Travel Hacking: Hidden City Ticketing

Travel Hacking: Hidden City Ticketing


All around the world, the economy is foremost on almost everyone’s minds. An unfortunate yet understandable cost-reducing measure to make up for smaller operating budgets and a dwindling population of travelers has been for airlines to raise costs. From increased fees on services such as checked baggage to raising the threshold for award travel redemption, these costly new expenses for us travelers have been touted as necessary by the airline industry to stay in business.

But savvy fliers have been fighting these costs for some time using what’s called travel hacking or fare hacking. So, now let me introduce you to a tried and true method of hacking airline ticket costs. It’s called:

Hidden City Ticketing

You don’t have to be an expert to understand this, since hidden city ticketing is a relatively simple tactic to grasp. It works best for last-minute travelers who are interested primarily in getting from one place to another, without so much worry on the return trip. Basically, it goes like this: To travel from Point A to Point B, it may be cheaper booking a ticket from Point A to Point C, with Point B as the layover city. Then, the remaining ticket(s) (from Point B to Point C) is/are discarded, as Point B was the traveler’s original intended destination.

(*Please note, I am writing this on May 1, 2013, though it will be posted later.)

For example, let’s say that we need a flight from New York City to San Francisco, to make an emergency appearance; remember, this fare hacking tactic works best for last-minute, one-way fares. So, I looked up flights leaving on May 2. If I look up one way flights from New York to San Francisco, here are my cheapest options:

Hidden City Ticketing Example 1

As you can see, the cheapest options are with Sun Country Airlines, though not so feasible, as they each have a 27- and 17-hour layover in MSP, respectively. The $314 option with US Airways is decent, but still with a 4-hour layover. If we wanted a nonstop flight from NYC to San Fran, here is the cheapest:

Hidden City Ticketing Example 2

Nonstop, so much better on time, but look at that price! A small fortune, I’m sure you’ d agree. Now, keeping these fares in mind, let’s see what we can come up with using the hidden city tactic. Point A is New York, Point B is San Francisco, but let’s book a ticket from New York to a Point C, with a layover in San Francisco. I found that many flights booked from NYC to Burbank, California (BUR/Bob Hope Airport, our “Point C”) have a layover in our intended Point B, San Francisco. So, here’s what I found:

Hidden City Ticketing Example 3

$221 for a flight from NYC to Burbank, with a layover in SFO. Essentially, this is $221 for a nonstop flight from New York to San Francisco, since you will discard of the second portion of the ticket that continues on from SFO to BUR. Not only is this “nonstop” cheaper than a regular nonstop without the hidden city ticketing tactic (which was $505), it is even significantly cheaper than a one way ticket to SFO with a layover (which was $292).

Legal? Round Trip? Answers and more examples on the Next Page ->

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Christian "Krzysiek" Eilers is a twenty-something who constantly likes to look up the next flight out of JFK. His life goal is to visit every country in the world; as a young adult working full-time, he often settles on visiting the near countries of Central and South America and the Caribbean, knocking these off the list as it is less of a financial strain than Europe or Asia. Caffeine is his vice, and if he doesn't have a coffee in his hands, then it's probably a green tea. A native of New York City, when he is not traveling, he can find an abundance of cultural influences right in his own city, enough to keep him satisfied until the next country's beckon cannot be ignored any longer. He holds a cigarette in one hand while monitoring his Fitbit's heart rate with the other.