlines may not appreciate it, and it has some risks and drawbacks, but it’s not illegal. It is almost always a violation of your agreement with the carrier that you accept when flying with them.

The story from the article is a bit odd. I’m not sure why the agent in the put this much care into vetting where some kid is flying, but I guess it’s her airline overlords pulling her strings. I don’t think this is a typical scenario for most flyers.

The Pros

Save That Money

You can pay less money to fly to the same place on the same plane with the same carrier. That’s pretty neat.

Minimal Advanced Planning is Needed

A lot of the strategies that save on flights involve opening cards in advance and making minimum spends, but this is something you can just do when buying the tickets though it’s a little less straightforward than buying tickets based on the final destination.

There Are Tools to Help

You don’t have to dig for these deals by searching random cities and looking for connections. You can use something like Skiplagged to find them for you.

The Cons

The airline may ban you or worse.

If you don’t follow the rules of the airline they may tell you buh-bye permanently or for a shorter duration. If it’s an airline you don’t care about, then it may be an acceptable risk for you. The airline could go full litigious and sue you potentially as the article describes happening in some cases, but that’s over the top and unlikely though unpleasant if it happens. If you do use this strategy to book a flight, it is highly recommended that you do not use your frequent flyer account for the ticket or have it associated with the flight in any way. You probably also should not be considering doing this on a carrier you hold points with in my opinion. The reality is that for a 1 or 2 time thing, the airline probably isn’t going to waste their time on pursuing you.

You can’t check luggage.

Don’t even try! Else your bags will go on without you to the final destination you aren’t headed to. Even worse, this can cause a security incident if you have bags flying without you. A good general rule of thumb is to only carry on stuff that fits under the seat so you don’t get gate checked into a bad situation.

You can’t do it on the outbound part of a round trip.

If you attempt this on an outbound flight of a round trip, the airline will almost certainly auto-cancel your return flight because you breached the agreement.

Unforeseen Changes

It’s unlikely, but if there is a weather change or something else unforeseen then there may be an itinerary change. You may never stop at the layover point you are trying to get off at which may leave you stranded at a destination you never planned on going to or staying where you were going to take off from.

The Last Word

This is not something I have done personally, but it’s something I’ve been aware of and want to share a little more about as it’s one more tool in a traveler’s bag of tricks that can help them travel frugaly. I think the risk of this is low to moderate, and it’s pretty widely practiced by folks with a lot of success. Just follow some general best practice tips if you are going to do it, and realize that things can and do go wrong even when you follow the rules.

Is there any other aspect I’ve missed? Join the discussion below and let us know.