How a Teen’s Airport Encounter Exposed the Risks of ‘Skip-Lagging’

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Key Takeaways

  • Attempting to save on flights through “skip-lagging” may result in canceled tickets, additional costs, or potential airline bans due to violation of ticket terms.
  • Airlines have policies against this practice, leading to legal actions and flight cancellations for travelers using this method.
  • Despite potential savings, airlines discourage skip-lagging, emphasizing the importance of understanding associated risks and ethical considerations.

A teenager from North Carolina thought he had found a clever way to save money on his flight from Gainesville, Florida, to Charlotte, North Carolina. Logan booked a ticket from Gainesville to New York City, with a layover in Charlotte, and planned to skip the second leg of the journey. 

This travel hack, known as “skip-lagging,” or “hidden city ticketing,” involves booking a flight with a layover at the traveler’s intended destination and then not taking the subsequent flight. However, as per a People report, Logan’s strategy backfired when he faced questioning and investigation at the Florida airport.

As per the report, Logan’s father, Hunter Parsons, said that airport authorities became suspicious when they saw that Logan had a North Carolina driver’s license despite holding a ticket to New York. 

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This was Logan’s first solo trip, and he was taken to a secure room for further inquiry. The Parsons family said they had been using the travel service Skiplagged.com for years and were not aware of the airline industry’s negative stance on skip-lagging. 

The practice has faced legal challenges before. In 201, as reported by NPR, Lufthansa Airlines sued a passenger for more than $2,000 for skipping part of a round-trip journey from Oslo to Seattle. However, a Berlin court dismissed the lawsuit.

The Reasons Behind Skip-Lagging

Skip-lagging is based on the logic that sometimes, booking a flight with an intermediate stop is cheaper than a direct flight to the same destination. Airlines adjust their prices according to the competition and demand in different markets. Business Insider explains that an airline may lower its price to match it if a low-fare competitor is on a route from Boston to Houston. But the airline may charge more for that ticket if no such competitor is on a route from Boston to Las Vegas via Houston. Therefore, a traveler who wants to go to Houston may find it cheaper to book the Boston-Las Vegas ticket and get off in Houston.

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The Risks and Consequences of Skip-Lagging

However, skip-lagging is not without risks and consequences. First of all, travelers who use this hack cannot check any bags, as they will go to the final destination of the ticket. Secondly, travelers may need help with their flight being canceled or rerouted due to weather or other issues. Thirdly, travelers may lose their frequent flyer miles or points or even get banned by an airline for violating their terms and conditions. American Airlines, United Airlines, and Lufthansa are among the airlines that have taken action against skip-lagging passengers. 

In Logan’s case, American Airlines canceled his ticket and required his family to purchase a new direct flight ticket. The airline’s spokesperson said their policy prohibits “purchasing a ticket without intending to fly all flights to gain lower fares,” also known as “hidden city ticketing.”

The Future of Skip-Lagging

Despite the legal and ethical issues surrounding skip-lagging, some travelers may still be tempted to use it to save money on airfare. 

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Skiplagged says the website helps users find up to 80% flight savings. However, with the recovery of the travel industry after the pandemic, airlines can charge higher fares and reduce the price gap between direct and indirect flights. Therefore, skip-lagging may need to be more sustainable and reliable.

What We Think

Despite the appeal of cost savings, skip-lagging presents significant risks. Travelers should consider the potential consequences, including canceled tickets and additional expenses, before attempting this travel hack.

While it might offer savings, it can disrupt travel plans and lead to legal issues, underscoring the importance of understanding airline policies and ethical implications when opting for unconventional booking methods.

The recovery of the travel industry might also diminish the potential savings, urging travelers to seek more reliable and sustainable ways to save on airfare.

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