Risky skiplagging: the grey area of travel the airlines hate

A controversial practice known as 'skiplagging' has become a sly travel hack to nab cheaper airfares. Also called hidden city ticketing, ‘skiplagging’ is purchasing a flight ticket with a stopover in a destination that you actually intend to visit, and then conveniently forgetting to board the connecting flight - it’s sometimes cheaper than buying the end destination. Citro explains the risk of this move.

Skiplagging is controversial

Skiplagging’ is buying a one-way ticket to get off at the stopover rather than the final destination listed on the ticket.

One traveller claims to have flown from the United Kingdom to Europe for just $9, according to this Channel 7 Life story.

Skiplagging - or hidden city ticketing - is said to be cheaper, but it can be a risky move that leaves you stuck in limbo or potentially even an airport gate.

Skiplagging travellers need to purchase a separate one-way ticket to get home.

Where can you buy skiplag tickets?

Skiplagged is an airfare booking website that promises to “find flights the airlines don’t want you to see … we’re exposing loopholes in airfare pricing to save you money.”

Kiwi is another discount booking site that offers skiplagging and  controversial ‘cheap hacks’ to get heavily discounted air travel.

Both of these cheap ticket booking websites have navigated lawsuits with airlines for their skiplagging offers.

So what’s it all about? And is skiplagging worth trying? Hmm. Possibly not.

Skiplagging sounds confusing

Yes, this practice is complex.

And it’s questionable how much value it can add from destinations like Australia, which is so far away from the hubs of cheaper travel in Europe and the United States.

But airline ticket pricing, which has a labyrinth of confusing pricing strategies, can also be challenging.

(Hello, why is it always miraculously cheap the first time you go online to look at air ticket prices and then more expensive each time you revisit the website?)

Skiplagging may only be worth considering if you have a highly flexible itinerary and are willing to take risks like losing your luggage or having your frequent flyer points wiped. 

The Skiplagging website warns that people attempting this practice should only:

  • Have carry on luggage — Bring a backpack that can fit under the seat in front of you. Anything larger risks getting checked at the gate, and all checked bags will end up in the final ticketed destination.
  • Bring your passport for international flights (even if you're not going all the way to the final destination). Some carriers require a passport to board the plane.
  • You may need a visa for international flights. This depends on the country that's the final destination. In some cases, all you need is a passport, but you may also need a visa for some countries.
  • Don't associate the ticket with a frequent flyer account — If you do, the airline might invalidate any miles you've accrued with them.
  • Some airlines may require proof of a return ticket during check-in. If this happens to you, just buy a refundable return ticket directly from the airline and cancel it ASAP after boarding. 
  • Do not overuse hidden-city itineraries. Do not fly hidden-city on the same route with the same airline dozens of times within a short time frame.

Airlines hate customers who skiplag - so do it at your own risk

Airlines have cracked down on travellers who embrace the practice.

The New York Times has just published an article outlining the risks for travellers who book skiplagged flights and they include:

Around the world airfares with lengthy layovers have long been cheaper than a standard airline ticket, and with skyrocketing airline ticket prices, it’s not surprising people turn to cheaper and risky moves to save money.

 So, should you attempt skiplagging? The answer isn't straightforward.

 It's a decision that ultimately lies at the intersection of saving money and the ethical considerations of exploiting a loophole. 

Airlines say the practice adds to the overall cost of tickets for other people.

Travellers should be aware of the potential risks, including  penalties imposed by airlines, before embarking on their skiplagging adventures.

In the end, the debate surrounding skiplagging highlights the ongoing tension between travellers seeking affordable options and airlines attempting to protect their revenue streams.  

Would you ever try skiplagging?

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