In keeping with our theme this week: “How to Guarantee an Open Seat Next to You on Your Next American Airlines Flight” here’s a brand new website that I’m sure they are going to hate me for featuring. But all savvy travelers and travel agents know about hidden city airfares. They are against airline policy so you didn’t learn it from me but here’s an example of how they work: once I needed to go from L.A. to Cleveland with just a few days advance notice and a nonstop one-way ticket was $600. I searched alternate airports on www.AlternateAirports.com (I own it) and found a ticket to Buffalo for only $230. Buffalo is 220 miles away and before I started looking for rental cars I noticed the flight first stops in Cleveland on that same exact $600 flight! I know it makes no sense since Buffalo is farther east from Cleveland. You have to take two flights instead of one but there must be a higher demand for last-minute L.A. to Cleveland tickets than there is L.A. to Buffalo.
If I wanted to break airline policy I could’ve just gotten off in Cleveland and let my connecting ticket to BUF go to waste. And if I did that I would’ve bought a one-way ticket, made sure not to check bags or put in my mileage account number so I wouldn’t get caught. However, there’s a new website that just launched that is offering to figure out the hidden cities for you.
Simply visit AirFareIQ.com, click on the ‘Search for Hidden City Fares’ link on any page, enter your desired departure and arrival cities, and click ‘Search’. AirFareIQ will show you the hidden city flights they found that cost less than the major airlines’ typical short-notice, one-way fares. These flights are for the trip you intend to take, WITHOUT the connecting flight you need to book (but not actually fly) to get the lower fare. If you find flights and fares that work for your budget and schedule, simply click the ‘Click Here to Buy’ button, enter your promo code, and they’ll e-mail you the COMPLETE routings for today, tomorrow, and the next day, in both directions.
Hidden city fares generally only work for short-notice travel. Once you have at least 7 days advance, the airlines’ discounted fares are generally lower than a hidden city fare. They don’t book any travel on the site, the client is encouraged to book directly through the airlines’ websites, to avoid the airline issuing a debit memo or “fine” to a ticket-issuing travel agency. All prices are one-way, because a hidden-city round trip would have all segments after “missing” a segment cancelled by the airlines. But they provide the hidden city data for BOTH directions between their given city pair.
The normal fee is $5 but the owner is offering a free promo code to everybody that follows him on Twitter for the next two weeks (he will send an “auto-reply” promo code via direct message) or emails firstname.lastname@example.org with “Johnny Jet” in the subject line (limited to the first 100). I just tested it out and it worked. The United flight that it sent was $101 cheaper and going on to Fort Lauderdale.
Overall verdict: This is a great last-minute option. Since it’s against airline policy, you can’t check bags and it’s risky to accrue miles.