One family used the strategy on a flight between Gainesville, Florida, and New York. The flight had a connection in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a 17-year-old got off there — his real destination — instead of boarding the next flight onto New York.
At the check-in desk in Charlotte, the teen’s North Carolina driver’s license tipped off an American Airlines gate agent that he was flying on a so-called hidden-city ticket.
The teen, who hasn’t been named, was questioned by the agent and his itinerary canceled, forcing the family to pay $400 for a new nonstop flight.
News of the incident has since ignited online debate, especially after the family said American barred their 17-year-old from flying on the carrier again for three years.
The teen’s mother, Lisa Parsons, has since told Insider that American’s response to the skiplagging was “extreme.” She said the family had never used the hack before that point, and that her son “didn’t think it was something that was frowned upon.”
American, however, says skiplagging is against its rules. Its contract of carriage, which you agree to when you buy a ticket, says that any intent to not fly all the segments of a flight you’ve booked is a violation of AA’s policies and is subject to punishment, like having your ticket canceled.
Airlines see skiplagging act as cheating the system because it can lead to lost revenue. Airlines know people will pay a premium for the most convenient routing, so a higher-demand nonstop is typically more expensive than a flight that has a connection.
American further explained to Insider this week that skiplagging can also “lead to operational issues with checked bags and prevent other customers from booking a seat when they may have an urgent need to travel.”
“Intentionally creating an empty seat that could have been used by another customer or team member is an all-around bad outcome,” the company said in a statement to Insider.
While Parsons said the family is still trying to wrap their heads around their experience with American, she also told Insider they are now “much wiser” because of it.
“Maybe that’s the silver lining for us,” she said. “And maybe it will improve things for others — or at least keep them from getting in the same situation.”
American is particularly strict about hidden-city ticketing. In its contract of carriage, it outlines the consequences of skiplagging, including canceling the return ticket, revoking elite flyer status, and denying boarding.
Most US airlines have similar policies, with United Airlines actually stating it may ban customers for using the hack.