How it works and why airlines can’t afford it: NPR

A lawsuit brought by American Airlines is drawing renewed attention to the controversial travel hack known as Skiplagging, or hidden city tickets.

Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images

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Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images

A lawsuit brought by American Airlines is drawing renewed attention to the controversial travel hack known as Skiplagging, or hidden city tickets.

Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images

A new lawsuit filed by American Airlines against the controversial ticketing site has drawn renewed attention to “skip tickets” or “hidden city ticketing” — a technique some passengers use to get lower fares.

What is skip?

It works like this: Let’s say a passenger wants to travel from New York to Charlotte, North Carolina, but the nonstop route is too expensive. So instead, they book a cheaper flight that takes them from New York to Denver, with a stopover in Charlotte. Instead of flying to Denver, they simply disembark in North Carolina and dump the rest of the ticket.

This practice is not entirely new. “Travel agents have known about hidden prices in the city for decades, and in some cases, agents knowingly tell their clients,” says Henry. Hartfeldt, travel industry analyst at Atmosphere Research Group.

But start with airline prices to rise in late 2021Skipping is starting to get more attention.

One site that has helped spread hidden city tickets is The website allows users to type in a desired destination, and select flights where that destination is actually a stopover en route to another city (at a cheaper fare). The customer simply exits the airport in the connecting city and never completes the second leg of the journey a trip.

American Airlines last week I filed a lawsuit v. Skiplagged in Federal Court. In its complaint, American alleges that Skiplagged’s practices are “deceptive and abusive”.

“Skiplagged deceives the public into believing that, even though it does not have the authority to form and issue a contract on behalf of American, somehow it can still issue a fully valid ticket. But it cannot. Every ‘ticket’ issued by Skiplagged is at risk of being hacked,” she said. The airline is void.

Website administrators could not be reached for comment. But Skiplagged, which has been around for a decade, has survived previous lawsuits from the likes of United Airlines and Orbitz. She even boasts of these victories on her website, saying: “Our flights are very cheap United file a lawsuit against us …but we won.”

Why don’t airlines like skips?

Skiplaging is not illegal. But most major airlines, including American Airlines, Delta Southwest and United, don’t allow it.

For one thing, airlines lose money on the practice, says Tim Huh, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s Sodder School of Business who co-authored a study on skipping last year. For the indirect flight, “they have a lower price ceiling compared to the direct flight so that they can attract customers.”

When someone skips the last leg of a journey, Airlines cannot fill an empty seat. which would have sold for more money had it not been booked as part of a multi-stop itinerary.

“They sell this seat with a 95 percent chance of you attending,” Huh says. “This is what happened to the airline. So this is a (huge) loss in the system.”

Additionally, failing to board a connecting flight can cause confusion and delays at the gate, says Hartfeldt. Airlines will “make announcements[like]’Calling the passenger John Doe or Jane Doe.’ … The airline doesn’t want to leave people behind.”

What are the risks for customers who skip?

If the airline finds out what you’re doing, they can simply cancel your ticket or even ban you from traveling on it. That’s what happened recently to a North Carolina teen who booked an American Airlines flight from Florida to New York but got off at his Charlotte airport. boy’s father Tell from the inside that America banned him from flying the airline for three years.

“If you do it repeatedly,[the airline]will say you owe us money,” says Hartfeldt. “They may be willing to settle for a certain number of cents on the dollar. They may want to collect all that amount. But airlines can and will take steps to protect themselves.”

He says there are other drawbacks, too. Even if your skip attempt is initially successful, you will likely only succeed in traveling in one direction. Once the airline realizes that you have not flown to the destination where you booked your ticket, they will almost certainly cancel your return.

Finally, any checked baggage will arrive at the ticketed destination without you. So, that’s the way it is.

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