Save Money on Airline Tickets: Hidden City Ticketing

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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!

Save Money On Airline Tickets Hidden City Ticketing
You Can Use Airline Ticket Pricing to Your Advantage With a Few Simple Tricks!

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.

Save Money On Airline Tickets Hidden City Ticketing
Hidden City Ticketing Can Save You Lots of Money…But There Are Risks!

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:   AirFareIQ

Link:   ITA Matrix

Here are 3 websites you can use to find possible hidden city fares.

a)   FlyShortcut

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.
Save Money On Airline Tickets Hidden City Ticketing
You’ll Pay a Fee Equal to 25% of Your Flight Savings With FlyShortcut

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.

b)   AirfareIQ

Link:   AirFareIQ

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!
Save Money On Airline Tickets Hidden City Ticketing
AirfareIQ Could Save You Money on Last-Minute Tickets

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.

Save Money On Airline Tickets Hidden City Ticketing
A Last Minute 1-Way Coach Class Ticket From Dallas to Seattle on Alaska Airlines Costs $563

But when you search on AirfareIQ, they show an Alaska Airlines fare from Dallas to Seattle to Spokane for $279.

Save Money On Airline Tickets Hidden City Ticketing
AirfareIQ Says You Can Fly From Dallas to Spokane, Via Seattle, for $279

I checked the Alaska Airlines website to see if I could buy the ticket.  I found the fare easily.

Save Money On Airline Tickets Hidden City Ticketing
If You Fly From Dallas to Seattle to Spokane, the Fare Drops to $279…But You Won’t Fly From Seattle to Spokane

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.

Save Money On Airline Tickets Hidden City Ticketing
You’ll Pay ~$426 For a Non-Stop 1-Way Ticket From Newark to Philadelphia on US Airways

To find hidden city fares, 1st click “Advanced Routing Codes.

Save Money On Airline Tickets Hidden City Ticketing
Click “Advanced Routing Codes” to Search for Hidden City Fares
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.

Save Money On Airline Tickets Hidden City Ticketing
I Entered My Desired Destination (In This Case, PHL for Philadelphia) as the Connection Point
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!

Save Money On Airline Tickets Hidden City Ticketing
You Can Get to Philadelphia Much More Inexpensively If You Connect There en Route to Another Airport!

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).

Save Money On Airline Tickets Hidden City Ticketing
Save Money When You Book a Ticket to Washington, DC via Philadelphia (and Just Get Off the Plane in Philadelphia!)

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.

Bottom Line

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!

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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