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Did you know you can save lots of money on airline tickets by using a few simple booking tricks?
Airfare can be very expensive, especially if you have to buy a last minute ticket. And the way tickets are priced can be very confusing. Sometimes fares on longer routes are very cheap because there’s a seat sale or a fare war between airlines. But shorter routes can cost hundreds of dollars more.
By using hidden city ticketing, you can save a lot of money. But you need to be careful!
Hidden City Ticketing
You’ve probably noticed that the price of an airline ticket isn’t always proportional to the distance flown. Seat sales, fare wars, and competition on specific routes often results in good bargains between certain destinations.
Suppose you want to fly from Boston to Chicago, and the ticket is very expensive. But there’s a seat sale between Boston and Phoenix, with a connection in Chicago.
To save money, you can buy a ticket from Boston to Phoenix, but get off the plane in Chicago.
The airlines do NOT like this. And it can be risky. But it might be worth it if you’re saving a lot of money.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Use Fly Shortcut, AirFareIQ, or ITA Matrix to Find Hidden City Fares
Link: Fly Shortcut
Link: ITA Matrix
Here are 3 websites you can use to find possible hidden city fares.
Link: Fly Shortcut
FlyShortcut is a paid site. They charge a fee of 25% of your savings for showing you hidden city tickets for your desired route. You can’t book a ticket on their site, but once you pay their fee they’ll show you which routing to book.
If you’re not able to buy the lower priced ticket they’ve found, they’ll refund the fee. I don’t think paying 25% is worth it, unless the savings are very substantial. And there are free sites you can use to search for hidden city tickets.
That said, FlyShortcut does most of the work for you, so if you don’t have the time or inclination to go hunting for hidden city fares, it might be worth it for you to pay their fee.
AirFareIQ is another (free!) site you can use to find hidden city tickets. But you can only search for fares between today and 2 days from now. So this won’t be of use to most folks!
Because last minute tickets are typically very expensive, you could save a LOT of money.
For example, suppose you need to fly from Dallas to Seattle tomorrow. The lowest 1-way coach fare on the Alaska Airlines website is $563.
But when you search on AirfareIQ, they show an Alaska Airlines fare from Dallas to Seattle to Spokane for $279.
I checked the Alaska Airlines website to see if I could buy the ticket. I found the fare easily.
So in this case, you’d save $284 ($563 regular fare – $279 hidden city fare). And you’d get off the airplane in Seattle and not board the Seattle to Spokane flight.
AirfareIQ is a good site for folks who have to take a last minute trip and don’t want to pay expensive last minute fares. But it’s not terribly useful otherwise.
c) ITA Matrix
Link: ITA Matrix
If you’re comfortable using ITA Matrix, you can easily search for hidden city fares by specifying your desired destination as a connection point and plugging in random destinations as a “point C.”
Step 1 – Search for a 1-Way Flight and Enable Advanced Routing Codes
For example, I searched for a 1-way flight from Newark to Philadelphia on August 1, 2014. US Airways’ cheapest non-stop ticket is ~$426.
To find hidden city fares, 1st click “Advanced Routing Codes.”
Step 2 – Enter Desired Destination as a Connection Point
Once you click “Advanced Routing Codes,” a field will appear between the “Departing From” and “Destination” fields. Enter the airport code for your desired destination in the new field. In this case, I entered “PHL” for Philadelphia.
In the “Destination” field, you can input as many airport codes as you want, separated by commas. I entered a bunch of random airports on the east coast as my final destination to see if I could find a cheaper fare. Here’s a list of US and international airport codes that might help!
Remember, you’ll be getting off the airplane in Philadelphia, so it doesn’t matter what your “point C” is, as long as the fare is cheaper.
Step 3 – See If There Are Cheaper Fares
Check the list of flights to see if you can find a cheaper fare at the time you want.
In this case, many cheaper tickets appeared for the same day, all with a connection in Philadelphia!
A US Airways ticket from Newark to Washington Reagan Airport (DCA) costs only ~$158, with a connection in Philadelphia. That’s a savings of ~$268 (~$426 for a non-stop ticket – ~$158 for a hidden city ticket).
You might have to experiment with different destinations as your “point C” to find a cheaper fare. Be creative!
Step 4 – Book Your Ticket on the Airline Website
Remember, you can’t book a ticket on ITA Matrix. Once you find the fare you want, you’ll have to go to the airline website to buy the ticket.
Keep in mind, there are risks! Here are some rules you must follow:
2. Only Book 1-Way Tickets
If you miss a segment of your itinerary, the airline will automatically cancel the rest of your itinerary. So this trick only works if you’re going 1-way.
To get around this, book 2 separate 1-way tickets. That way, your return trip won’t be cancelled if you miss the last leg of your outbound journey.
3. Book Directly Through the Airline
Do NOT use a travel agent to book hidden city fares. That’s because if the airline finds out what you did, they can penalize the travel agent and make them pay the difference in fare.
If you book directly through the airline, they can’t ask you to pay the fare difference. But they might be quite unhappy with you!
4. Don’t Put Your Frequent Flyer Number on the Itinerary
Airlines have been known to punish folks who do this a lot by freezing or emptying their frequent flyer accounts. While they can’t force you to pay the fare difference, they can take away your points! So don’t attach your frequent flyer number to your booking.
This is not a trick to do over and over with the same airline. If they suspect you’re abusing the system, they’ll try to find ways to penalize you.
5. Never Check a Bag
The airline will automatically check your bag through to your final destination. So if you’re using this technique, you can NOT check a bag!
6. You May Get Re-Routed
In the event of a delay or cancellation, you run the risk of being re-routed via a different airport to the final destination on your ticket. The airlines don’t have to make sure you connect via a certain airport. So be aware that you run the risk of ending up somewhere you do NOT want to be!
7. You Might Need a Passport!
Suppose you’ve bought a ticket from A to B to C, with the intention of getting off at B. Point C might be in a completely different country (like Canada) so you’ll need a passport to check-in. The airlines will NOT let you fly internationally without a passport, and if you tell them you’re getting off at point B, they’ll likely deny you boarding and cancel the rest of your ticket.
You can save a lot of money on airline tickets by using hidden city ticketing. Airfare from point A to point B might be very expensive, but a flight from point A to point B to point C may be on sale and a lot cheaper. You’d pay less for your ticket and just get off the plane at point B.
Airlines are not happy with folks who do this! So don’t do it repeatedly with the same airline. Don’t use your frequent flyer number. And you can NOT check a bag!
Hidden city ticketing can be risky, so do what’s comfortable for you.
Have you had success with hidden city ticketing? Please share your story in the comments!