I promised I would touch on how to save money on flights even if you aren’t using points. This method is called ‘hidden city ticketing’ or ‘throw away ticketing’. Ever heard of it? If you are a frequent flyer you have probably heard of the term. The logic behind this method is that you book a one way ticket from A with a stop in B and finally connecting to C. The kicker here is that you actually only want to go to B and you aren’t going to complete your flight to C.
Why would I book a flight from A to B to C if I only want to fly A to B? As Kevin O’Leary from the Shark Tank so eloquently puts it, “I like money”, that’s why.
So how does it work because I also like to save money? Here is the hypothetical, you want to fly Sacramento to Salt Lake City. The problem with this is Delta is the only airline that flies nonstop between SMF and SLC. So being that Delta is a massive corporation, what do you think they are going to charge for a route that only they operate without direct competition? Delta will charge $450 ONE WAY for a 90 minute flight from SMF to SLC! For $450 you can fly to South America, how does that make any sense? (read: it does not)
Salt Lake City is a major hub for Delta Airlines so what that means is if you want to fly anywhere on the west coast via delta, you will likely have a stop in Salt Lake, Seattle or Los Angeles. So the trick is to look for a flight on delta that has a connection in Salt Lake and is cheaper than $450, which would be all of them. You can fly from Sac, through Salt Lake, and onto Boise for $103. The first flight from Sacramento to Salt Lake is the same flight number that they want to charge you $450 for. Ahh you see, there is competition from Sacramento to Boise. Alaska Air flies there directly. The only way delta can get you there is with a stop in Salt Lake. Yes, yes.
Now, is this illegal? No. This is not illegal. At all.
Is this moral? That is for you to decide.
You and two other buddies walk into a gas station and each want to buy a Gatorade for $2 each, but soon realize you can buy a 6 pack of them for $5, would it be immoral to only consume the three Gatorades and throw away the other three, thus saving one dollar? Is non consumption of a product or service immoral? Again, that is for you to decide. Airlines charging more when they have the opportunity is just “business” in their eyes, so this is “business” in my eyes 🙂
What is the catch? There are a couple.
• You can’t check baggage, your baggage will be sent to your final destination of Boise, ID, but you are going to walk out of the airport in Salt Lake. Easy, with the money you are saving, just pay $30 and ship the luggage to your hotel and you don’t have to wait at the airport. You can of course carry on, which is the only way to fly!
• You have to book in one way segments. If you don’t complete your flight, your return flight will be cancelled. So, just book two separate reservations for each way, no harm no foul.
• What if they reroute you through Los Angeles and onto Boise because the salt lake flight was cancelled. This is possible, although very unlikely. If they do try to re route you, just let the airline employee know that you have planned to stop in Salt Lake and will want to make sure that is where your connection is going to be. (I ran out of salt and I was going to buy some there in the airport?) There are multiple flights a day, so worst you have to do it wait for the next one. Again, the likelihood of this is very slim. I have never been rerouted and I have made a lot of connections in my travels. (50+)
•What if the airline catches on? If you did this every week for business, it would probably get picked up by their systems and they would send you a letter. If you do this a couple times a year, you are a travel wiz and it will go unnoticed.
• Can the airline do anything? They can threaten to take away your points, threaten to ban you, blah blah blah. I have read a lot of blogs and even people who use this trick multiple times a month have never heard of any direct action from the airlines.
Okay, well show me where to find these hidden deals! There is a website designed for this called skiplagged.com. You put in your starting airport and where you want to go and the site does the rest. It will show you “standard” flights, it will also show you “hidden city” flights that have a stop in the city that you actually want to go to. Hidden city flights will show with a greyed out flight at the end, because you won’t be taking that leg of the flight.
Look at this, I can fly direct to Salt Lake for $454, what a deal, not!
Now, if you choose to see hidden city flights, you can see there is a flight that technically connects you onto Phoenix, but you are only going to fly on the first leg to Salt Lake and just throw away your second ticket for Phoenix. For $178 you will be on the same flight to Salt Lake, look at the departure times, both 6:15AM.
• Can I use this for any city? No, not really 🙁
This trick works best when traveling to major hubs where connections would normally be based out of. And also, at times the cheapest flight may be a non stop directly into the city you want to go to. skiplagged will show you the cheapest way to get there, you make the call.
• Does this work for Southwest? Yes, it can work for Southwest.
Southwest Airlines does not even frown upon this trick, that is why I love them. With Southwest they don’t really have hubs, they do however have focus cities where many of their flights connect out of. Since Southwest does not share their pricing to any website other than their own, you have to be more creative when trying this trick on southwest.com.
Think of it this way, If in theory you are flying from Sacramento to Salt Lake, it should cost less than flying Sacramento to Phoenix, right? (Salt Lake is 120 miles closer) So the way you can make this work (and it only works sometimes), is to check flights for cities nearby the city you actually want to travel to. So you want to go to Phoenix, but the cheapest nonstop flight from Sac to Phoenix is $201. You could then look for flights to Salt Lake, you will see that some of those flights will have a stop in Phoenix.
Same flight #961, $160. Which one would you book?
If you have more questions on how to use this or hack, let me know!