Airlines Guides

American Airlines detains skiplagging kid flying to NYC from Florida – 5 things you can do to avoid the same outcome

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Skiplagging, or Hidden City Ticketing as it’s otherwise known, can save you a ton of money; however, you’re probably breaking nearly every worldwide airline’s “terms of service” or “conditions of carriage.”  Why? If you’re utilizing these kind of tickets, you’re not flying the entire itinerary. Instead, what you’re doing is taking advantage of how airlines may price tickets that transit your intended destination, often a hub, in order to service a smaller market. This is essentially what happened to the guy in the article, he booked a ticket from Gainesville, Florida to New York ( JFK ) with a layover in Charlotte. He never intended to fly to JFK, it was just pricing much cheaper than the if you booked Gainesville to Charlotte, so he was just going to hop off the plane in Charlotte and exit the airport. Sounds like a good plan, right?

This is not illegal, and the courts have ruled this way, but that doesn’t stop an airline from penalizing you. And that is exactly what happened to this dude, who got caught flying on a ticket purchased via Skiplagged, a website that specializes in finding these kind of fares. The airline detained him, sounds woefully severe really, and discovered his intentions and made him buy a ticket that ended in Charlotte. If they stopped him from boarding, that sounds reasonable, detaining him in a room….um, what?!

I read the whole article and it seems like this could have been avoided and should you ever end up in a similar situation, here  are 5 things you can do to avoid suspicion and the ire of the airline when booking a Skipagged or Hidden City Ticket. Of course… I would never recommend these things, this is purely hypothetical.

Here’s the full article on yes…Daily Mail 

a screenshot of a website

One – Never ever book via SkipLagged.com

Skiplagged.com is a great resource for doing your due diligence, but it’s been sued many times in the past for doing what it is exactly intended to do…show you flight combos that transit your intended airport but ultimately connect to somewhere you don’t want to fly.

The dad says he has used Skiplagged.com for most of his bookings. Why would you book with a site that is basically a massive red flag to the airline that you aren’t going to fly the entire flight?!

‘We’ve used Skiplagged almost exclusively for the last five to eight years,’ said Hunter, saying that they were not worried about his flight.

Instead…use Skiplagged for research and then book another way…even directly with the airline is better than Skiplagged, far less suspicious.

Here is an example of a flight between LAX and Atlanta. Skiplagged shows it is cheaper to book to Miami and get off the plane in Atlanta vs booking LAX to ATL. You’d save $150.a screenshot of a computerFrom the airline or a consolidator.

a screenshot of a flight schedule a screenshot of a flight scheduleTwo: Never Check a Bag – don’t do Basic Economy

Your bag will go on to your final destination sooooooo, in the example above, your bags will be checked all the way to Miami. Carry on only

There is also a risk in booking the cheapest fare class ticket as well because you’ll be last to board and risk having to gate check your bag. That would be bad since it’ll likely be checked all the way to your final destination. Yikes.

Three: Never attach your frequent flier information

You’re literally breaking the conditions of carriage and violating airline policy. Don’t attach anymore information about yourself than necessary, and you don’t want your FF account linked in case you are busted and your miles are all frozen or canceled. Plus, FF accounts usually have saved credit card information which further identifies you.

Four: Never do this more than 2 or 3 times per year

As I mentioned above, it sounds like the family was using Skiplagged exclusively for years. Undoubtedly, they were doing this so regularly that they were flagged internally. If you do this a couple times a year, you really have nothing to worry about. People don’t make their connections all the time, change plans, etc. The more you do it, the more you’re tempting fate.

The son was flying but it sounds like the dad booked it…which brings me to #5

Five: Use different credit cards if possible

Airlines are known to track the spending patterns of credit cards used on airfare, club access, bags, wifi, etc.  In fact, some people will go so far as to buy full fare first and business class tickets, cancel them the day of departure, in order to manipulate the upgrade process and increase the odds of clearing a cheaper flight you actually intend to fly.

If you are utilizing hidden city ticketing for pricing advantages, don’t use the same card or each transaction, and certainly don’t use one that is saved in your frequent flier account.

a stuffed animal lying on a wood floor with many credit cards around it

Overall

This isn’t a practice I would recommend to the lament, or casual traveler, but it can certainly have its advantages, but you need to be smart about employing the practice and be fully aware that you are technically violating airline policy.

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

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4 Comments

  • Ryan July 15, 2023

    The article states he showed his ID to the Gate Agent. IDs haven’t been checked at the gate since the early post-9/11 days.

    If true that AA physically detained him, that’s unlawful. They’re not law enforcement and breaking the CoC is a civil matter, not a criminal act so even a cop has no basis for detaining him.

  • Christine July 15, 2023

    Charlotte flights are unduly inflated, so the motivation here is very high. Being a hub does not help us much at all – Raleigh and Greensboro are usually cheaper even connecting through CLT.

  • jsm July 14, 2023

    slightly different facts are being posted by different bloggers. When I first read this story the “kid” was caught because he used his North Carolina driver’s license as id. Since a person has to be 18 to possess that state’s license, he is no longer a “kid” or a “teenager” but an adult. That puts a completely different spin on this story.

  • Billy Bob July 14, 2023

    Don’t check a bag of course, and be sure to get the heck out of the airport before the goon squad gets you.

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