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Lately one of the hottest topics in the travel industry has been hidden city ticketing or “throw-away ticketing”. This has long been frowned upon by airlines and they’re known to take drastic action against people who engage in hidden city ticketing.

How Do Airlines Determine Flight Cost?

Airlines base their fares from your origin to destination and not the amount of flights you take – but rather where you’re flying from and to. For example, a ticket from Seattle to Los Angeles might cost more than a flight from Seattle to Los Angles to San Diego – this is based on a few things, such as:

  • the fare published
  • the airline you’re flying
  • your routing

Basically, nonstop flights cost more because they’re convenient for everyone and people are willing to pay a premium for them. Not only that, there is different demand and pricing between select markets. So a flight from Seattle to San Diego via Los Angeles might cost less than a flight from Seattle to Los Angeles even though you’re connecting at LAX and taking an additional flight.

What Is Hidden City Ticketing?

Hidden City ticketing or “throw-away ticketing” is booking a ticket with a connection and getting off at the connection point and throwing away the connecting flight. Since airlines publish fares based on origin and destination and not the number of flights you take, some people take advantage of that and book an itinerary and take only some of the flights. Airlines hate this because they miss out on money that could be collected if people simply booked tickets and flew them in full.

For example, a flight from Seattle to Dallas might cost $300, but a flight from Seattle to Dallas to Miami might cost only $150. People would book the ticket all the way to Miami and get off in Dallas. The only reason people do this is to save money.

Airlines also don’t like this because it also causes them to miss out on revenue from a passenger that might have booked just that connecting flight that a person will “miss” on purpose. So in our example above, the airline might miss out on a seat sale from Dallas to Miami since someone from Seattle has booked a ticket all the way to Miami – and then they won’t show up for the flight.

Why You Shouldn’t Book Hidden City Tickets

There are a number of reasons why you shouldn’t engage in this type of booking, but the most important ones are:

  • your bag will be tagged to your final destination (even if you don’t have one, your carry-on could be gate-checked on a full flight)
  • if your flight is cancelled, you could be rebooked to your destination city via a different connection point, in which case you’d never get to where you actually want to
  • the airline could shut down your frequent flyer account and take away all of your miles as this practice violates their contract of carriage

It is, however, important to note that booking hidden city tickets is not illegal – but that it just violates the contract you make between the airline when booking a ticket.

Why Airlines are Aggressively Trying to Stop Hidden City Ticketing

Airlines are going to all lengths to try and stop this practice from happening as they are missing out on revenue from not only the person buying the hidden city ticket, but also from the person who potentially would buy a seat on a flight the initial person won’t take or will “throw-away”.

Even if you only do this once, it still probably won’t be worth the risk in that the airline could ban you for life and take away all of your miles – the risk isn’t worth it.

Since airlines are cracking down on this practice more and more, a few innocent people do get involved and perhaps have gotten mixed up in the whole situation even if they’ve done nothing wrong as airlines sometimes try to enforce their stance a little too much.

All in All

Hidden city ticketing might save you some money in the short term, but it almost never is going to be worth it in the long run. Why would you want to be banned from an airline and potentially have all of your miles taken away? It’s not worth it.

We love finding great deals using both miles/points and cash, but we don’t consider this type of practice to be worth it and fair, violating a contract of carriage with an airline is a recipe for disaster and could end up costing you way more if things don’t go as planned – with lots of schedule changes and full flights these days, we suggest avoiding hidden city ticketing.

Travel Miles 101 has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Travel Miles 101 and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.