Tips & Tricks: Hidden City Technique
So a couple days ago a lawsuit has gone viral about United Airlines and Orbitz suing a website called “Skiplagged”. Click here for more details on the article. They are seeking a court order to halt the conduct of Skiplagged. Skiplagged is performing a trick that most travel hackers has either performed themselves or at least know. In the travel hacking realm this technique is called the the “Hidden City ticketing” technique.
In simple terms, you purchase an airline ticket that goes from point A connects in point B to arrive at your final destination point C. However, you do not proceed past point B because point B is the actually the final destination you want. By doing this some routes will actually save you quite a bit of money compared to a direct flight from point A to point B.
Before I go into a couple of examples I want to give you a couple of tips before performing this trick.
- Carry-on only, never check in your luggage. Remember you’re planning to get off at point B so if you check in your luggage it will be shipped to the final destination of your ticket, which is point C.
- Purchase two one-way routes. This technique does not work well with round-trips because if you include a hidden city in the outbound leg of your trip you risk the airline in canceling your entire itinerary including your inbound leg. I would advise to book 2 one-way trips.
- Make your final destination, point B where you’re getting off a major city hub. The hidden city trick works great if your point B is a main city hub like San Francisco (SFO), New York (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX), etc. This also includes international hubs like Hong Kong (HKG), Rome (FCO), Taipei (TPE), etc.
Personally, i’m pro-consumer and I believe this practice is definitely legal. Especially if you’re honest about it. If a representative of an airline questions you about it then simple tell the truth. However, airlines will frown upon this because as what all business are all about is profits and they lose business due to this. So here are a couple risk that go with this trick:
- Flight cancellations. While I personally never have gotten a flight that was canceled there is always that potential risk it will be. With hidden city technique there comes a risk where you will need to prepare yourself if this happens because the airline will want to reroute you to your final destination which may not include your connecting city, point B, where you want to get off.
- Do not book through a travel agency. Travel agencies risk getting what they call a “debit memo” where they will need to pay the difference between the itinerary you booked vs the one you actually flew.
- Barred from flying with the airlines. Try not to use this technique with the same airline in a short amount of time period. Some airline will start to catch wind you’re abusing their system and you risk being banned. While I personally have never heard anyone being banned from flying with a specific airline for abusing the hidden city ticketing. It’s still a small risk.
Now here are some examples of some great hidden city ticketing savings:
Example 1: Honolulu to San Francisco
HNL-SFO (Direct Flight)
HNL-SFO-SAN (Hidden City ticket)
Results: Savings of $53 (22% savings). In addition, if you get a nonstop flight between HNL-SFO on a hidden ticketing ticket compared to a direct flight with a layover in Seattle.
Example 2: Chicago to Rome
ORD-FCO (Direct Flight)
ORD-FCO-CAI (Hidden City ticket)
Results: Savings of $459 (41% savings).
Example 3: Phoenix to Washington
PHX-DCA (Direct Flight)
PHX-DCA-BOS (Hidden City ticket)
Results: Savings of $23 (11% savings). In addition, again you get a nonstop flight from PHX-DCA on a hidden city ticketing compared to a direct flight with one connecting flight.
You can add this to your bag of tips and tricks for travel hacking. This definitely comes in handy when you need to make an emergency travel. Especially, when you don’t have any points stashed away and need to buy a paid fare. Happy New Year again to everyone. Hope to jump start this year with a bang.