Skiplagging cheap flight hack, also known as hidden city ticketing, is a controversial yet clever flight booking technique that can help travelers access much cheaper airfares. The concept involves booking a multi-stop itinerary but only taking the first leg of the journey before “skipping” the rest. While debated in ethics, skiplagging is not illegal and with care can unlock major savings for savvy fliers.
How Skiplagging Flight Hacks Work
Airlines price tickets based on the origin and final destination. Often, one-way or multi-stop fares cost significantly less than nonstop flights between the same two endpoints. Skiplaggers exploit this by booking these cheaper, more complex itineraries but only taking the first segment.
For example, a flight from New York to Los Angeles may cost $300 nonstop. But booking New York-Los Angeles-Seattle as a single ticket could be just $200. The skiplagger would purchase this multi-stop ticket but get off after the New York-LA portion, skipping the LA-Seattle leg while saving $100.
By abusing flight combinations not intended to be used this way, skiplaggers access substantially discounted fares. The tradeoffs are inconvenience of connections, risk of detection, and ethical concerns. But the cost savings often make it tempting.
When Does Skiplagging Cheap Flight Hack Work Best?
Ideal skiplagging opportunities arise when:
- A nonstop flight is much more expensive than a similar itinerary with a connection.
- The layover point is a major hub airport. More flight options increase chances of finding a suitable skiplag.
- The first leg is the longest portion. Minimizes the skipped mileage.
- The first leg arrives early in the day. Allows ample time to disembark before the second leg.
- The airline has a liberal booking policy. Low change fees and refunds reduce risk if caught.
- Carry-on only. Checked bags must be collected before skipping.
Domestic U.S. flights offer abundant skiplagging chances, especially through hubs like Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas and Denver on major airlines. International skiplagging is riskier but possible between alliance/codeshare partners.
Step-by-Step Guide to Booking Skiplag Flights
Follow these steps to book a skiplag itinerary while minimizing hassles and detection:
1. Identify Your Target Route
Determine the direct flight you ultimately want to take and your preferred travel dates. This will be the first leg you actually fly.
2. Search for Indirect Options
Use flight search engines like Google Flights and Skyscanner to find cheaper multi-stop alternatives. Search extensively across nearby airports, airlines and routings.
3. Analyze Skiplag Viability
Assess if the indirect flights offer sufficient cost savings to justify skiplagging. Evaluate connection times, airports, airlines and baggage concerns.
4. Book Indirect Itinerary
Complete the full multi-leg booking while noting flight numbers, arrival times and baggage details carefully. Online check-in may be restricted until closer to departure.
5. Inform Airline of “Changes”
Call the airline immediately after booking and advise you must unexpectedly cancel the last leg(s). Sound disappointed, not suspicious. Get confirmation the remaining segments are ticketed.
6. Double Check Status Before Departure
A few days before departure, verify active flight status and seat assignments solely for the segment(s) you actually intend to fly. Reconfirm luggage policies if checking bags.
7. Only Take First Leg
Board and take only the first flight. Have plausible excuses prepared if questioned, but maintain innocence. Retrieve checked bags if any and enjoy your savings!
Skiplagging Pros and Cons
- Substantially cheaper than nonstop fares in many cases
- No laws explicitly prohibit the practice
- Minimal advance planning required
- Can be combined with mileage awards
- Risk of detection and cancellation by airline
- Stranding if downstream legs are voided
- Requires more complex itineraries
- Unsustainable if widely exploited
- Ethically questionable to some
Skiplagging Risks and Precautions
- Airlines can identify and cancel skiplag bookings, especially with checked luggage, so carry-on only reduces detection risks.
- Maintain you innocently must cancel later segments due to unforeseen circumstances if questioned. Never admit ulterior motives.
- Be prepared to take downstream legs if first segment is severely delayed or canceled. Build in buffer time.
- Read all fare rules thoroughly and ensure the ticket permits changes for a fee if needed. Avoid basic non-refundable restricted fares.
- Try less brazen options like hidden city ticketing just between authorized points if concerned about blowback.
Skiplagging challenges traditional airline revenue management models. Critics consider it unethical gaming of systems meant for legitimate multi-stop travel. But supporters view it as fair game to find savings amid historically anti-consumer airline pricing strategies. The growth of ultra low-cost carriers also reduces cost differentials that enable skiplagging arbitrage.
In regards to lawfulness, no specific regulations prohibit skiplagging in the United States or internationally. Contract of carriage rules barring “improper use of tickets” are vague and untested in courts. However, airlines retain discretion to cancel bookings considered abusive, demand additional payment, or restrict future bookability as enforcement deterrents. This legal gray zone means skiplaggers enter risky territory.
The Future of Skiplagging
Looking ahead, airlines are cracking down harder to limit skiplagging, especially as sites like Skiplagged more openly promote the tactic. United Airlines sued Skiplagged in 2015 alleging fare abuse but eventually dropped the suit. Still, expect airlines to improve detection capabilities using passenger name lists, restricted online connections and luggage tracking. Penalties for abusing fare rules may also grow harsher.
However, the fundamental economic incentives driving skiplagging persist. As low-cost competition heats up, airlines may be forced to move away from legacy pricing models. Unbundling fares, a la carte service fees, and simplified rate structures could organically reduce skiplagging motivations. But with ongoing consolidation and limited transparency, true fare reform still appears distant.
Until then, the cat and mouse game between enterprising skiplaggers and airlines continues. While risky in the short-term, skiplagging currently remains a clever travel hack for savvy flyers willing to massager complex itineraries to unlock significant flight savings. Proceed carefully, but the rewards can be worth it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is skiplagging illegal?
No laws specifically prohibit skiplagging, but airlines consider it a violation of fare rules and can cancel bookings or restrict future travel if detected. The legal status remains ambiguous.
What if I have luggage to check?
Checking bags vastly increases chances of being caught and having your later segments invalidated while bags are enroute. Carry-on only is strongly recommended.
Can I skiplag on international flights?
International skiplagging is very challenging due to immigration concerns, luggage transfers and tighter airline scrutiny. Domestic U.S. flights offer much easier skiplgging.
What if I actually want to take a later leg after skiplagging initial portion?
Since your entire downstream itinerary will likely be voided after skiplagging the first flight, taking further segments is nearly impossible. You would have to freshly book and pay for just those needed legs.
Is it safer to book skiplags with same airline or across different airlines?
Using two or more airlines reduces each carrier’s visibility into your full itinerary, decreasing skiplag detection risk. But if caught, you lose protection of a single airline’s policies.
Can I still earn frequent flyer miles if I skiplater segments on an itinerary?
In most cases your frequent flyer account will be credited for miles actually flown before skiplagging. But airlines may deduct rewards if they determine rules were broken.
If airlines offer fully refundable fares, does it make skiplagging pointless?
Refundable fares eliminate financial risks but still cost more upfront than skiplagging. You must decide if guaranteed peace of mind is worth the pricing premium over a potentially canceled skiplag.