Ever since airlines created the hub-and-spoke business model, this ticketing hack has been possible; however, many people are not aware of this process. As a traveler, you can save tons of money by following these steps when buying your next ticket!
How Throwaway (Hidden City) Ticketing Works
Simply put, hidden city ticketing is when you book a flight from A-B-C, but skip the last leg of the trip. Leg B was your desired destination all along.
Lets say you wanted to book a flight to San Francisco. Here is how a direct one-way flight would look booking through the regular airline:
Looks like it is going to run us $537 one-way, which is an expensive domestic flight. Using a site called skiplagged, lets take a look at flights to Portland that happen to layover in San Francisco:
Yes, that is correct….. $173 for a trip to Portland via San Francisco. So, you book this flight to Portland and just hop off at San Francisco saving you ~$400 bucks. Welcome to the good life!
Confused? Why in the world would it be cheaper to book a flight from A-B-C than just A-B?
Simple. The airlines don’t see it as selling you the ticket from A-B-C, they simply see it as being a ticket from A-C.
They treat the two itineraries (A-B vs. A-B-C) as being completely separate products and price them differently as a result. This creates gaps in their market like in the example above.
For flights that end in a hub, airlines will usually charge more. This is because they want to keep that route open to use on longer, more complex trips.
By selling the customer a ticket from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco there is one less seat available for the person who is trying to book Washington, D.C. – San Francisco – Portland.
This strategy typically won’t work for flights to small airports, but you should definitely give it a shot when flying to major airline hubs like Dallas, Atlanta, Washington DC, Los Angeles, etc.
A Few Things to Remember
1.) Do not check luggage!
Only bring a carry on – any checked luggage will be sent to your final destination without you.
2.) Do not book a round trip flight!
If you miss any one of your flights, the airline will void the rest of your itinerary. Therefore, this strategy only works with one-way bookings.
3.) Do not attach your frequent flyer number to your ticket!
Airlines are not big fans of people who use this strategy. Attaching your frequent flyer number to your ticket will make you easier to track if you decide to use this strategy multiple times. It is always better to remain anonymous!
If you absolutely have to be somewhere at a specific time, this strategy is always risky. Flights could get delayed/cancelled and the airline might rebook you on a different route to your final destination skipping your intended middle destination.
I have used this strategy many times and have yet to encounter any problems. Good luck and let me know if you have any questions! Cheers!
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