British Airways to Crack Down on “Hidden City” Flight Hacks

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1Clever travelers have been using this money-saving trick for years: that might be about to change

British Airways is following United Airlines’ lead, set to fight fliers who buy tickets with the intention of flying only a portion of the multiple-flight journey. Clever travelers have been using this trick for years to save money: it’s called hidden-city or throwaway ticketing. The airlines were never happy about this, and fliers caught trying this hack have had their frequent-flier accounts closed down. But, in the past, besides for canceling the rest of the itinerary when a passenger didn’t appear, nothing much was done. That didn’t hurt fliers, if they only booked one-way tickets anyway. That could all change now: the consequences are likely to be much stiffer.

Think it doesn’t make much sense for it to cost less to fly NY-Cincinnati-LA than a direct flight from New York to Los Angeles? These travelers didn’t think so, either. Because airline ticket prices are based on supply and demand rather than the distance traveled, certain routes had better pricing because not as many people chose to fly that way. So, buying a ticket from NY-LA with a stopover in Cincy, and skipping the Cincinnati leg of the journey, would actually be cheaper than NY-LA, with no stopovers.

The NY-LA flight logic can also be applied to traveling anywhere in the world. And fliers have been taking advantage of this loophole for years. The problem? It’s gotten too popular, mostly because of a new website called Skiplagged.

Skiplagged.com is a fairly new website. It was created specifically to use an algorithm to find fares with hidden-city options. Because the search is done automatically, when normally it would have taken a lot of know-how and a whole lot more time to do, it’s made hidden-city hacking available to the average traveler, not just the seasoned, savvy flier. For airlines, that means their profits are taking a serious hit. And they won’t stand for it. According to people “very close to the situation,” British Airways could be about to begin charging hidden-city hackers the difference. The money the fliers saved by booking one flight and flying another would then be billed to them by the airline.

Most American travelers would not be affected by this possible British Airways move. But, if BA successfully comes after the hidden-city hackers, you’d better believe other airlines are next.

Should you stop using this trick, or start using it quickly while you still can? That’s your call!

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