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Skiplagging: Why You Should Avoid The Hidden-City Ticketing Hack

Skiplagging, also known as hidden city ticketing, is a travel hack where passengers book a flight from city A to city C with a stopover in city B.  The passenger then disembarks at city B.  Air travelers like it because it can save up to 25% on an airfare, and airlines loathe it because it means they lose money.  They cannot resell the empty seat on the leg from city B to city C at such short notice, and they missed out on selling the direct flight ticket to the intended destination.

Let’s go into the subject in a bit more detail and answer the commonest questions about the travel hack airlines hate. 

What is Skiplagging?

Skiplagging is the practice of buying a ticket for a multi-leg flight but only intend to fly part of the itinerary. For example, you might book a flight from Los Angeles to New York with a layover in Chicago, but then get off the plane in Chicago (their real final destination) and not continue to New York.

You may be wondering, “Why not simply book a ticket for a nonstop flight from LA to Chicago?  Wouldn’t that be chaper?” 

The answer is, it depends.  Airlines will sometimes discount the multi-segment journey as a sales incentive.  So the ticket for muli-segment journey to a location that is geographically further away than your intended destination may actually be cheaper than a direct ticket would have cost. 

Air fares vary all the time, as you’ve probably noticed when trying to book.  Here are some other factors that can affect the price of a flight:

  • The time of day you fly.
  • The day of the week you fly.
  • The season you fly.
  • The type of airline you fly.
  • The type of ticket you purchase.
  • The number of stops you make.
  • The availability of seats.

Is Skiplagging Illegal?

While skiplagging may not be illegal, it does break the terms and conditions of most airlines. During the process of purchasing a ticket you probably skipped past the Ts&Cs.  After all, who bothers to read them?  You probably just ticked the box and moved on, but you’ll probably find the clause in there somewhere.  

The practice circumvents fare and ticket rules, and airlines have sued passengers and travel websites promoting skiplagging. For example, United Airlines sued the travel website skiplagged.com for promoting such deals on flights.

American Airlines - Sued Passenger For Skiplagging

Does Skiplagging Work?

The answer has to be yes, given the popularity of the practice and the fact that there’s at least one website and app designed to sell you an airline ticket that will result in a cheaper flights.  Those who have used it say they can save hundreds of dollars on some journeys.  

Why Do Airlines Hate Skiplagging?

Airlines loathe skiplagging because it allows passengers to get a cheaper ticket by essentially skipping out on the last leg of the flight. This can cost the airlines money, as they are unable to sell that seat to another passenger. Additionally, skiplagging can cause confusion and delays at the airport, as airlines won’t be aware that a passenger is not planning to complete their entire itinerary.  The onward flight may be delayed, with all the consequences that generates for the airline and the other passengers. 

The Risks of Skiplagging

Skiplagging is a risky practice. It may seem like a good idea but it could result in a bad outcome. Most major airlines have a contract of carriage that prohibits skiplagging, so If airlines detect that a passenger has bought a ticket without intending to fly all of the segments in their itinerary they could, cancel their ticket, ban them from flying with them again. They could also sue the passenger for breaching the terms and conditions of carriage. 

Famous Cases: Airlines vs. Skiplaggers

Several airlines, including American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, have taken legal action against skiplaggers. Lufthansa sued a flyer for not taking the last leg of his journey, and American Airlines canceled a passenger’s return flight when they discovered he had used skiplagging.

  • In 2014, United Airlines sued Skiplagged, a website that helps passengers find skiplagged tickets. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed, but it showed that airlines are willing to take legal action against skiplagging.
  • In 2021, Southwest Airlines sued a passenger for skiplagging. The passenger had booked a flight from Dallas to Chicago with a layover in Denver. However, the passenger got off the plane in Denver and did not continue to Chicago. Southwest Airlines argued that the passenger had violated the terms and conditions of their ticket by not completing the entire journey.
  • In 2023, American Airlines sued a passenger for skiplagging. The passenger had booked a flight from Miami to New York with a layover in Charlotte. However, the passenger got off the plane in Charlotte and did not continue to New York. American Airlines argued that the passenger had violated the terms and conditions of their ticket by not completing the entire journey.
United Airlines - Suing For Skiplagging

The Ethics of Skiplagging

While skiplagging can save travelers money, it raises ethical questions. Is it right to intentionally create an empty seat on a flight, potentially causing the airline to lose revenue? The debate continues, with opinions divided.  You can probably gather from the tone of this article that I’m against it as I’m aware of how difficult it has been for airlines during the past few years.  

Alternatives to Skiplagging

For those wary of the risks associated with skiplagging or who don’t feel comfortable for ethical reasons, there are other ways to find cheap flights. Savy air travellers have know for years that there numerous websites that sell discounted tickets for one-way flights, so these sites are always the best place to start.  If you take into account the factors that can affect the price of an air ticket (mentioned above), then it’s still possible to save hundreds of dollars per ticket legally and ethically, without using a practice that some airlines expressly forbid. 

How To Save Money On Flights

  • Book your flight in advance. Airlines often offer discounts for booking flights in advance.
  • Be flexible with your travel dates. If you are flexible with your travel dates, you may be able to find cheaper flights.
  • Sign up for email alerts from airlines and travel websites. This way, you will be notified of special offers and discounts.
  • Use a flight search engine to compare prices. There are many flight search engines available online that can help you compare prices from different airlines.
  • Consider flying on a budget airline. Budget airlines often offer lower prices than traditional airlines.
  • Use a travel rewards program. If you are a member of a travel rewards program, you can earn points or miles that can be redeemed for free flights or other travel benefits.
  • Consider flying during the off-season. Flights are often cheaper during the off-season, which is typically during the winter months.
  • Fly on a weekday. Flights are often cheaper on weekdays than on weekends.
  • Fly into a smaller airport. Flights to smaller airports are often cheaper than flights to major airports.
  • Avoid checked luggage. Baggage fees can add up, so it is often cheaper to travel with carry-on luggage only.

Direct flights from New York

Abidjan9 June 202430 June 2024Ethiopian AirlinesTickets from USD 759
Albuquerque13 March 202419 March 2024Jetblue AirwaysTickets from USD 276
Accra24 March 202422 April 2024Virgin AtlanticTickets from USD 1 172
Nantucket28 May 20241 June 2024Jetblue AirwaysTickets from USD 148
Addis Ababa11 May 202425 May 2024Ethiopian AirlinesTickets from USD 1 012
Malaga7 August 202422 August 2024United AirlinesTickets from USD 896
Augusta10 April 202412 April 2024Delta Air LinesTickets from USD 848
Auckland26 June 20243 July 2024QantasTickets from USD 1 636
Albany8 March 202417 March 2024Uls Airlines CargoTickets from USD 216
Amman19 April 202416 May 2024Royal JordanianTickets from USD 926

In Summary:

  • Skiplagging is a method of booking a flight with a layover in the actual desired destination and skipping the connecting flight to save money.
  • While it’s not illegal, many airlines detest the practice and have taken legal actions against skiplaggers.
  • Risks include canceled return flights, potential bans from airlines, and issues with checked bags.
  • There are ethical considerations to keep in mind, as skiplagging can result in revenue loss for airlines.
  • Alternatives to skiplagging exist, with many websites offering deals and price comparisons.

Happy travels and always stay informed!

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