Skiplagging, a term increasingly familiar to savvy travelers, is a controversial yet intriguing practice in the world of travel hacking. At its core, skiplagging involves booking a flight with a layover and intentionally skipping the final leg of the journey. The origins of this practice trace back to travelers seeking loopholes in airline pricing algorithms, aiming to save money on airfare.
What is Skiplagging?
Skiplagging, also known as ‘hidden city ticketing,’ is a flight booking strategy where a passenger disembarks at the layover city instead of continuing to the final destination. This method often results from finding that flights with layovers are cheaper than direct flights to the layover city.
For example, a flight from New York to San Francisco might be more expensive than a flight from New York to Seattle with a layover in San Francisco. Skiplaggers would exit in San Francisco, skipping the last leg to Seattle.
How to Buy Skiplagged Plane Tickets
To purchase skiplagged tickets, travelers need to identify routes where the intended destination is a layover point on a longer journey. This requires careful research and sometimes the use of specialized search engines or websites dedicated to uncovering such routes. It’s crucial to book these flights as one-way tickets, since missing any leg of the journey typically cancels the remaining segments.
Tips for Safe Skiplagging
- Use Specialized Search Tools: Utilize search engines and websites specifically designed for finding skiplagged flights. These tools can help you identify routes where your intended destination is just a layover on a longer journey.
- Focus on One-Way Tickets: Always book one-way tickets when skiplagging. If you book a round-trip and miss any segment of your journey, airlines usually cancel all subsequent flights on that ticket.
- Conduct Thorough Research: Compare prices between direct flights to your destination and flights that have your destination as a layover. This will help you identify potential skiplagging opportunities.
- Be Flexible with Your Travel Dates: Flexibility can be key in finding the best skiplagged deals. Sometimes flying a day earlier or later can result in significant savings.
- Check Multiple Airlines: Different airlines may offer varying routes and prices, so compare options across multiple carriers.
- Consider Smaller Airports: Flights to or from smaller, regional airports can sometimes offer better skiplagging opportunities than major hubs.
- Stay Informed About Route Changes: Airlines occasionally change their routes. A route that was once profitable for skiplagging may no longer be viable. Regularly check for updates or changes in flight paths.
- Avoid Peak Travel Times: Skiplagging deals are more likely to be found during off-peak times. Avoid major holidays and peak travel seasons, when flights are generally more expensive and booked.
- Be Aware of Airline Alliances: If you’re considering skiplagging on an airline within a major alliance, remember that repercussions for skiplagging might extend across all airlines within that alliance.
- Monitor Flight Schedules Regularly: Prices and routes can change rapidly. Keep an eye on flight schedules and prices over a period to catch the best deals.
- Understand the Risks: Be fully aware of the potential consequences of skiplagging, including being banned by airlines, losing frequent flyer miles, or other penalties.
- Read the Fine Print: Before booking, thoroughly read the terms and conditions of your ticket and the airline’s policies.
- Use Incognito Mode when searching: Some suggest that using incognito mode in your browser while searching for flights can prevent price hikes based on your search history.
- Avoid Loyalty Accounts: Don’t use your airline loyalty program details when booking a skiplagged flight to avoid potential penalties to your account.
- Prepare for Last-Minute Changes: Airlines may change their flight routes or schedules, so be prepared with a backup plan in case your skiplagged route is altered or cancelled.
Pros and Cons of Skiplagging
Advantages of Skiplagging
- Cost-Saving Benefits: The primary allure of skiplagging is the potential for significant savings, especially on last-minute or peak-season flights.
- Time-Saving Benefits: In some cases, skiplagging might offer more direct routes to the traveler’s intended destination, reducing travel time.
Disadvantages of Skiplagging
- Potential Risks and Drawbacks: Airlines frown upon this practice and might penalize travelers by voiding frequent flyer miles or banning them from the airline. Additionally, if the itinerary changes (like a flight rerouting), the traveler could end up in an unintended city.
Is Skiplagging Legal?
Legally, skiplagging resides in a gray area. While not illegal, it violates most airlines’ terms of service. Airlines have occasionally taken legal action against websites promoting skiplagging, citing breach of contract. However, there have been no known cases of individuals being legally penalized for skiplagging.
Understanding the Legal Status of Skiplagging
- Not Explicitly Illegal: There are no specific laws that make skiplagging a criminal act. It is not prohibited by any federal or international aviation laws, which means passengers who engage in skiplagging are not breaking any explicit legal statutes.
- Violation of Airline Terms of Service: While skiplagging itself is not illegal, it often violates the terms of service agreements that passengers enter into with airlines when purchasing a ticket. These agreements typically include clauses that require passengers to complete all segments of their booked itinerary. By not boarding a connecting flight, a passenger breaches this contract.
- Airline Actions and Recourse: Airlines, in response to skiplagging, have occasionally pursued legal action, but these cases have primarily been against websites that facilitate skiplagging, rather than individual travelers. Airlines argue that these websites encourage breach of contract and can potentially lead to revenue loss.
- Potential Airline Repercussions for Travelers: While legal action against individuals is rare, airlines have other means of recourse. They can cancel the remaining legs of a journey, void frequent flyer miles, impose fines (in the form of fare adjustments), or even ban passengers from future flights. These actions are taken under the airlines’ rights as per the terms of service agreement.
- Legal Precedents: There have been a few notable legal cases involving airlines and skiplagging. For instance, a major German airline sued a passenger for skiplagging, claiming loss of revenue. However, the court ruled in favor of the passenger. Such cases highlight the complexity and varying interpretations of the legality surrounding skiplagging.
- Ethical Considerations: Apart from legal aspects, there’s an ethical debate around skiplagging. Some argue it’s a consumer’s right to use a service they have paid for as they see fit, while others point out that it can lead to fare increases and other passengers paying more.
- Regional Variations: The response to skiplagging can vary by region and airline. Some airlines in certain countries may be more vigilant and punitive than others. It’s crucial for travelers to be aware of these differences, especially when flying with international airlines.