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How Airlines Are Responding to Skiplagging

The increasingly common practice and was mostly ignored by airlines until recently

by Lark Gould

November 17, 2023

Illustration: Beata Zawrzel/Nurphoto via Getty

Skiplagging. It’s not a new term, nor is it illegal. But it has recently become known in the travel lexicon as a way to save a few dollars on an airline ticket—at the risk of being sued, fined, banned or points-ghosted by airlines. The practice of “hidden city ticketing” involves purchasing a ticket with a layover in a specific city, but instead of continuing to the final destination, the passenger gets off the plane and leaves the airport at the layover city with their carry-on luggage.

The midpoint destination is the desired terminus for the passenger who finds purchasing a ticket with a layover rather than a direct flight cheaper. Airlines often charge high prices for direct flights from smaller cities, but savvy travelers can find deals with online tools or by exploring alternate routes.

In July, an American Airlines passenger bought a ticket from Gainesville, Florida, to New York for around $150. However, if he wanted to fly directly to Charlotte, he would have had to pay more than $400. To save money, he purchased the cheaper ticket to New York and got off the plane during the stopover in Charlotte to go home.

The passenger’s attempt to save money by booking a stopover instead of a direct flight was foiled when the ticketing agents noticed that the address on his ticket was the same as the stopover location. The passenger’s cheap ticket was canceled, and he had to pay the full fare for a direct flight but was still allowed to fly.

Skiplagging is an old practice and was mostly ignored by airlines until recently. With easy access to online data and booking websites, it has become more common, and airlines are taking notice. In the most recent case, American Airlines sued, a popular website specializing in hidden city deals. The home page extolls the value of this practice, and the site collects some three million visits per month. The airline filed a lawsuit of 37 pages, accusing the website of en- gaging in unauthorized and deceptive ticketing practices that lure customers with the promise of savings.

Over the past decade, Skiplagged has surmounted lawsuits from United and Southwest Airlines. Skiplagged offers a front- and-center airline ticket search on its site and promotes that it is exploiting ticketing loopholes to save passengers money.

However, the lawsuit alleges that Skiplagged provides customers with “scripted guidance” on how to avoid alerting the airline. Caveats and warnings continue, from how to manage travel insurance to what to do
in the event of having to cancel a flight or a flight cancellation by the airline.