Oh if you could see the faces on the people waiting for you to board your next connecting flight… but you never will. You’ll be in a cab to where you actually want to go. Airlines play idiotic games with airfare prices, which isn’t news, but how to beat the system may be just the news you need. Here’s how to use hidden city ticketing to your advantage…

a city skyline with tall buildings

For Starters, Hidden City Ticketing Is…

Hidden city ticketing is an opportunity to save money on flight prices by booking travel to a city you won’t actually visit – that for whatever reason is pricing out cheaper than the place you do really want to visit. The key is that your connection will be through the city you actually want to visit, thus giving you an opportunity to hop off, grab a cab and never look back. This obviously requires some more clarification and knowledge, which we’ll provide below…

a city with a castle in the background

Is That Illegal? Can Things Go Wrong?

Hidden city ticketing is not illegal, but things can go wrong. For starters, it only works one way, unless you plan on simply skipping the last segment of the trip, which generally happens when you’ve found an amazing deal that starts somewhere you can get to, but don’t want to bother going back to, if you can find a connection that simply pops you out at home along the way. Whenever you skip a segment the rest of the itinerary cancels, so you CANNOT start from a city you won’t actually go to, but you CAN end in a city you won’t actually go through, as long as that flight connects through your true destination. The other big snag here, which isn’t big for many travelers is that you cannot check luggage. It will go to your final destination, where you will NOT be. Carry on is totally fine though, so pack wisely!

a pool with a house and a sunset

Are The Savings Meaningful? Why Bother?

It totally varies, you’ll just need to search. Two weeks ago I needed a one way flight from New York to Los Angeles. The cheapest last minute economy ticket was $600 and business class was $1500 one way. Using hidden city ticketing, I was able to find a ticket in business class from New York to San Jose, California for $709. It featured one stop, a connection in LA on the same flight that would’ve cost $1500 by itself, and since it was a short trip, my carry on would suffice. This works in economy, it works for business class and every other class. The key is to find a city that will work as the cheaper fare. Hidden city ticketing is generally easiest to do when your true final destination is a hub city.

a sign on a hill

How Do I Find A City With A Cheaper Fare?

Certain cities inadvertently end up becoming “fare war” cities. That is essentially when two or more airlines are undercutting each other in hopes of cornering the market. If you can book travel to a fare war city with a connection through your intended city you can win big time, since airlines really only care about winning your business to the competing city, and don’t mind you flying cheap (on the flight you actually want to take). Use sites like Flyertalk to see where most of the deals out there are originating or ending. For example, in Europe, certain cities like Dublin, Stockholm, Helsinki and Milan always seem to be cheaper than others, so even if you really want to go to Paris, London or anywhere else, you would search like you’re booking to one of those cities, and look for a connection that goes to the place you actually want to end up…

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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  1. In some cases you can check luggage and ask at the check-in counter for your cases to only go part of the way.

    I recently did this on a KUL/SIN/BCN/SIN/KUL return where we stopped in Singapore. The flight was with Singapore Airlines and the fare difference in comparison with SIN/BCN/SIN was 30%…

    In Barcelona we checked in all the way to Kuala Lumpur, got the boarding passes, but specified to only check the luggage to Singapore. Worked like a dream and we found our luggage on the carousel on arrival.

    Second interesting point on this was that the return BCN/SIN actually stops in Milan Malpensa BUT you cannot get off.

  2. Better to not add your FF# to one of these types of reservations. If you do this scheme regularly, the Airline will get wise to it and may cancel your FF account (and all the miles in it).

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