Skiplagging Flights: What is it & Why Your Airline Hates This Legal Booking Method (2023)
Skiplagging, also known as hidden-city ticketing, can save a lot of money on flights. Unfortunately, it comes with a lot of risk and hassle. Here is everything you need to know about skiplagging and if you should do it.
Table of Contents
What is Skiplagging?
Skiplagging is getting off at the layover city for a flight with one or more connections. It makes sense because nonstop flights to a destination are sometimes more expensive than reaching that city via a layover. Here is an example for someone looking to travel from Boston to Kansas City.
- Boston to Kansas City – $350 Nonstop Flight Price
- Boston to Kansas City to Los Angeles – $200 Flight Price
The nonstop flight from Boston to Kansas City is $150 more expensive than flying from Boston to Kansas City to Los Angeles. Skiplagging is purchasing the Boston to Los Angeles ticket and getting off at the Kansas City layover.
Is Skiplagging Illegal? What Are Potential Penalties?
While entirely legal, skiplagging is against most airlines’ contract of carriage. Airlines lose money when people skiplag, which is why they hate it.
Skipping the final leg of your itinerary means your airline can’t sell that seat to someone else. In many cases, could sell it to someone traveling nonstop, which means a higher fare. Additionally, it creates confusion at the gate because your airline knows you flew the initial leg and is expecting you on the next flight.
Here are potential penalties if you get caught.
- Forfeiting Frequent Flyer Miles
- Forfeiting Airline Status
- Having Your Ticket Canceled
- Having to Pay the Difference in Fares
- Temporary Ban From the Airline
- Lawsuit (but this is rare)
Lawsuits are rare. While airlines have sued flyers before over skiplagging, most lawsuits are from airlines suing skiplagged.com (usually, the judge sides with skiplagged.com). Regardless, getting caught could lead to a lot of hassle, especially if it is with your favorite airline.
The Vacationer Tip
Your odds of getting caught increase if you do it more than once with the same airline. Do not make it a habit.
Requirements, Restrictions, & Tips to Successfully Skiplag
There are many things to keep in mind when skiplagging. Failing to do these things greatly increases your chance of getting caught or other problems arising.
- Only Book One-Way Tickets – You must only book one-way tickets when skiplagging. After missing a flight, your airline will cancel the rest of your itinerary, which includes your return flight.
- Do Not Check Luggage – Only bring a carry-on bag. Even better, only bring a personal item that fits under your seat; Full-size carry-on bags risk being gate-checked. Checked luggage is sent to your final destination, which you’ll never reach when skiplagging.
- Do Not Tell Anyone from the Airline Your Plan – Skiplagging is probably against your airline’s contract of carriage. Before flying, do not let anyone from your airline in on your plan.
- Do Not Use Your Frequent Flyer Number – Penalties for skiplagging include forfeiting frequent flyer miles and airline status. While your airline can figure it out, do not make it easier by including your frequent flyer number in your booking.
- Do Not Do It With Your Preferred Airline – My home airport is Philadelphia International Airport, an American Airlines hub. Therefore, I hold American Airlines status and value its miles over other airlines. Putting that at risk to save a few bucks would not be smart. Instead, I’d be better off skiplagging with Delta Airlines, an airline I rarely fly.
- Do Not Make it a Habit – While you could get caught the first time, airlines are looking to punish habitual offenders. Consider skiplagging if the deal is too good to miss, but you are better off using other methods for finding cheap flight deals.
- Bring All Required Documents for the Full Itinerary – Even if you are getting off early, bring all required documents to the airport. For example, the cheapest way to get to Minneapolis from Houston may be to book a flight to Winnipeg with a Minneapolis layover. Even though your plan is to get off in Minneapolis and never enter Canada, you must still bring your passport.
Is Skiplagging Worth the Hassle for the Savings? (Pros & Cons)
For me, skiplagging is not worth the hassle. However, I do see the appeal for some people in certain situations.
Pros of Skiplagging & When it Makes Sense
- Huge Potential Savings (hundreds or thousands of dollars)
- The Carry-On Requirement is Not an Issue for You (short trip or you have access to a laundry machine)
- It’s With an Airline You Have No Loyalty To (a ban would not upset you)
- You Do Not Mind Booking Separate One-Way Tickets
- The Risk Does Not Bother You
Cons of Skiplagging & When it Does Not Make Sense
- The Savings Are Negligible (skiplagging is not worth saving $20)
- It’s Your Preferred Airline, and You Want to Earn Miles and Not Piss it Off.
- You Require a Problem-Free Trip (no risk of getting caught)
- You’re Traveling With Family (having your tickets canceled could ruin your family trip)
- You Need to Check a Bag (you can’t check a bag in 95% of situations)
- You Want a Simple Trip (roundtrip tickets)
- Your Airline May Change Your Layover City (more on that below)
Rarely, your airline may change your layover city, which is your actual destination. For example, you book a flight from San Francisco to Orlando with the intention of getting off at the Chicago layover. Instead, your airline changes the layover to Denver. You then have to get your airline to put you on another flight from San Francisco to Orlando with a layover in Chicago, which is easier said than done. Remember, you can’t tell your airline your intention to get off in the layover city.
How to Find Skiplagging Fares Using Skiplagged.com
The best way to find skiplagging fares is to use skiplagged.com (or by downloading the app at Google Play or the Apple Store). It is an OTA (online travel agency) similar to Expedia and Travelocity; That means you’ll be booking your flight with skiplagged.com instead of with the airline. Here is how to do it.
- Go to skiplagged.com.
- Select the “Roundtrip” or “One Way” option. If you select a roundtrip flight, skiplagged lets you book two one-way tickets.
- Enter your departure and destination cities, states, countries, or continents (or choose anywhere if you’re flexible).
- Make sure the “Skiplagging” option is turned on. Find it in the left column when using desktop.
- Review the various fares. In many cases, skiplagging will not be the cheapest way to fly. If it is, decide if the savings are worth the hassle.
- Complete the booking process with skiplagged.com if you choose a skiplagging fare. If not, I recommend booking directly with the airline.
In addition to skiplagging risks, there are also risks in booking flights with an OTA instead of directly with the airline. If you need to change or cancel your flight, you go through the OTA’s customer service, which is usually slower and worse than the airlines. That becomes a problem when time is of the essence (such as during flight delays and cancellations), and you need to make a quick change.
The Vacationer Tip
Only book with skiplagged.com if you are booking a skiplagging fare. Otherwise, skiplagged.com offers no advantage over other OTAs, which may have better coupons. My advice is to book all non-skiplagging flights directly with the airline, however.
In What Situations is Skiplagging Going to Have the Cheaper Price?
You’re more likely to get a good deal skiplagging when your destination is a major hub. For example, Charlotte Douglas International Airport is a major American Airlines hub. Here is a potential scenario where skiplagging makes sense.
- Philadelphia to Charlotte – $400 Nonstop Flight Price
- Philadelphia to Charlotte to Charleston – $300 Flight Price
In this situation, you need to decide if the risk is worth $100. As a frequent American Airlines flyer, it would not be for me. Maybe you prefer United Airlines and do not care if you fly American Airlines ever again. Then it may make sense.
But there is no way to predict the routes where skiplagging will be the cheapest way to book. That’s why skiplagged.com is such a great source.
Does Skiplagging Work for International Flights?
Yes, skiplagging is a thing for international flights. That includes flights originating in the United States as well as those originating abroad. Additionally, skiplagging works for flights that never touch U.S. soil.
The same rules apply to domestic flights. Be aware of any passport and visa requirements. Additionally, opt for a carry-on, with a backpack or other personal item that fits under your seat being preferable.
The Vacationer Tip
You MAY be able to get away skiplagging and checking a bag on an international flight. For example, you book a flight from London to Los Angeles with a layover in Newark (your intended destination). You may be required to grab your checked bag before going through customs. If that is the case, you can check a bag, get it in Newark, and skip the flight to Los Angeles. Check with your airline and its policies before doing this!
Better Ways to Find Cheap Flight Deals Without the Risk
There are much better ways find cheap flight prices. Our how to find cheap flights guide details ways to do it. Here are some of the top tips.
- Be Flexible. Find the cheapest days to fly to a destination and plan your vacation around those dates.
- Use Google Flights. Our how to use Google Flights guide details the best ways to find availability.
- Consider the Google Flights Explore Map if your destination is flexible.
- Our best days of the week to fly guide goes over the cheapest weekday and weekend days.
- Consider a travel credit card. Our top picks for booking airfare include the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card, and The Platinum Card® from American Express.
- Check to see how many frequent flyer miles you have. Additionally, check your credit card transfer partners. Depending on the airline and route, you may be able to redeem miles at 2 cents per mile or more.
Those methods are legal and, more importantly, within your airline’s contract of carriage. Additionally, you can check a bag, book a roundtrip flight, and enter your frequent flyer number with zero stress.
Skiplagging is legal. It is against just about every airline’s contract of carriage, however.
They might. Possible punishments include loss of frequent flyer miles and status, getting your ticket canceled, having to make up fair differences, and lawsuits (though this is highly unlikely)
For a one-off, probably not, but it is possible. Skiplagging often with the same airline increases your chances of getting caught.
In most cases, you should not check bags. The reason is airlines generally send your bags to the final destination on your itinerary, which you will be skipping. Instead, only bring a carry-on bag, but we really recommend just bringing a backpack or other personal item.
No, you must book one-way flights to successfully skiplag. After missing a leg, your airline will cancel the rest of your itinerary, which would include your flight home.
Hidden-city ticketing is the original name for skiplagging. Before skiplagged.com was founded, people referred to the practice as hidden-city ticketing.
The Vacationer’s Final Thoughts
I personally discourage skiplagging. While you can save a little bit of money, the risks and stress are not worth it. Instead, follow our how to find cheap flights tips. Become a master at Google Flights with our guide. Learn how to redeem points and miles at great value to save and remain in line with your airline’s contract of carriage. If you find a skiplagging deal that is too good to pass up, follow our guidelines — Do not check a bag, only book one-way flights, do not do it with your favorite airline, and do not use your frequent flyer number.
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