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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
ITA doesn’t sell tickets, but searching on Priceline for CLE-PVD came up with the desired flight:
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:
But by changing the ITA search to this:
It found it with ease:
Does Skiplagged do any better for the return?
Not even close to ITA:
Will Skiplagged do any better from Pittsburgh? The best it found was PIT-LGA-RDU for $141:
While ITA found PIT-EWR-RDU for $104:
How about from nearby Akron? This time Skiplagged did find a cheaper RDU fare:
These are all things that Skiplagged can rectify, but for now it’s not even a competition. ITA wins hands down.