What is Hidden City Ticketing?
The method, originally proposed by the young founder of the website Skiplagged, involves finding cheaper flights by getting off at an airline’s stopping point while en route to the actual destination.
For instance, a flight from New York City to Los Angeles costing $200 may stop midway in Chicago, whereas tickets from New York City to Chicago run $400. Hidden city ticketing in this case would mean booking the flight from New York City to Los Angeles and just disembarking during its stop in Chicago, saving you $200.
While finding cheap tickets may be appealing to you, there are several drawbacks for both airlines and travelers that you may want to keep in mind.
1. Hidden City Ticketing Financial Drawbacks for Consumers
Although finding flights for less seems like a huge gain for you, hidden city ticketing poses financial threats and other hardships to consumers in the long run. Flyers who need to go to the actual intended destination of the ticket will find that the cost of their tickets is rising due to minimal seat availability.
Hidden city ticketers use these seats part of the way, leaving other consumers either flightless or having to shell out more money to get where they need to go. Over time, this behavior will also cause a rise in the cost of all fares due to the loss of money from seats going empty thanks to flyers who book hidden city flights and get off at the layover destinations.
2. Inconvenience for other travelers
Additionally, when a group of people using hidden city ticketing gets off the flight before its final destination, other travelers may be severely inconvenienced with delays.
If you’ve ever been on a long flight, wedged between two uncomfortable armrests, only to hear the pilot announce that there will be another 30-minute delay before takeoff, you’ll understand how frustrating this can be. The airline may choose to wait for the hidden city ticketers who never plan on boarding the flight, and this could throw a monkey wrench in other travelers’ plans.
3. Legal Issues With Hidden City Ticketing
Unsurprisingly, Skiplagged was sued by United Airlines because hidden city ticketing is in their fine print as a breach of contract. Orbitz also found it to be in violation of their contract with United and also sued.
If you use hidden city ticketing regularly, you may find yourself in legal trouble. Even more likely, if you do this regularly, some airlines will kick you out of their rewards program.
4. Forget Checking Luggage
Checked baggage is routed directly to the final ticketed destination. Unless you pack a minimal carry-on, hidden city ticketing has risks. Imagine you arrive at the airport and find that the overhead bins are full and the airline is now checking carry-ons.
You can either pay a huge fee to ship your bag to your destination another way (assuming you have time) or say goodbye to your belongings since they will go to the ticketed destination.
5. Unexpected Re-Routes
Flight plans change all the time due to inclement weather and a variety of other factors. If you book a flight with a stop in one city but the stop destination changes, your trip is negated.
A legal and ethical alternative to hidden city ticketing is getting your airline tickets with Skyscanner to find legitimate cheap flights.