Travel Website of the Week: Skiplagged

SkiplaggedI’ve known about Skiplagged for a while; in fact I almost wrote about it before deciding it wasn’t really worth most people’s time. However, after all of its recent media attention, and since I’ve been getting tons of questions and media inquiries about it, this week I figured it’s time. Skiplagged—created by a 22-year-old whiz kid from New York—shows users how to find lower fares using a strategy that’s been around for years called “hidden city” ticketing. I’ve even written about the “hidden city” trick many times myself, always making sure to warn consumers that it’s against airline policy (if you get caught you have a good chance of losing all of your miles and possibly paying a fare difference).

Anyway, Skiplagged was recently slapped with a joint lawsuit by United and Orbitz, which are claiming that Skiplagged is “promoting prohibited forms of travel” and “falsely associat[ing] Skiplagged with [them].” You can currently donate to their legal fund or simply check out the search for yourself.

“Hidden city” ticketing
I buy dozens of tickets a year, and have been doing so for the last twenty years. But on only one occasion did I came close to using the “hidden city” strategy, and it was when I needed to get to Cleveland from LA and all of the one-way tickets were pricing out at a whopping $600! So I decided to use one of my other strategies, which is searching alternate airports (you can search for all domestic alternate airports on a site I created called AlternateAirports.com). Using that strategy I found a ticket to Buffalo (200 miles away) from LA for only $230 but looking closely at the routing I noticed the flight first stopped in Cleveland ON THAT SAME EXACT $600 flight I wanted.

I know it doesn’t seem to makes sense since Buffalo is further from Cleveland, and since you have to take two flights instead of one, but the airlines do this to compete with other airlines. One of their competitors must’ve had a sale on Los Angeles to Buffalo so in order to compete they offered the same price. Meanwhile, at the time United had a monopoly on the LA-Cleveland route, so they had no incentive to offer a low fare on that route. In theory I could’ve bought a one-way ticket from LA to Buffalo and just gotten off in Cleveland and let my connecting ticket to BUF go to waste but that would’ve been against airline policy and I didn’t want to risk losing all of my miles. So I didn’t do it.

Had I wanted to do it, I would’ve just purchased a one-way ticket and made sure not to check bags or put in my mileage account number. I would also have made sure to be one of the first on the plane, because if there’d been no overhead space available, I’d have been forced to gate check my bag to my final destination—and that would have been a problem.

FYI: The airlines are so much against this trick that United Airlines and Orbitz are now suing Skiplagged’s founder, asking in the suit for reimbursement of lost revenue and other remedies.

Have YOU ever used the hidden city trick? Leave a comment below and tell us about it!

Johnny Jet

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About the Author

Johnny Jet
I used to be afraid to fly and at times even leave the house! I conquered my fear (long story) and now I travel to 20+ countries a year sharing my firsthand knowledge, tips and deals with friends, family and readers. Please sign up to our free newsletters and tell your friends!

7 Comments on "Travel Website of the Week: Skiplagged"

  1. Way to go, United and Orbitz! By suing that 22-year-old kid, they’ve called a lot more attention to hidden city ticketing than would’ve happened if they had just left well enough alone! Because of all the press, now millions of people know about it who would otherwise have had no clue what it was. And, people have donated more than $60,000 to him!

    http://www.gofundme.com/skiplagged

  2. I flew into Washington, DC from Venice Italy. I had to be in Florida the following day. It did not seem practical to fly home to California only to turn around and fly back across the country. I found that while we were on a direct Venice to LA flight, it stopped in Washington to go through customs. I got off the flight, grabbed my bag and went through customs, my wife and the rest of our group dropped their bags on the belt and got back on the plane to LA. I continued to the exit and grabbed my waiting flight from Washington to Florida. Saved me the cross country flight back to the East coast, about 10 hrs of travel, and was much a less difficult trip. I initiall asked the airline if I could arrange just this step and they were completely against it. No harm, no foul. They did not detect that I did not get on the continuing flight– apparently since they did not even ask my wife what happened to me and no one else would have used my now empty seat from Washington to LAX

  3. I recently did it… without knowing I was using an old trick.
    I found this super cheap ticket from LA – Copenhagen -LA with a short layover in Toronto. I booked my flight months in advance and since I got a $450 round trip deal I couldn’t be happier. Until my office decided to have a round of meetings in DC the day after I returned from vacation.
    I was flying a crazy amount of hours from Copenhagen to LA to fly the next morning to DC. A friend of mine suggested that since I had a layover in Toronto, I could take a quick flight from Toronto to DC and saved myself about 10 hours in a plane.
    Me and my husband are frequent flyers so we travel with a small carry on. Once we landed in Toronto we got off the plane spent the night at a hotel by the airport and flew to DC the following morning. I got to my DC meetings well rested and not that jetlagged.
    I guess we did the “hidden city” strategy. But we were just trying to save some flying hours. We simply didn’t take the last leg of our trip and it was fantastic.
    About my miles? I got fully credited for all the flights I actually took.

    • I don’t believe this is considered a “hidden city” trip because you paid full fair for both flights. It is when you pay a lower cost to g0 somewhere and get off at an earlier stop so airlines can’t sell that connection and they loose money. Do I have that right?

  4. It’s been a few years, but as I recall, my wife was on an LAX-CDG flight that stopped at LHR. Right after landing she told a Flight Attendant (then called a Stewardess) that she’d just heard from a friend in London, and would like to visit for a day or two. The FA told her that it would be OK to get off, which she did. Later that week she made it to Paris via the Eurail Chunnel ride. Great trip. Saved a couple hundred bucks, even including the Eurostar leg.

  5. WE HAVE OCCASIONALLY NEEDED ONE WAY TICKETS THAT WERE PRICED HIGHER THAN A ROUND TRIP. SO OF COURSE WE BOOKED THE ROUND TRIP AND THREW AWAY THE RETURN.

    THEN THERE IS ALSO THE BACK TO BACK TECHNIQUE IF A SATURDAY NIGHT STAY PRODUCES A LOWER FARE AND YOU DON’T WANT A SATURDAY NIGHT STAY. THIS ONLY WORKS IF YOU CAN USE A PAIR OF ROUND TRIPS.

  6. Hmm, great concept. Sound like it includes doing what I tried and succeeded at at least once – getting a ticket from A to B to C and getting off in B, or skipping first leg of trip and instead picking it up at point B. Or buying a return ticket but not going all the way back if there was a stopover. When I did this in Canada in the 1990s either the police or the airline called me totally freaked out, playing the bully, and telling me that it was an impossible or illegal plan (I forget which).

    Yet I picked up the YVR->SEA-> BKK ticket in SEA and the airline (I think it was NW) was absolutely no problem, as if there was nothing unusual. But, be careful I was treated on the phone by some unnamed person as if I wa a criminal.

    I tried something similar in MNL and it failed. I had a reason (net access I think it was) to get out of the lousy in-transit lounge. My ticket was reschedulable. When Immigration refused to let me into RP briefly I said ‘then I have changed my mind, I am visiting your country for overnight and I will pay for the vsia of course, OK?’ The man said no and got very angry at me for ‘telling him how to do his job’.

    So apparently for international flights there can be some issues getting creative.

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