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What Is Skiplagging, and Is It Legal?

Skiplagging, or “hidden city ticketing,” is the practice of buying a multi-stop plane ticket that has a connection in the destination you want to visit. Instead of getting on your connecting flight, you simply exit the airport on your layover and purposely miss the onward journey.

Popularized by airfare site Skiplaged, this hack can save you a lot of money compared to booking a ticket directly to your destination. But is it legal to do?

Why is Skiplagging Cheaper?

Why would a longer flight be cheaper than a shorter, direct one? For some destinations, there is not a lot of competition for a direct flight between two cities, making tickets expensive. However, there might be more competition on a different route with a layover in the city you want to fly to—so a longer flight going somewhere else (but connecting through your destination) could be cheaper.

For example, if you wanted to fly to Las Vegas from New York, a nonstop ticket might cost $300. But if you fly from New York to Los Angeles, with a layover in Las Vegas, the ticket price might only be $200—so you could book the flight to Los Angeles, disembark in Las Vegas, and save $100. 

Airport staff checking passport of passenger
Jacob Lund | Adobe Stock

Hidden city ticketing isn’t illegal, but it is explicitly prohibited by major U.S. airlines in their contract of carriage statements. 

If the airline realizes that you are not planning on completing your entire itinerary, it can prevent you from boarding or even ban you from the airline for future flights. Earlier this year, a teenage passenger tried this trick using a ticket he bought on Skiplagged and was detained by American Airlines and denied boarding. 

What to Know Before You Buy a Hidden City Ticket

There are a lot of risks associated with buying a hidden city ticket. 

  1. You can’t check a bag, as your bag will be tagged to the final destination on your itinerary.
  2. Even if you fly carry-on, there is the risk that there won’t be space on the plane for your bag, and it will get checked through to the destination you’re not planning on flying to.
  3. You can’t buy a round-trip ticket, as the return fare will automatically be canceled as soon as you don’t make your connecting flight.
  4. The airline can deny you boarding and refuse to refund you if they figure out what you’re doing.
  5. There could be a schedule change that reroutes your flight through a different connecting airport. 

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