More travelers are flying than ever — and getting even more creative with money-saving airline hacks
AAA projects that 4.69 million people will travel by plane this Thanksgiving week — a 2.5% increase from pre-Covid numbers in 2019.
Some of those people are finding loopholes to get lower-priced flights, and airlines are cracking down on it.
Skiplagging, also known as hidden-city ticketing or throwaway ticketing, is a booking workaround that saves customers money by issuing tickets with a final destination that they have no intention of visiting. Why? Because it’s cheaper.
For a variety of reasons, some destination cities have higher airfare than others. Instead, skiplaggers will take advantage of a lower-priced flight to another far-flung city, but their intended destination is one of the connecting cities, not the plane’s final destination.
Airlines aren’t too happy about that.
“For example, say you wanted to fly from Orlando to New York. You know, see the city, but the price tag is a little bit out of budget. Maybe it’s $150,” Katy Nastro from Going.com explained to The National Desk. “However, you found a flight from Orlando to Richmond via New York and that’s only $88, which is a pretty nice savings.”
In this scenario, the passenger is supposed to stay on that flight path and continue on to Richmond — but they never complete the trip.
“However you got off in New York and you paid a fraction of the price for that direct flight price, but you bought a connecting flight,” Nastro said. “So, in essence, it’s basically like you bought a direct flight without the direct flight cost.”
More and more people have become aware of the tactic thanks to the website skiplagged.com — which has the tagline, “Our flights are so cheap, United sued us … but we won.”
It might seem like a good idea on the surface, but flyers face penalties for beating the airlines and saving money this way.
Some airlines have reportedly been punishing passengers for skiplagging by canceling flights and depleting their loyalty points and miles.
“Airlines do not like skiplagging because it costs them money. Flights with connections are generally cheaper than nonstop flights because airlines have a lower price ceiling for them,” Phil Dengler, co-founder of travel advice site The Vacationer, told CNN.
He added, “Additionally, your airline knows you were on the first flight and are at the airport. The gate agents may call your name out or slightly delay closing the doors. Besides losing money, it creates additional stress for airline staff.”
While it isn’t technically illegal, Nastro said that the fine print of an airline ticket forbids it.
Skiplagging also wouldn’t work for everyone. Nastro said the passenger would have to travel with just a carry-on since checked bags will go to the final destination of the flight.
She also suggested that it would only work for one-way flights, since not boarding the second flight would mark the passenger as a no-show with the airline.