- With airfares so high, many travelers turn to unique strategies such as ‘layovers’ to find cheaper flights.
- This means booking a flight to the transit city and skipping the second leg.
- This is sometimes cheaper than booking regular direct flights, but airlines hate it.
The post-pandemic travel problem is causing people to flock to a wide range of destinations, but getting there doesn’t come cheap, with some travelers resorting to cost-cutting measures known as “skip-plugging.” We are forced to rely on strategy.
Skiplugging (also known as ‘hidden city’ or ‘throwaway’ ticketing) is the act of booking a flight with a connection at the intended destination and then avoiding it on the second leg of the journey.
It’s especially attractive because it saves people hundreds of dollars on tickets at a time when high fares continue to plague the industry due to a combination of inflation, high fuel costs and strong post-pandemic demand.
For example, a round-trip ticket from New York to Amsterdam in late June is about $2,850 on Dutch flag carrier KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.
However, operating the booking with the outbound destination set to London City instead of Amsterdam lowers the round-trip fare to approximately $2,150.
Your return flight is still non-stop from Amsterdam, so hypothetically you could skip the second leg to London on your outbound flight and stay in Holland instead.
In some cases, the return trip may be booked separately if the price is lower. Alternatively, the traveler may end up at their original itinerary destination, from where they intend to board their scheduled return flight.
Flight ticket reservation site skipplugged.com has built a business around this concept by providing a platform that allows travelers to be notified of these deals based on their preferred airports and destinations.
However, the company only allows one-way tickets, which can be many times more expensive than booking a round-trip skip-lag itinerary directly through the airline.
While this strategy may seem like a post-pandemic salvation, it’s not as harmless as it seems. In fact, airlines hate it.
In a memo to employees in January 2021, American Airlines has launched a crackdown on this practice By introducing a new tool to notify agents of potential skip lag bookings.
“We have always banned this type of booking practice,” the airline told TravelPulse at the time.
In 2014, United Airlines and travel website Orbitz also joined forces to sue Skiplagged Founder Akhtarr Zaman said his website cost the two men $75,000 in lost revenue due to “unfair competition” and “deceptive behavior.”
The case was filed in Illinois, but was dismissed because the court did not have jurisdiction because Zaman worked and lived in New York City, not Chicago. Skiplagged.com claims the practice is “perfectly legal.” according to the website.
United Airlines told CNN Money in 2015, “We remain troubled that Mr. Zaman continues to openly encourage customers to violate our contract of carriage by purchasing Hidden City tickets. It is done,” he said.
Due to clear disapproval from the airlines, this practice poses a risk to passengers, especially since airlines add written protection against skip lag to their contracts of carriage.
According to NerdWalletAirlines can punish travelers by canceling round-trip flights, stripping them of loyalty miles and elite status.
Skiplagged.com also points out that this strategy doesn’t work with checked baggage. Passengers are unlikely to be able to convince agents to drop off their bags in transit cities, as airlines will tag them to their final destination.
Henry Hartveldt, founder and travel analyst at Atmosphere Research Group, said: “Booking an unusual itinerary could set a red flag and someone would flag it and monitor it during the flight. It’s possible,” he said. told the BBC in 2019. “At some point, a letter or company security may meet you at the gate. The airline’s intent is to intimidate and recoup what it perceives as lost revenue.”
However, he explained that this was a voluntary issue imposed by the airline.
“As an aviation analyst and business person, I fully understand why airlines make the most profit where they have influence,” Hartveld told BCC. “That’s what business is all about.” said. “But when airlines announce ridiculous air pricing and fares to hub airports, [airport] It’s pointlessly expensive, almost like an airline inviting you to book a hidden city. ”