In times of inflation, everything seems to cost a fortune, and airplane tickets are no exception. In an effort to save money, some travelers are turning to skip lagging, a practice that airlines do not appreciate. But what exactly is skip lagging? Is it legal? Let’s break it down for you.
Skip lagging, also known as a “hidden-city ticket,” involves booking a flight with a layover and intentionally disembarking at the layover destination instead of traveling to the final destination. The term “hidden-city ticket” refers to the fact that the layover city is not indicated on the boarding pass, making it hidden from view, explains Andrew D’Amours, co-founder of the discount travel website Flytrippers, who himself occasionally uses this technique.
This method is primarily used to save money on expensive direct flights. Flights without layovers are usually in high demand, whereas flights with layovers are generally less expensive. So, it’s not uncommon for a ticket to destination A to be more expensive than a ticket to destination B with a layover in destination A.
Skiplagged.com, a flight booking site launched in 2013, popularized this cost-saving method. However, according to Andrew, skip lagging is not the most effective technique for saving money on airfare. “I fly 60 to 70 times a year, and I use this method once every three years,” he explains. “People might think it’s a great trick, but it doesn’t work all the time.”
In the United States, skip lagging is more effective due to the presence of several airline hubs. Airlines want to maximize the number of passengers traveling through their hubs to reduce costs. By reducing costs, they can offer lower ticket prices. For example, American Airlines has a hub in Dallas. Andrew shares an example, saying, “I had to travel from New Orleans to Dallas for a conference. The one-way fare was $300. But when I added a flight to Miami, making it New Orleans – Dallas – Miami, the price dropped by $200.”
To truly save money, the co-founder of Flytrippers advises being flexible with travel dates and taking the time to compare prices. If you’re considering skip lagging, Andrew D’Amours suggests doing it as a one-way trip rather than a round trip. “As soon as you miss a segment of your itinerary, the airline cancels your ticket,” he points out.
Traveling light is also essential when skip lagging, as any checked baggage will continue to the final destination indicated on your ticket. A carry-on bag is sufficient. Andrew emphasizes the importance of not mentioning skip lagging to the airline, as it is a practice prohibited by the majority of airlines. “If you do it once a year or every two years, you won’t have a problem,” he says. However, if someone does it on every flight, “it becomes less subtle.” While you won’t go to jail, the airline may refuse to let you board.
Similar incidents have occurred in the United States in recent weeks. A teenager bought a ticket from Orlando, Florida, to New York, with a layover in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. Before even leaving Florida, the airline discovered his intention to skip the last leg of the trip and denied him boarding.
It is also important to research the “final” country, as some regions of the world require a visa to enter. It would be best to ensure that you have a visa for the “final” destination, even if you’re only disembarking at the layover, as the airline will refuse boarding otherwise.
Skip lagging is not illegal, so you can’t be arrested by the police for attempting it. However, airlines can take action if they prohibit it in their terms and conditions. When contacted by 24heures.ca, Air Canada, the country’s main airline, refused to answer questions and referred us to their general terms and conditions of carriage. These terms clearly state that tickets are valid only when used in compliance with all terms and conditions of sale and that passengers must follow the itinerary indicated on their boarding pass. Air Canada also explicitly prohibits what they call “tangential ticketing,” which involves paying for a ticket from a point preceding the passenger’s origin or extending beyond their actual destination.
The Air Canada communications department confirmed that someone caught in the act of skip lagging could be denied boarding and have the remainder of their itinerary canceled.