Sometimes, looking for the best travel deals can cost you more than you expect.
According to the U.S. Transportation Security Administration, airport traffic is close to pre-pandemic levels. In 2022 TSA saw about 2.07 million passengers per day, compared to 2.21 million in 2019. With travel returning to those pre-pandemic normals, that means the return of increased flight prices. And it makes travelers eager to find a good deal. There are a lot of websites and apps designed to share travel deals, but there is one hack that is worth bypassing.
What Is Skiplagging?
Skiplagging is when a passenger purchases a flight and only uses part of the itinerary. Typically, this occurs when buying a direct flight to a destination is more costly than a flight that includes a layover to that same destination. For instance, if you are trying to get from North Carolina to Nevada, booking a flight to California with a layover in Nevada may be cheaper.
This hack is also known as “hidden city” or “throwaway ticketing.” There is a website, Skiplagged, dedicated to helping travelers find throwaway tickets. While it is not illegal, airlines are not happy about this travel hack as it costs them money. In fact, the founder of Skiplagged was previously sued by Southwest for allegedly breaking their website terms by displaying hidden city fares.
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What Are the Risks?
This practice is undoubtedly a money saver that can come with some costly and serious risks. Airlines are actively monitoring flight reservations to catch on to passengers who may only take one leg of their flight. Truthfully one or two occurrences may not raise too many eyebrows, but making it a habit or doing it for multiple people on one reservation might. Continuously skip-lagging can result in being banned from an airline. This is particularly problematic for people who depend on regional airports, as there’s often a dependence on a small handful of airlines. Being banned by one of them could create serious travel limitations.
It is also advisable to only do this on one-way itineraries as airlines could cancel the return leg of a round-trip ticket. This cancellation will not refund any money spent on a ticket; last-minute flights can be rather costly.
There are also some minor inconveniences to using this travel hack as well. If you choose to do this, you should avoid using your airline member number. Though it may not seem like a big deal to book a reservation as a guest, ultimately, no miles will be earned for the flight. Miles can be converted into free flights and upgrades, cover checked luggage fees, or even purchase drinks on board or in the lounge. It’s a pretty big deal to be losing out on earning them. Accrued miles also put you in different tiers, which unlock different benefits.
You should also pack light because checking luggage is not an option with skiplagging. Checked luggage goes all the way to the final destination. With skiplagging, you will end your journey at the layover location. It would be best to pack using a carry-on and personal item only.
Like other travelers, I love to save money when traveling wherever I can. However, to me, it’s just not worth it. Alternatively, you can use sites like Priceline, Expedia, Skyscanner, or Hopper to track down great flight deals.