I’ve known about Skiplagged for a while; in fact I almost wrote about it before deciding it wasn’t really worth most people’s time. However, after all of its recent media attention, and since I’ve been getting tons of questions and media inquiries about it, this week I figured it’s time. Skiplagged—created by a 22-year-old whiz kid from New York—shows users how to find lower fares using a strategy that’s been around for years called “hidden city” ticketing. I’ve even written about the “hidden city” trick many times myself, always making sure to warn consumers that it’s against airline policy (if you get caught you have a good chance of losing all of your miles and possibly paying a fare difference).
Anyway, Skiplagged was recently slapped with a joint lawsuit by United and Orbitz, which are claiming that Skiplagged is “promoting prohibited forms of travel” and “falsely associat[ing] Skiplagged with [them].” You can currently donate to their legal fund or simply check out the search for yourself.
“Hidden city” ticketing
I buy dozens of tickets a year, and have been doing so for the last twenty years. But on only one occasion did I came close to using the “hidden city” strategy, and it was when I needed to get to Cleveland from LA and all of the one-way tickets were pricing out at a whopping $600! So I decided to use one of my other strategies, which is searching alternate airports (you can search for all domestic alternate airports on a site I created called AlternateAirports.com). Using that strategy I found a ticket to Buffalo (200 miles away) from LA for only $230 but looking closely at the routing I noticed the flight first stopped in Cleveland ON THAT SAME EXACT $600 flight I wanted.
I know it doesn’t seem to makes sense since Buffalo is further from Cleveland, and since you have to take two flights instead of one, but the airlines do this to compete with other airlines. One of their competitors must’ve had a sale on Los Angeles to Buffalo so in order to compete they offered the same price. Meanwhile, at the time United had a monopoly on the LA-Cleveland route, so they had no incentive to offer a low fare on that route. In theory I could’ve bought a one-way ticket from LA to Buffalo and just gotten off in Cleveland and let my connecting ticket to BUF go to waste but that would’ve been against airline policy and I didn’t want to risk losing all of my miles. So I didn’t do it.
Had I wanted to do it, I would’ve just purchased a one-way ticket and made sure not to check bags or put in my mileage account number. I would also have made sure to be one of the first on the plane, because if there’d been no overhead space available, I’d have been forced to gate check my bag to my final destination—and that would have been a problem.
FYI: The airlines are so much against this trick that United Airlines and Orbitz are now suing Skiplagged’s founder, asking in the suit for reimbursement of lost revenue and other remedies.
- Joe Brancatelli: Why is United Airlines going to war with a 22-year-old entrepreneur who wants to save travelers money?
- CrankyFlier: Why Airlines Need Hidden City Ticketing to Be Possible but They Also Can’t Let You Take Advantage of It
- USAToday: Why airlines hate hidden-city ticketing (and maybe you should too)
Have YOU ever used the hidden city trick? Leave a comment below and tell us about it!