One solution to finding cheap flights is to get off the plane early, suggestions a story in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. So-called “hidden-city ticketing” is when you book a cheap flight to Vegas, for example, but deplane during a connection at your true destination of Salt Lake City.
What’s going on here? Flying to smaller airports with fewer flights is more expensive than flying to a major airport like NYC, Vegas, Miami, or Boston.
Obviously, this doesn’t work for non-stop flights. But for connecting flights, the New York Times Magazine reporter found four instances where buying a ticket directly to a big city, but then getting off at the connecting city, was less than 50% of the cost of buying a ticket to the connecting city. Examples:
San Antonio –> Salt Lake City = $391
San Antonio –> Salt Lake City –> Las Vegas = $186
Buy the ticket to Vegas, get off in Salt Lake City, and save $205. More examples:
Fargo –> Chicago = $528
Fargo –> Chicago –> New York = $213
Des Moines –> Dallas = $375
Des Moines –> Dallas –> Los Angeles = $186
Louisville –> Charlotte = $405
Louisville –> Charlotte –> Orlando = $188
So is hidden-city ticketing it legal? Or ethical?
The reporter argues that it is legal and that savvy travelers can pull it off in three steps.
1. Book your ticket as two one-ways because airlines will cancel your return flight if you do not complete the outbound portion.
2. Don’t check bags because there is no access to them when you deplane partway.
3. Don’t lie if you get caught, or you could face fraud charges.
I’m not an expert on the legality of hidden-city ticketing and I certainly don’t agree that it is ethical. If you plan to return a TV after the Superbowl, it’s not ethical to buy it to show off at your football party. If you intend to get off the airplane partway, you shouldn’t buy a ticket for another leg. What do you think?