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I would like to think that I am a logical guy. You know, one plus one equals two, having a second steak dinner costs more money, the sky is usually blue. For whatever reason airlines have their own logic. It’s not wrong but it is very often perplexing for us, the traveling folk. Logic would say that taking one flight should be cheaper than taking two, or even three and sometimes it is. Logic would also say that going somewhere close by would be cheaper than somewhere far away, you know, gas, paying people by the hour and all. It’s often not and the strange logic has caused people all over the world to discover hidden city ticketing, a non illegal but discouraged gem. 

a man writing on a chalkboard

Hidden city ticketing is mostly used when travel to a major city or hub is pricing out to be prohibitively expensive. Defying logic, you are quite often better off finding a flight to an entirely different destination that includes a connection through the major hub city you actually wish to visit. You just don’t take the continuing flight to the middle of nowhere. For example, if I wished to travel from New York to Atlanta I may very well find that the tickets are horribly expensive. Using the technique of hidden city ticketing I would search various other destinations that offer connections in Atlanta such as New York to Alabama, Louisiana or possibly even California. With any luck I will find a routing, whatever it may be, that goes from New York to Atlanta before connecting on to the final city which I will not travel to. For one way it is truly that easy. For round trip it’s slightly more complicated. With any itinerary when you miss a leg, the remaining flights are automatically cancelled so this only works by booking one way at a time. For a round trip, I would simply book two separate one way tickets and likely need to find a different “hidden city” combination on the return. Perhaps on the return from Atlanta to New York, flights would be cheaper if I booked Atlanta to Boston presuming I could find an itinerary with a connection in New York where I would truly terminate my travel. The beauty in hidden city ticketing is that you do not have to position anywhere other than home to start, nor do you end up anywhere other than home at the end all the while saving money. As with anything there are perks and pitfalls…..

a map of the united states with words


Cheaper Tickets: For most of us saving money is hugely important. Hidden city ticketing can save hundreds or thousands when there is a great sale going on to a city which includes travel through your intended destination. Sure you might be putting in slightly more legwork but for savings that can make or break a vacation it’s worth it.

Less Connections: I often feel like connections seem to just get tacked on to flights that should be direct. With hidden city ticketing you turn what is potentially a series of connections to your overly expensive destination into a direct flight to your actually intended destination for less money. Bingo.

a man pushing a cart


Unlikely to Check Bags: You wont be too happy if you arrive for vacation and your bags keep on flying around the world for a few days. The inability to check bags (without extreme hassle) can be a deal breaker for some considering hidden city techniques. Additionally if you’re one of those people who tries to get away with shoving a ridiculous amount of shit into your carry on and occasionally get busted and need to gate check that could be trouble too. 

Potential For Routing Change: Though you have many avenues of recourse if an airline attempts to alter or change your flights including anything from a full refund to an upgrade or more a change could cause your flight to travel through a different connection than the one you actually plan to terminate at. In this case you would likely have to go back to the drawing board.

an old woman in a hat and hat in front of stacks of gold bars

In summary this is a great technique which though frowned upon I see as fair play to anyone willing to put in the slightly more tedious work. If hidden city ticketing is only going to save me $20 round trip, I value my time at far more than $20 per hour so an hour of searching isn’t going to be worth the effort, I’ll just buy the slightly more expensive ticket. If I find that I can save hundreds or thousands, i’ll be happy I spent an extra few minutes figuring out a place that works out cheaper. The more you know….

As Always, Get in Touch: GodSaveThePoints@gmail.com

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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