What is the flight hack ‘skip lagging,’ and why you should avoid it

(NEXSTAR) – Airfare prices have decreased over the last year, but flying can still carry a hefty price, prompting anyone to look for a deal. There is one popular hack, however, that you may want to avoid. 

According to the latest U.S. Consumer Price Index, airfare decreased roughly 8% in June, continuing a downward trend seen since April. While promising, prices are still about 5% higher than they were before the pandemic.

If you’re a bargain hunter and are hoping for a deal on your next flight, you may have come across advice to skip lag.

While the name might be a bit confusing, the practice isn’t. Essentially, instead of booking a direct flight, you find a cheaper flight that has a layover at your destination.

The “hack” has other names, including hidden city ticketing and point beyond ticketing. 

You’ll most likely find those in any airline’s conditions of carriage. That includes American Airlines, Delta, United, and Frontier, all of which prohibit hidden city ticketing. 

Airlines, both domestic and abroad, have been cracking down on skip lagging in recent years.

In one instance, German carrier Lufthansa brought a lawsuit against a passenger for hidden city ticketing, aviation attorney Bruce Brandon recently told Nexstar’s WJZY. Though they later dropped the case, it caught the attention of many. 

Years earlier, the website was launched. In 2014, founder Aktarer Zaman told CNN the site directed travelers to the best deals while exposing “inefficiency” in airline prices. 

Technically, hidden city ticketing isn’t illegal. But, as mentioned above, doing so is considered a violation of your airline’s conditions of carriage. The consequences of hidden city ticketing may vary. 

According to the conditions of carriage above, airlines could refuse to let you fly, potentially permanently; charge you for what a ticket not booked “fraudulently” would have cost; require you to reimburse the airline for the compensation they provided; or cancel unused portions of your ticket. 

Earlier this month, a North Carolina teen was detained and forced to purchase a new ticket with American Airlines after a gate agent became skeptical of his itinerary: a flight from Gainesville, Florida to New York City, with a layover in Charlotte. 

The teen’s father told WJZY they’ve used before without any issue, and his son was expected to arrive in Charlotte and skip the rest of the planned flight. American Airlines said in a statement that while hidden city ticketing is a violation of its terms and conditions, they are investigating why the teenager was detained. 

Even Skip Lagged warns there may be consequences of hidden city ticketing, like your checked luggage moving on to the final destination instead of where you stop or losing frequent flyer miles you’ve accrued. The site also warns against “overusing” hidden city ticketing.

If you are looking for a deal on air travel that won’t get you in trouble with the airline, experts recommend using points accrued on a credit card or working with a travel agent. Also, despite many travelers swearing by a certain day or time being the cheapest for booking a flight, that myth has been debunked

You can, however, save money by accepting layovers. Nonstop flights have been found to be 20% more expensive, on average.

Though it likely won’t make airfare much cheaper, President Biden promised to tackle “junk fees” earlier this year, which could have a direct impact on airline pricing. That includes requiring airlines to show you the full ticket price upfront, rather than waiting until after fees have been applied, and refunding your money if your flight is canceled or delayed. The Department of Transportation has also launched a dashboard to show which airlines will let families sit together at no extra charge.

Alix Martichoux contributed to this report.


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