The post-pandemic travel boom has people everywhere looking to book flights to some remote destination, but that’s not always easy or cheap. It seems like there are always new travel tricks popping up online, like how to secure an entire row of airplane seats or how to get extra leg room on a cramped flight. But no cost-effective travel tip has more supportive airlines than the so-called “skip” strategy.
Skiplagging, also known as “hidden city” or “throwaway” booking, is the practice of booking a less expensive flight option with a transit city without a plan to fly the entire route. Instead, the stopover is the intended destination of the tourist.
The reason so many people use this controversial trick is because it’s cheaper to book a transit flight than a direct flight.
For example, a flight from New York to Orlando might be $250 non-stop, but a similar flight from New York to Dallas with a transit in Orlando might be $130. If a passenger wants to fly to Orlando using a “skip” strategy, they will disembark at a stopover in Orlando instead of flying directly to Dallas.
In fact, there is an entire tour service dedicated to this activity called Skiplagged.cominform customers of hidden city deals and “expose holes in airfares to save you money.”
Skiplagged works by giving travelers the option to search for a route with a hidden city destination, but the site notes that flights to the hidden city are only available on certain routes. If these options are available, they will appear in flight search results with the last leg of the journey crossed out and the price marked as “skip rate”.
However, airlines are not satisfied with this cost-saving strategy.
In 2014, United Airlines partnered with travel website Orbitz to sue Skiplagged CEO Aktarer Zaman. The airline declared ticket sales in the hidden city “unfair” and “prohibited,” saying the New Yorker’s website cost the company $75,000 in revenue. However, the case was dropped because it was filed in Illinois, where the court had no jurisdiction, because Zaman worked and resided in New York City. Zaman also asserts that the activity is “completely legal”.
Today, Skiplagged advertises their legal success against the airline company on their website, which says, “We’re good, United Airlines actually sued us for that.”
Five years later, Lufthansa sued a passenger who didn’t take the last leg of their journey who bought their ticket. Using the disposable ticket, travelers bought a business-class return ticket from Oslo via Frankfurt to Seattle for around £600. He flew the route Oslo-Frankfurt-Seattle-Frankfurt but failed to make the last leg back to the Norwegian capital.
The German airline claimed that the trip should have cost the customer £2,769 and demanded that he pay the difference between that price and the fare paid. However, an initial trial ruled in the passenger’s favor.
American Airlines then sent a memo to the travel agent in January 2021 warned about the practice. The airline said it planned to start tracking skips and that identifying such behavior could lead to “an unfavorable outcome”.
While skipping the itinerary may seem like a cost-effective way to travel, it comes with many risks as airlines have restricted the practice in recent years. NerdWallet reported that ignored travelers could face consequences from airlines, such as lost loyalty miles or being billed for the last leg of their journey.
Also, baggage skip only works when passengers don’t check in their luggage – as checked baggage will end up in the final ticketed destination, not the transit city.
Booking hidden city tickets using a “skiplagging” strategy is a popular way to save money on expensive flights. But there are some risks associated with throwaway tickets, and passengers who break airline rules could end up paying more than they intended.