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Skiplagging, or hidden city ticketing, has made a lot of news lately. A Virginia teen was detained, made to purchase a new ticket, and banned from American Airlines for three years when it was recently discovered that his family bought him a ticket with a segment he had no intention of flying. There was tons of coverage around this event and while not illegal, it’s something the airlines work hard to discourage.
Now, it appears that even someone at President Trump’s Save America PAC is using this trick to save some money while traveling with his campaign. View from the Wing first reported that buried in the travel expenses is a $10 charge for Skiplagged (the image above came from the same post). The online travel search engine popularized the tactic of hidden city ticketing and has seen lawsuits from both United Airlines and Southwest Airlines in the past. Booking through this site can save hundreds of dollars.
The premise behind skiplagging is that airlines often charge more for a nonstop flight than one with connections. People who want to save money will book airfare with a connection in the city that they want to get to while not flying the connecting flight. For example, if I wanted to fly from Tampa to Washington DC it might be more expensive direct, but if I book a flight for Tampa to New York with a connection in Washington DC it will likely cost less. In theory, I could just not board the flight from Washington DC to New York and save some money. This only works on one-way flights and if you do this often, an airline will catch on and can demand payment or close your frequent flyer account.
The airlines created this issue and I’m not going to fault anyone who wants to take the risk and try this method to save money. Do I personally do it? No. I don’t think it’s worth the risk of potentially losing miles and status with my preferred carriers. Do I think it’s unethical? Again, not really. The airlines set pricing in such an odd and convoluted way. Taking multiple flights has to cost them more to actually transport you, but they have inflated ticket prices enough that they cover this margin.
Anthony’s Take: Airline pricing is complex and often doesn’t make sense to the casual traveler. Skiplagging is a way that some travelers beat the system. It has its risks, but apparently a Trump campaign staffer weighed these and found that saving the PAC some money by using Skiplagged.com was worth it. I’ll continue to play by the rules (even if I think they’re stupid) in order to not deal with the risk from the airlines.
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