‘Skiplagging’ trend gives air travelers a break from soaring fares
Airline passengers feeling the pinch of sky-high fares are increasingly resorting to an old trick to save some money by booking flights with a layover to their intended city and ditching the second leg of the trip.
Although not a new concept, “skiplagging” — also known as “hidden-city” or “throwaway” ticketing — has been gaining in popularity, to the consternation of airlines.
The skiplagging trend comes from the flight booking website Skiplagged.com — founded in 2013 by a then-22-year-old entrepreneur named Aktarer Zaman — which beats some other sites’ prices to popular destinations by more than $100.
Dan Gellert, Skiplagged.com’s COO, told The Post on Friday that there’s such a stark price difference because “we exist to help the travelers save money.
“We don’t exist to help the airlines sell tickets, which is what the other travel sites do.”
The Post tested if Skiplagged.com’s rates for a hidden-city Honolulu vacation were cheaper than the nonstop, round-trip options listed on Google Flights from New York in early June.
The search result offered three options, starting at $872 and reaching as high as $937.
Flights with stopovers — often in Los Angeles — started at $812 on Google Flights.
A hidden-city itinerary, meanwhile, on Skiplagged from New York to Maui, with a layover in Honolulu was listed for $799, nearly $100 cheaper.
Savings soared even higher for an international flight from New York to Amsterdam.
A round-trip flight to the capital of the Netherlands from June 1-5 started at $1,171 for a nonstop flight on Google Flights.
However, the same search on Skiplagged found a hidden-city itinerary that would cost a traveler $1,021 — $136 less than the nonstop flight.
All the travelers would have to do is ditch the second-leg flight on the itinerary that continued on from Amsterdam to Milan.
There’s just one catch — flyers can’t check a bag.
After all, airports tag bags to arrive at a traveler’s “final destination.”
Skiplagged.com claims in an FAQ article that cost-saving strategies are “perfectly legal,” but advises travelers “some things to be aware of” as airlines have started catching onto — and implementing punishments associated with — skiplagging.
Their tips include bringing only one carry-on bag that can fit under the seat in front of you.
“Anything larger risks getting checked at the gate, and all checked bags will end up” in the final ticketed destination.
Knowing that the practice upsets airlines, Skiplagged.com also advises travelers to “not overuse hidden-city itineraries.”
In addition, “don’t associate a frequent flyer account” with your itinerary, the FAQ advises.
Airlines have been known to strip travelers with hidden-city tickets of their status perks or their mileage account altogether, according to NerdWallet, since skiplagging goes against some airlines’ terms and conditions.
The outlet even cited instances where American Airlines passengers who skiplagged their trip were sent a bill from the airline.
“It’s like a diner charging more for medium than large, and then being mad when a customer buys the large and eats half,” Gellert said of airlines’ anger over skiplagging.
The cost-saving hunt comes as flight prices continue to outpace 40-year-high inflation, despite the airline industry receiving more than $50 billion in pandemic relief money throughout the past two years.
The airlines have blamed the higher ticket prices on jet fuel cost increasing nearly 150% in the past year, staffing shortage, and pent-up demand, CNBC reported.
Delta’s contract of carriage for international flights directly cites hidden-city ticketing — a practice it claims is used for “circumventing the published fare” — as prohibited.
Some airlines have tried to sue passengers who have skiplagged, including Lufthansa, which sought $2,300 in damages from a flyer in 2018 for using a hidden-city ticket.
The airline withdrew the suit the following year for an undisclosed reason.
United, along with travel website Orbitz, even tried to sue Zaman in 2014 for “deceptive behavior,” arguing his site deprived the two companies of $75,000 in revenue.
The case was thrown out in early 2015 after a Chicago judge said the court didn’t have jurisdiction over the case because Zaman lived and conducted his business from New York.
“Our flights are so cheap, United sued us…but we won,” Skiplagged.com boasts on its homepage.