I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t “travel hack” in the truest sense of the word. In reality, I don’t even do what I’m about to talk about, however, I’m going to talk about it for two reasons:
- Its meaningful for many folks who pay for their tickets but may not be frequent fliers (I’ll get to this more in a moment).
- A valuable website that assists with this approach is being sued by United Airlines and Orbitz, there’s a legal fund, should you wish to contribute.
Ok, so what am I talking about? Hidden City Ticketing of course.
In today’s world (or at least the way the US operates, because I haven’t done a whole lot of research on international hidden city ticketing), airlines are primarily hub based. Airlines want to sell as many tickets as they can, right? So sometimes they might have a fair, perhaps from one hub, to a second hub, then on perhaps a regional location. Caveat: This only works for one-way flights.
Practice into Action
I found an example on Skiplagged from Washington to Charlotte on 7 Jan.
As you can see – Skiplagged found a flight from Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) to Cleveland, Ohio (CLE), via Charlotte, NC (CLT). Now if I really wanted to just go to Charlotte, I could carry my bags on and just not take the Charlotte to Cleveland flight. But, out of curiosity, lets see how much it would be if I just bought the BWI to CLT flight.
So, you’ve got, $80 with Skiplagged (hidden city ticketing) or $92.10 for the direct BWI-CLT. You’ll be on the same aircraft, but, if you were going to Cleveland, you would be paying less. Just think about that for a second.
I don’t want to make it sound like its that easy. There are risks. For a 100k flier, hidden city ticketing may not make sense. I personally want credit for every mile I fly. I’m not sure that I’d put my frequent flier number on a ticket I knowingly planned to skip a leg of. Why you ask? Because technically its a breach of many airlines contract of carriage
So what does this mean to you?
If you know the tricks, you probably don’t need a website like Skiplagged. Unless your lazy. There is no problem with being lazy. I get lazy all the time. My wife might give me a problem but, that’s beside the point. What happens if Skiplagged goes away? You have to go back to the old ways of trial and error to figure out what works.
So what are the risks?
- First off, as I said, I wouldn’t include my frequent flier number. I’m not saying you would get your account closed by the airline or something, but, I’m a conservative guy, so: better safe than sorry.
- Don’t check a bag. In fact, I think I may add this to my general rules of travel. Never check a bag. But really never check a bag when you don’t plan on flying the entire itinerary.
- Irregular Operations (IROPS) happen. If you’re trying to do hidden city ticketing, and your flight gets cancelled, the airline may try to route you a different way to your final destination. You might find yourself flying from BWI to Chicago (ORD) to Cleveland, when in reality you wanted to get to Charlotte. It’ll take a lot of persuasive and polite requests, if it’s even possible.
The key for any of this, is that it works best with your travel goals. Hidden city ticketing is risky, but it can also save you a bunch of money. I’d most recommend this for the folks that fly mostly on award miles, but every so often have a one-way flight (perhaps even a repositioning flight) that is cheaper to just pay for.