I will start out by saying that I am not a lawyer and do not claim to have a full understanding of the legal ramifications of Hidden City Ticketing. That being said, I’m happy to help you understand the benefits and the risks of Hidden City Ticketing.
What Is Hidden City Ticketing?
Hidden City Ticketing is when you want to fly from your origin (A) to your destination (B) but you add on another city (C) to the route (A-B-C).
Now why would you add City C to the route? It’s simple. It’s because the price of A-B is higher than the price from A-B-C.
The key here is that while you would book the route A-B-C, you would “miss” your connection from B-C and end up in B.
Why Does Hidden City Ticketing Exist?
If you followed along during my series describing how to find routes and availability for reward flights, you will begin to understand the complexities associated with the combinations and permutations associated with airline routes. If you think about the route of Los Angeles to New York, you start to see the different possible routes to get from A to B. You could fly direct or you could go from LAX-DEN-JFK or you could go LAX-PHX-ABQ-JFK. The possibilities are almost endless.
As you can see, keeping track of all the possible routes that a passenger may choose can become quite complicated for an airline to price correctly.
With this in mind, what you are attempting to do is to take advantage of the
mispriced lower priced route in order to save money.
What’s a Good Canadian Example?
Two years ago, I need a one way flight from Calgary (YYC) to Vancouver (YVR) and the price was coming in at $183 per passenger. Using Hidden City Ticketing, I was able to find that the route of Calgary (YYC) to Vancouver (YVR) to Edmonton (YEG) was about $60 cheaper per person.
So being the frugal guy I am, I booked the YYC-YVR-YEG route and saved myself about $180 ($60 x 3).
I guess I just got caught up in the excitement of the Vancouver airport and missed my connection to Edmonton. Damn.
How Do You Find Hidden City Ticketing?
Well, you could try to find these routes yourself but in my experience, unless you really understand routing, it’s going to be difficult (and frustrating) to find the routes that work well with this strategy.
Rather than wasting a bunch of time, I would recommend a couple of resources.
Now if you have been following Travel Hacking News for the last couple of years, you will remember that United tried to sue Skipplagged in order to get them to stop helping passengers find Hidden City Tickets. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed but only because of a procedural snafu. United has vowed to continue the suit but we haven’t heard anything for a year and a half.
Using Skiplagged is quite simple. It’s just like searching for your route the normal way.
The results come back as you would expect from a normal search engine but it also tells you about the Hidden City Ticketing possibilities.
Now both Standard Fares and Hidden City Ticketing Fares come up by default but I am showing you the potential savings.
First we can see that a direct flight would cost $371 CAD. But what about the Hidden City Ticketing?
WOW! $214 CAD. That’s a savings of $157!
As you can see, there are very real savings possible with Hidden City Ticketing.
Jetpuzzle is a Chrome Plugin that allows you to do the same thing as Skiplagged. The interface is not as pretty but there’s a lot of horsepower behind the hood.
One BIG bug to be aware of with Jetpuzzle is that the Date of Search is coded incorrectly so you actually want to search for the day AFTER your desired date of travel. For example, if we want to fly on May 5th, 2017, we plug in May 6th, 2017. It’s a bit annoying but worth the effort.
The way Jetpuzzle differs from Skiplagged is that it uses Google Flights to Brute Force search for cheap Hidden City Tickets. While the search is not as intelligent as that of Skiplagged, it certain does a thorough job but it may take a little longer to get your results.
The other thing to keep in mind is that it prices in USD whereas Skiplagged prices in the country of ticketing (the origin airport).
So what are the results from Jetpuzzle?
Jetpuzzle found a flight from Calgary to Detroit with a connection in either Winnipeg (YWG) or Ottawa (YOW) for a price of $153 USD (~$204 CAD), which is $10 cheaper than what Skiplagged found but includs an additional stop.
In the above example, Skiplagged found the better routing ($10 more expensive but with a direct flight from YYC-YYZ). The big takeaway here is that you have two tools to use to try and find the cheapest revenue flight possible. Both are excellent resources and should be part of your flight search arsenal.
Using Hidden City Ticketing is not without its risks. Below are some of the ones to consider before you decide to use this strategy:
- You cannot check luggage. You must travel with a carry-on only … something I recommend anyways. If you check luggage you will be in for a very bad time as I am sure the police will be wondering why you had luggage on a plane you didn’t intend on travelling on (hello terrorist watch list).
- If your flight experiences IRROP (Irregular Operations – flights cancelled, pilot strike, etc.), you may be rebooked to your flight’s intended destination. For example, if you were going from YYC-YVR-YEG and there was low cloud cover in Vancouver making it impossible to land, you may very well get routed directly from YYC-YEG.
- Airlines don’t like this and you may forfeit your frequent flyer points that you would have received on the route. They may go so far as to ban you from flying their airline.
With all this being said, you need to determine how you want to plan your travel. The last point is not really a big concern as this is not my regular way of booking revenue flights so I only do this once every few years but it definitely provides you options.
Like in poker, you want to leave yourself outs. Hidden City Ticketing just gives you one more option if you can’t find or book that award flight.
Also published on Medium.