Flyers “jump” to try to save money on plane tickets. Airlines hate that.
Sky-high airfares are prompting many travelers to turn to unique strategies to find cheaper tickets, like “ski-plagging.”
This means booking a flight with a planned stopover city as the destination, then skipping the second leg.
The practice is sometimes cheaper than booking a non-stop scheduled flight, but airlines hate it.
The post-pandemic travel bug has people flocking to faraway destinations, but getting there isn’t cheap – forcing some travelers to turn to a cost-cutting strategy known as ‘skiplagging’ .
Skiplagging – also known as “hidden city” or “disposable” ticketing – is the practice of booking a flight with a stopover in the intended destination city and then bailing out the second leg of the journey.
People can save hundreds of dollars on tickets, which is particularly appealing as high fares continue to plague the industry through a combination of inflation, rising fuel costs and strong post-pandemic demand.
For example, a return flight from New York to Amsterdam at the end of June costs around $2,850 on Dutch airline KLM.
However, manipulating the booking by setting the outbound destination as London City instead of Amsterdam brings the round-trip price down to around $2,150.
The return flight is always non-stop from Amsterdam, so hypothetically one simply couldn’t catch the return leg to London one way and stay in the Netherlands instead.
In some cases, people will book the return trip separately if it’s cheaper – or travelers will end up going to the original route’s destination and trying to catch the scheduled return trip from there.
Flight booking site Skiplagged.com has even built a business around the concept by providing a platform that can alert travelers to these deals based on their preferred airport and destination.
However, the company only allows one-way tickets, which can be much more expensive than booking a round-trip itinerary directly with the airlines.
While this strategy may seem like a saving grace after the pandemic, it is not as innocent as it may seem. Airlines hate that.
In a January 2021 memo to employees, American Airlines began cracking down on the practice by introducing new tools to flag potential mismatch bookings to agents.
“We have always prohibited these types of booking practices,” the carrier told TravelPulse at the time.
In 2014, United Airlines and travel website Orbitz even teamed up to sue Skiplagged founder Aktarer Zaman for “unfair competition” and “deceptive behavior”, claiming his website cost the duo $75,000 in loss of income.
The case was filed in Illinois but was dismissed because the court lacked jurisdiction because Zaman worked and resided in New York — not Chicago. Skiplagged.com maintains that the practice is “perfectly legal,” according to its website.
“We remain troubled that Mr. Zaman continues to openly encourage customers to violate our contract of carriage by purchasing tickets to hidden cities,” United told CNN Money in 2015.
Due to clear airline disapproval, this practice poses a risk to passengers, especially since carriers have since added written protections against skilagging into their contract of carriage.
According to NerdWallet, airlines could punish travelers by canceling the return trip or stripping them of frequent flyer miles and elite status.
Skiplagged.com also notes that this strategy won’t work with checked bags as the airline tags them through to the final destination – and a passenger is unlikely to be able to convince an agent to simply unload the bag in the city of stopover.
“Booking unusual routes could raise red flags, and someone could flag you and watch you as you fly,” Atmosphere Research Group founder and travel analyst Henry Harteveldt told the BBC in 2019. “At some point, you might get a corporate security letter or meeting at the door. The intention of the airlines is to intimidate and recoup what they perceive to be lost revenue.
However, he explained that it was a self-imposed problem created by the airlines.
“I completely understand, as an airline analyst and businessman, why airlines extract as much as they can where they have leverage. That’s what it’s all about. “, Harteveldt told the BCC. “But when an airline offers stupid prices and the fare in a hub [airport] is absurdly high, it’s almost like the airlines are inviting to book in hidden cities.”
Read the original article on Business Insider