Skiplagged Isn’t Nearly As Good As They Think They Are…Here’s A Better Way To Save Money On Hidden-City Flights

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One of the local Chabad shluchim came to my office last Thursday and after learning for a bit we started talking about the upcoming Kinus HaShluchim in New York where thousands of shluchim from around the world gather for an inspiring weekend that culminates in an incredible banquet dinner on Sunday night. Last year I was in NYC giving a public DansDeals Seminar as well as private seminars for Shluchim from around the world and I got to experience the banquet for the first time. It’s truly an awesome site to see and is quite the experience.

At any rate, we got into a discussion of Southwest pulling out of Akron and the prohibitively high cost of flying from Cleveland to NYC:

 

skippl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avios help, (and they will continue to help even when they go up from 4.5K to 7.5K) but availability on Sundays from CLE-NYC is iffy:

skipaa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American is starting to fly from Akron to LaGuardia next month, but the route won’t operate on Sundays until February, so Avios wouldn’t help there either.

United had a saver award flight into Newark. Theoretically it would entail paying an expedite fee, but any seminar attendee can tell you the workaround for that:

skipua

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Delta was not much help either:

skipdl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So then he asked me if Skiplagged would be of use in this case.

For decades people have been saving money on tickets by using hidden-city ticketing, something that the airlines frown upon. It’s no secret, but it wasn’t something used by the masses. Then United decided to let everyone know about it by suing Skiplagged, despite having no basis for which to sue for.

Some tickets can be 90% cheaper by just adding on an extra leg to the end of the itinerary.  I think of it like not eating the dessert course of a prix-fixe, but most airlines say that its against their terms.

It’s important not to confuse hidden-city ticketing with fuel dumping. A fuel dump entails finding a ticket with heavy fuel surcharges and adding a leg that causes the fuel surcharge to be dumped. Hidden-city ticket isn’t about dumping a fuel surcharge, it’s about finding a cheap ticket that connects in the city where you actually want to go.

I first wrote about hidden-city ticketing over 9 years ago.  7 years ago I wrote about using Southwest sales to get to Florida on the cheap via hidden-city and about using JetBlue to get from LA to NYC via hidden-city.

I spend a chunk of each DansDeals seminar talking about the dangers of hidden-city ticketing as well how to search for it, work around the issues, etc. It’s not something you should do every week, but once in a while is fine.

2 years ago I typed up a tutorial on finding hidden-city fares and on hacking ZFV fares. Later in 2013 USAirways had $460 tickets to Israel via hidden-city. In 2014 Virgin America had a first class hidden city fare.

There are even hidden city award tickets. In this post was an international example but in my seminars I even talk about domestic ones as well. Even on first class awards you can manufacture greater availability on airlines like Cathay Pacific first class via hidden city award tickets.

And I’ve written lots of times about hacking nonstop fares to Tel Aviv via hidden city ticketing.

So I pulled up Skiplagged to see what they were able to find:

skip1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In other words a flight from Cleveland to Boston that stops in LGA would be $141, pretty significant savings off the $540 price of the Cleveland to LaGuardia flight without the extra leg to Boston.

Of course you’ll only be able to being carry-on luggage on a domestic hidden-city flight. Not the end of the world as you can always send luggage via UPS ground for about the same price as checking a bag.

My problem with Skiplagged is that on their home page they make a bold claim:

skip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personally though I find better results with Google’s ITA Matrix.
-Click on One-way (Hidden-city tickets are generally always purchased as a one-way)
-Enter your origin airport.
-Click on advanced routing codes.
-Enter the airport code where you actually want to end up in the routing code field between the origin and destination field.
-For the destination field I copy/paste the entire list of the top 100 US airport codes (and other airport codes) that I compiled and posted in this DDF Wiki.

Effectively I’m asking ITA to find me a flight from Cleveland to anywhere in the country as long as it stops in NYC:

ita

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And ITA came back with this, an $87 flight from Cleveland to Manchester, NH or Providence, RI that stops in Newark on United. Or a $109 flight from Cleveland to Miami that stops in JFK on Delta. Skiplagged completely missed those options, but ITA found them with ease.

skip11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ITA doesn’t sell tickets, but searching on Priceline for CLE-PVD came up with the desired flight:

pl7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I noticed that one of the connection airports was in Washington DC. That seemed like a good price, so I checked Skiplagged to see if it would find that option for Cleveland to DC.

Read more after the jump:

Nope:

skip3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But by changing the ITA search to this:

ita1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It found it with ease:

ita2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does Skiplagged do any better for the return?

skip5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not even close to ITA:

skip6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will Skiplagged do any better from Pittsburgh? The best it found was PIT-LGA-RDU for $141:

skip7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While ITA found PIT-EWR-RDU for $104:

skip8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How about from nearby Akron? This time Skiplagged did find a cheaper RDU fare:

skip9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But ITA came up with far better options:
skip11

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are all things that Skiplagged can rectify, but for now it’s not even a competition. ITA wins hands down.

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74 Comments on "Skiplagged Isn’t Nearly As Good As They Think They Are…Here’s A Better Way To Save Money On Hidden-City Flights"

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Jerry

NYC is a pretty easy hidden city, being as it’s a major hub for multiple airlines.

Bob

Good work Dan!

abka

Dan, how do I utilize this for a round trip ticket NY-London?

Jerry

BTW i love these posts. I’ve read many websites about many things, but I’ve always found your long posts and articles to be the most user friendly. Great job! Thanks!

yitzyul

I Just purchased last minute trip jfk-lax standard one way was $700 (no non stop mileage available on any airline) Skipplagged was $440 and on ITA I found it for $160 Jfk-Den with a stop in LAX

ethan

Hi. I had the same question as abka. Can one use for flights to london. Thx

ji

dan, I totally agree. As a travel agent, I have been consistantly been getting better hidden city deals than skiplagged, almost every time

Yaakov

There is plenty of times that skiplagged is way better then ita. Ita doesn’t always pick up every flight. You should always check both ita and skiplagged

Eli

And now UA will sue DD.com

Jerry

@abka: same steps. Type in all the airports that you can depart from in the first box, all the airports you can land in in the middle routing codes box, and all the airports in Europe in the third box. Dan has the best list for this (actually, basically the only list) I’ve seen for this anywhere. Google dansdeals forum hidden city ticketing, and copy and paste the list into ita’s destination box. I love overloading them. 😁 After you found a potential hidden city route or routes, do the same search with only these cities in the destination box. Often, ita stops searching before it sees every option if there are too many possibilities, so help narrow it down.

Anonymous

@Yaakov: Definitely. Any time you are looking for a ticket you should check every possibility.

MM

Would I be able to take baggage when using hidden city from USA to Canada and vice versa?

abka

@yitzyul: Good job Yitz! 🙂

Steven

Would this work from the bwi with end destination being Yyz (toronto) or still going to be quite pricey be this is an international flight?

Ejb

@yitzyul:

Funny you mention this. Im going on a jfk-den mileage run on those flights as we speak 🙂

Dbel

What are the dangers you briefly mentioned regarding hidden city ticketing?

Jerry

@Steven:
Before anything, did you try departing from iad and dca?

Jerry

@Dbel: Your frequent flyer accounts being canceled, and the airline coming after you to pay the difference, being as you violated the contract of carriage (don’t worry about this happening). Just credit your miles to a different airline in the alliance, and don’t associate your ffn with your hidden city ticket.

Dan

@abka:
Hidden city tickets need to be one-ways.
See here for airports from around the world:
http://forums.dansdeals.com/index.php?topic=45539

@Jerry:
Thanks!!

@yitzyul:
Well done!

@Yaakov:
Always search everything.
But realize that Skiplagged also includes results with a stop, while this ITA code will only return nonstops.

@Eli:
On what basis?

@MM:
Depends on the routing.

@Steven:
It may.

@Dbel:
If you did it repeatedly and often they could theoretically close your mileage account, though I haven’t heard of that happening.

Tal

@Dan:

I have been a loyal fan for some time now. I have a trip to India coming up for a wedding and have been monitoring the prices as well as reading different posts you have on this. Do you have any recommendations of how to book a cheap one way flight on 12/24 (evening) or 12/25 (I know it’s a popular time of year) from NYC to HYD? We are open to a long layover somewhere fun to enjoy during that time. Let me know. Thanks!

Eli

@Jerry: but Dan says it must be booked as one ways, how do I get it for a round trip

dhammer53

Dan,

Even the old timers reading here ‘appreciate’ this info.
I have a PDX/NYC upcoming trip in the spring. I’ve been knocking myself out looking for ‘cheap’ 1 way award tickets at a time that works for me. Now I have something to do tonight after my wife goes to sleep.

I’ll look for ‘smart’ ways to get home using cash or miles.

Jerry

@Dan: I don’t know if hidden cities ALWAYS have to be o/w. Your NYC-TLV hidden city, for example, took advantage of a cheaper fare on the return. There are many active examples of this right now. Generally, it is true, though, that it works best on one ways(being as the return leg of a round trip will depart from your last city, not your “hidden city” stopover).

Anonymous

@Eli: they were sued for booking the tickets, not for directing people to the tickets.

Deal Guy

I know that you cant have baggage on hidden city. My question is if you have a handbag and they force you to check it at the gate, will you get it at the stopover or will it get checked to the final city that you don’t want?

Jerry

@Eli: Two one ways=round trip. Check the math which way works out cheaper. Or only put in the hidden city coding for the return flight. Remember, always try everything. (There are times that it is even cheaper to purchase a roundtrip than it is to purchase a one way, although that’s relatively uncommon domestically.)

TravelBloggerBuzz

Dude…welcome back to TBB 🙂

Dan

@Tal:
Try playing around with the airports here:
http://forums.dansdeals.com/index.php?topic=45539

@dhammer53:
Have fun!
I always find the hunt for cheap flights/FDs/HCs/Awards to be half the fun of a trip 😀
#ThrillOfTheHunt

@Jerry:
True, there are exceptions like that.
But it’s easier to just talk about one-ways and point out the exceptions like that less people book a RT and then complain to me about the return being cancelled.

@Anonymous:
Not quite, but they were actively pricing these vs just talking about how to do it.

@Deal Guy:
If you have a good reason why you must have it with you then they won’t check it. Or at least will check it to the next connection.
Not hard to come up with one.

Better yet, just board your plane early enough so that doesn’t happen.

@TravelBloggerBuzz:
Welcome back?
It wasn’t me, it was you dear 😉

Just take a look through my archives vs my competition for the percentage of posts that add value vs adding nothing at all.

David R

@Ejb: What do you get out of this? 3324 AAdvantage miles?

Deal Guy

Thanks

Fat Triming

Dan, are the risks booking a fuel-dumped ticket the same as with a hidden city ticket? Do the airlines give bigger frowns to fuel dumping?

Hate United

DONT USE HIDDEN CITY TICKETS FROM UNITED! UNITED CAN DEFINITELY BAN YOU FROM FUTURE FLIGHTS.

I had such a story with united. and they didn’t let me board the plane before i paid a penalty from $250.

i called united customer service to get a refund. The response from them was a letter in a hand delivered FedEx envelope that i should ‘cease and desist this immediately’. if not United will refuse to transport me on future flight.

Dan

@Hate United:
I know of thousands of people who do this stuff, but never seen a letter like that.
Mind scanning and emailing it to me?

Hate United

@Dan: whats your email address?

Dan

@Hate United:
It’s in the top right sidebar of this site.

Fat Trimming- Dan, please answer

I would appriciate if you can answer me because it is nogeya for me right now. thanks

Dan, are the risks booking a fuel-dumped ticket the same as with a hidden city ticket? Do the airlines give bigger frowns to fuel dumping?

Dan

@Fat Trimming- Dan, please answer:
Many people do both without issues, though repeat users may be told to knock it off. There is no scientific answer for you.

JUNEE

JUST TRIED MIDWAY TO ANY AIRPORT IN SOUTH FLORIDA ON 12/17 AND NADDAA

Wandering Man

@Dan great advise!. Question should you or do you have to cancel the connecting flight or just be a no show for the connection?

yk

cle to ewr for 12/10 for shabbos chanuka united showing $539 with hidden city $49 with a choice of 3 flights

Eli

@Wandering Man: no show

Mottie

Is the united expedite work around discussed on ddf?

Steven

this seems to be a great way to book from BWI to YYZ although there is only one airline that I can get the cheap tickets on, and that is with UNITED. Should I be nervous about doing this with United as @Hate UNited mentioned?

Yossi

Any ideas for searching hidden city with Southwest? Their website does not make it easy.

nocknock

1st) an easier way to put in all the airports without have to copy and paste is to enter destination as DEN and serch nerby airports within 2000 miles

2nd) DAN make sure United doesn’t sue you

!

Dan thanks for the great post
can you please list the airports for Canada trying to get a ticket to Montreal

Thanks a lot

Ejb

@David R:
X30

Spoon fed

@ Dan
Awsome! clear! to the point.
Thanks!
I dont know why you say you are not a spoon-feeder I was just spoon fed.

Dan

@Steven:
I wouldn’t worry about doing it occasionally.

@nocknock:
Doesn’t work nearly as good as my method.

@!:
http://forums.dansdeals.com/index.php?topic=45539

yyk

Dan, correct me if I’m wrong but it sounds like this hidden city trick wouldn’t either work in a case where the planes are small and carry-on luggage are gate checked, which us Clevelander’s unfortunately have to deal with a lot…?

Dan

@yyk:
Works just fine, why wouldn’t it?

yyk

Do they take all the carry-on luggage off the plane and put back whatever remains (for the second leg of the trip)? If yes, then I understand how it would work.

!

when I checked a ticket to Montreal they both came up with $110 from air Canada the only difference is that skiplagged won’t give you united flights so ita came up with $77 from united which is much cheaper. though I am still concerned about that letter one of the @hateunited got from united
Dan if you indeed got a copy can you please tell us if there is what to worry about?

Thanks.

Dan

@yyk:
The 2nd leg is on another plane. So yes, of course.

@!:
After seeing the letter, it was definitely a one-off situation where a group got busted by the check-in agent with luggage despite none of them having never done hidden-city before.

Extremely rare for that to happen, but it makes a good point. Make sure you know what you’re doing and don’t tip off employees at the airport.

!

Dan what i don’t understand is
how did the agent know what they are planning to do
(to my understanding this was before the first leg correct)

Thank you.

Dan

@!:
Like I said, my opinion is that it’s a one-off story.

They must have said something, there’s no other way.

Hate United

We didn’t say anything, it was like they waited for us, the manager was there and had all our names on a paper and call us out of the line.

but still could be @Dan is right that its a one-off story.

I would never do it again after the hell we went through in the airport. BTW after paying off a penalty, they took away our aisle seat. so the ordered kosher meals didn’t came to us on time…

stbaum

Albert Einstein (supposedly) said: if you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough. well suffice it to say that even the n00b that i am, i understood this entire post perfectly. thank you so much for the long explanation in the simplest of terms. now i’m off to search for tickets to LAS! Vegas, here we come! 🙂

Dan

@Hate United:
I hate to say it , but your story makes no sense.

There’s no way they knew you were going to skip the last leg unless
-Someone was an idiot and called on the phone asking an incredibly dumb question.
-Someone asked an incredibly dumb question at the airport.
-Someone did hidden city ticketing repeatedly and often.

The story that none of you ever did it, none of you tipped them off, and they were still waiting for you is simply impossible. That would just be a simple connecting ticket that millions of people fly on every single day.

Aside from that. literally tens of thousands of people have done hidden city without any issues on United. So something is simply not adding up.

If not at the airport I’d guess someone in your party called and asked a phone agent something dumb that tipped them off and had your record notated and then they confirmed it at the airport with you.

@stbaum:
Enjoy. Just don’t tell the airline your plans 😉

stbaum

@Dan: d’oh

yanky

RE HATE UNITED. was this story in london or belgium with the final leg in canada ??? cus poeple with flights cus europe abbused that and they realized that poeple are did that on daily bases…………………

Buenos naches

There are some fairly consistent hidden city fares. Those coming back from CUN to LAX could always tack on DEN, for example.

Skipplagged fan

With ita after you put in the hidden city destinations direct flights wont come up even if its the cheapest option. I for example put in a flight from ORD to PHL for dec 5 on ita the cheapest showing is 87 with a second leg after philly. Skiplagged on the other hand showed me there was a spirit direct for 41. If your using ita make sure you check for direct.

Hate United

@yanky yes, it was in Brussels Airport.

Could be they were aware that we reside in NY so we probably going to skipleg.

@Dan no one of the group called in or said anything.

Lap Infant on a FD

Will travelling with a lap-infant increase our chances of getting noticed at the time of check-in that we have booked a FD ticket. Its a United ticket.
Im asking this because every time we travel on star alliance with an infant its an ordeal to print the infant’s ticket even without FDing.

Anonymous

@nocknock: where is the option to search within 2000 miles?

Anonymous

@Hate United:
cus poeple came to chein counter and they taged the bag all the way to canada (you have to take the luggage out before costums but they taged it in brusses and popele told them that there final destination is ewr . this happend ON DAILY BASES and the got aware if it and decided to penalize poeple before the chek in

and btw this wasnt even a united ticket (those hidden city is ticketed by lufthansa most of the time) was only operated by united

Tal

@Dan I attempted that blog post, but was not successful. I’m wondering if I’m doing something wrong or if Hyderbad is just not a routing airport?

Leah

I tried following the procedure. My desired destination was NYC, but it took me to Columbus OH. I saw that your desired destination was NYC, and it took you to WAS. How is that getting you to NYC? I must be doing something wrong…

Deirdre

Awesome article. However I can’t get the matrix to work for me. Any suggestions?

Dan

@Deirdre:
What exactly isn’t working?

Jenny

Hi Dan, I am trying to use this method to find a flight from NY to London but it has not been working. I tried typing in LHR for routing code and then put the full list of Europe destinations and the resulting ticket prices have been several hundred higher than what I already know is available on other search engines. Do you know what could be going on here? Thanks!

D

As Deirdre said before, I’m getting an error when I attempt this method. I’m doing exactly as you say for a flight from DTW to OAK and it’s giving an internal error message. Any thoughts?

james

Trying to get berlin to cyprus but absolutely no luck when searching all airports around that area.
Can anybody advise?

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