In the world of travel hacks, this one’s been around a while. Airlines hate it and travelers love it. Here’s everything you need to know about hidden city ticketing, or skiplagging.28 April 2022
We’re big fans of useful travel hacks, especially when we’re trying to go as a family. Buying three, four, or five roundtrip tickets takes a serious hit on the travel budget, right?
We recently found a travel hack that’s apparently been around for a while, but it was completely new to us. A deep dive into travel hacking research, a week later, and we’re sharing everything we learned about a travel hack that seasoned travelers love and airlines hate.
You’ll want to use this technique with hefty dose of caution though. Read on and let us know what you think.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, and we’ll admit we were among them until last week, skiplagging is a travel hack also known as hidden city ticketing or throwaway ticketing. Here’s how it works.
Let’s say you want to fly from Atlanta to Orlando but you can’t find an airfare that fits your budget. So, instead, you buy a ticket from Atlanta to Dallas-Fort Worth that has a layover in Orlando because it’s cheaper than the direct flight. When you get to Orlando, you simply get off the plane.
Image credit: Skiplagged.com
Essentially you don’t finish the journey you booked, but you still arrive at the destination you wanted and you saved money doing so.
It’s hard to see how the airlines can be angry when hidden city ticketing is essentially a problem they created. Still, they have an unfavorable opinion of the practice. The airlines like to say it violates the contract of carriage you inherently agree to when you purchase a ticket.
The point the airlines are making is that not flying all of the flights a traveler purchased means the passenger didn’t fulfill their part of the contract. To most travelers, this is a flimsy argument at best. It seems strange that the airlines might be able to punish a traveler for not taking the flights they paid for if they can’t also get a refund for not taking the flights if they have an emergency, right?
And yet, some well-traveled travelers won’t use this travel hack because of the risk.
So far, only one. Naturally, it’s called Skiplagged. It’s a flight booking website founded a few years ago by travel enthusiasts who discovered the hidden city travel hack.
Skiplagged works by displaying the original price to reach a destination. So if you want to fly from Minneapolis to Atlanta and prices are sky high, Skiplagged may show you a flight from Minneapolis to Orlando that goes through Atlanta as a stopover. Voila! You reach your intended destination and pay less.
The jury is out on this one. While there have been a few lawsuits, skiplagging is not technically illegal—not yet at least. Still you should use this travel hack carefully because it does involve some risk.
Here’s what you won’t be able to do if you go skiplagging:
If you’re flying internationally, you may need a passport or visa (even if you’re not going all the way to the final destination) during check-in or when you deplane. Some airlines require proof of a return ticket at check-in. If this happens, the workaround is to buy a refundable return ticket directly from the airline and cancel it as soon as you board the outbound flight.
Tip: Before you consider buying a hidden city ticket, required reading is this Skiplagged FAQ page.
Pro tip: if you’re concerned about the concept of hidden city ticketing, you should stay away from Skiplagged and look at alternatives instead.
Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.