MATT GEPHARDT

Hidden-city flying can save you money on your airfare, but it comes with big risks

Jan 31, 2024, 10:30 PM | Updated: Feb 1, 2024, 6:08 am

SALT LAKE CITY — Some passengers are using a controversial strategy to save money on flights by booking a long flight with layovers, but then deliberately skip the last leg of their journey. It can save hundreds of dollars for fliers, but it can also mean big consequences from the airlines.

Common sense might tell you that short flights tend to be less expensive than longer flights — less fuel and whatnot. But actually, longer flights are often cheaper, said Katy Nastro of the travel website, Going.com.

“The single biggest component as to why we see cheap flights to one destination more so versus the other is competition,” she said.

It has led to a little life hack some travelers have figured out called either hidden-city ticketing, or skiplagging.

“Instead of flying to your final destination, you just stop in your connection city, get off and don’t get back on the flight,” Nastro explained.

Here’s one of many examples:

On March 1, at 6 a.m., Delta Flight 675 leaves Salt Lake City International Airport for Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. The cheapest seat I found searching for a direct flight is $339. However, I found a connecting flight to Louis Armstrong New Orleans International that has a layover in Detroit. And wouldn’t you know – it uses the same Delta flight leaving Utah. And for the same seating, you would save $71 by booking the flight to the “Big Easy” and then hop off at Detroit.

“It occasionally can save you a hefty chunk of money,” Nastro said.

Hidden-city ticketing is not illegal, but it is strongly frowned upon by most airlines.

“That basically is undermining how airlines price their flights if you’re only flying half of the ticket that you bought,” Nastro said.

Technically, getting off halfway to your ticketed destination breaks the contract you agreed to when you bought the ticket. That can come with consequences. Airlines have been known to cancel people’s flights if they get caught. It could end up costing you even more.

“Airlines can strip you of your status (or loyalty account) if you have any type of status with them,” Nastro said. “They can actually make you pay the difference of what that regular economy ticket would have been.”

Another potential downside could happen if you’re asked to check your carry-on bag if the overhead space gets full. The airline will not pull your bag when you get to the layover point. It’s going on to the ticketed destination – with or without you.

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Hidden-city flying can save you money on your airfare, but it comes with big risks