Between cancellations, insanely high prices, and lost luggage, driving for 16 hours to get to where you're going can sometimes feel better than booking a two-hour flight. In some ways, air travel today doesn't feel much different from 1973, except fewer cigarettes and way more security.
But some savvy folks are making the airlines work for them with skiplagging. You might've heard about this travel hack on social media, but we break it down -- and help you figure out what the issues are.
Simply, skiplagging is where you buy a ticket with a connecting flight where the place the connection flies into is your destination rather than the final location. Typically, connecting flights are cheaper than one-ways because airlines can drop off and gain new passengers -- which is extra money in their pockets.
For all the airline knows, you just missed your connecting flight. And if you've ever tried to make a 30-minute connection in massive airports like ATL or LAX, then you know the struggle is real. But instead, you're playing hooky on a plane you never intended to get on in the first place.
What the Fuss Is All About
It's hard to say exactly what kicked up skiplagging in the internet world, but it's a hot topic on social media like TikTok right now. But, like a lot things, with exposure comes added surveillance.
One 17-year-old tried to skiplag on an American Airlines flight from Gainesville, Florida to New York City with a connection in Charlotte, and it ended in disaster. He was banned from flying on American Airlines for 3 years and detained in the airport until his parents could purchase a direct flight back home.
5 Thing to Know About Skiplagging
Before you stockpile connecting flights for your future trips, there are some things you should consider first:
1. It's Not Illegal, But There Might Be Repercussions
While skiplagging may be a moral question since it is an intentionally duplicitous act, there's nothing illegal about it. You can't get arrested for skiplagging. But an airline can ban you from future flights if they want to.
Airlines are corporations that you choose to do business with, and if you don't follow their policies, you'll face consequences. As it stands, airlines in the United States explicitly prohibit skiplagging (aka hidden city ticketing). So, if you're found out, you just might get stranded and banned.
2. You Can't Travel With Any Luggage
With a connecting flight, any checked luggage is directly moved from one location to another. It never makes its way to the carousel for you to collect. So, if you wanted to skiplag, you'd need to take only a carry-on at most.
3. There's an App for It
Everything's got to be on an app in today's world, and Skiplagged turned skiplagging into a business. It's like most other travel websites, but it helps you find cheaper flights with layovers that you can bail on in lieu of your original, more expensive, one-way.
But the site's been sued multiple times by various airlines for violating their terms and conditions. So, some skiplaggers are using Skiplagged as a way to find these cheaper flights and then booking through other sites like Expedia, Priceline, Kayak etc.
4. Mum's the Word
If you're planning to exploit airline loopholes, then one way to fast track yourself to getting banned is to brag about it. So if you do decide to skiplag, you might not want to make TikToks about it in the bathroom, chat with the people at the gate about your intentions, or let any of the buddies coming along with you open their big mouths either.
5. Try It Too Often and You Might Get Flagged
Although we can't confirm each airline's data processing algorithms, what we can say is that one too many connecting tickets bought in succession and connecting flights being missed will probably show up on their end. If you want to stay off of their radar, don't make skiplagging a new hobby.
And if you really want to protect your frequent flier miles and rewards account, don't sign in with it or link the flight you plan to bail on to that member's account.
Skiplagging Means Cheaper Flights, But at What Cost?
The past few years have been a tumultuous time, and bills seem to be getting higher while wages have flattened out. Naturally, everyone wants to scrimp and save where they can.
So skiplagging, an old practice, has been rediscovered by younger people wanting to travel the world for the least amount possible. While it's not illegal, it's not consequence-free either. So, make sure you weigh the pros and cons before skiplagging your next flight.