Flyers Dodge Fares Through Loopholes & Airlines Aren’t Happy

By: Krystal Etienne · May 30, 2023 · Reading Time: 3 minutes

Skiplagging Savings

Skiplagging, also known as hidden city ticketing, is a lesser known and somewhat controversial travel tactic that is seeing new light in the midst of a particularly pricey travel season.

Essentially, travelers are attempting to outsmart the air travel system by purchasing flights with a layover at their intended final destination, and then skipping the second leg of their scheduled journey. Rather than booking a direct flight, passengers opt for a more convoluted — but sometimes more affordable — route.

Some savvy flyers have been skiplagging discreetly for years, and there are even entire websites dedicated to the practice. But now, as it becomes more mainstream, it’s attracting more scrutiny from airlines, bringing it to the forefront of the ongoing discussion on air travel practices and ethics.

Lost Revenue

In today’s financial climate, the appeal of skiplagging is easy to understand. As the pandemic recedes into the rearview, demand for travel is rebounding significantly. Yet many still feel the pinch from inflation, surging fuel costs, and what some might call sky-high fares.

Skiplagging provides an enticing workaround. Flights with layovers can sometimes offer far cheaper deals than direct flights, potentially saving passengers hundreds of dollars on tickets.

But airlines are not happy about the practice. The gravity of the situation became evident when United Airlines (UAL) and Orbitz decided to sue a popular skiplagging website in 2014. They claimed the website, Skiplagged, had cost them a combined $75,000 in lost revenue. (According to United Airlines’ financial reports from 2014, their total operating revenue for that year was $38.9 billion.)

Flying Under the Radar

So is skiplagging the key to flying under the air travel industry’s radar?

The practice might save you some much-need cash, but it doesn’t come without risk. It’s largely frowned upon in the industry, with many airlines adding explicit clauses against it in their contracts of carriage. Consequences could range from having your return flight canceled, loyalty miles confiscated, or even being banned from booking with the airline altogether. And there have even been numerous instances of airlines attempting to sue passengers in court over lost funds.

On the flip side, many argue that airlines have essentially created this problem for themselves. Increasingly high prices and hidden fees have made flying prohibitively expensive for many, leaving few alternatives. Just remember, while innovation is often celebrated, it tends to bring about its fair share of turbulence, too. So, buckle up, think twice, and fly smart.

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