Airlines hate 'hidden city ticketing' — but it's still one of the best ways to save a ton on your flights if you know how to do it

  • Hidden city ticketing can help you save a ton on your flights, but it could be a little risky.
  • By booking a flight and getting off at the layover as opposed to the ticketed destination, you can save big money.
  • Airlines could penalize fliers who use this method, though, so it's important to know the right way to do it.

'Hidden city ticketing' can be a game changer for passengers looking to save big on their next flight — if they know how to do it properly. 

Scott Keyes, CEO and cofounder of Scott's Cheap Flights, told Business Insider about how passengers can use 'hidden city ticketing' to get the best deals on airfare. 

12 tips that can get you through the airport as quickly as possible:

12 tips that can get you through the airport as quickly as possible
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12 tips that can get you through the airport as quickly as possible

Apply for TSA PreCheck status

Signing up for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry can help save you valuable time, as you can keep your shoes, belts, and light jackets on as you go through security. You also don't have to remove your laptop or any liquids from your bag. 

It will help get you through an expedited line over Thanksgiving weekend as well as each time you travel afterward, making it a valuable investment.

Check in ahead of time.

Give yourself as few tasks to do at the airport as possible. Instead of waiting to pick up your boarding pass, check in ahead of time, either online or on your phone.

You can go paperless at most airport and use an electronic pass on your phone to board.

Download your airline's app.

American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and British Airways are just a few of the airlines that have developed mobile apps to give travelers real-time information on flight delays and gate changes.

That way, if your gate has changed and you're short on time, you’ll know before you even get to the airport.

Wear slippers.

If you're going to have to take your shoes off at security, make them easy ones to remove.

Slippers are a good choice because they'll keep you warm and cozy on your flight without taking too much time to remove at security.

Buy a TSA-approved laptop bag.

Certain laptop bags are specially designed to be approved through TSA security, meaning you won't have to take your laptop out separately when passing through.

Simple cases like this one from Case Logic ($27) are perfectly reasonable. 

If you're bringing gifts, leave them unwrapped.

If you're exchanging gifts over the holidays, ship them ahead of time to avoid having to take them through the airport. Or if you're going to bring them with you, leave them unwrapped, as TSA agents may have to unwrap them.

"Wrapped gifts are allowed, but we recommend waiting until you land to wrap them," it says on the TSA's official blog. "If there's something in the gift that needs to be inspected, we may have to open it … It also slows down the line for everybody else when we have to do this."

Pack shoes foot-to-toe at the bottom of your bag.

Packing your shoes in the bottom of your bag will help to put some weight on the wheels of your luggage and make it easier to remain balanced, especially if you're rushing to your gate. 

Arrive early.

This one seems like common sense, but make sure you leave yourself more time than usual during holiday travels. Brian Ek, a travel expert for, told Fox News that he encourages fliers to arrive at least two hours before their domestic flight and three hours for international flights that are leaving early in the morning or late at night.

For normal business-hour flights, he recommends giving yourself another 30 to 45 minutes, just to be on the safe side. 

Keep a bag of essential items ready to go.

Skip the time it would take to transfer your shampoo into a 3.4-ounce bottle and have a bag of toiletries ready to go.

Grab samples of your favorite products, or get travel-size toiletries and store them in one bag so you can simply grab it and go each time you pack.

Have a booking app set up on your phone.

Canceled flights are an unfortunate reality when traveling during the holidays. To help ensure you get the best place to sleep if this does happen, have a booking app set up on your phone so that you can make last-minute hotel reservations or rent a car.

If your flight does get canceled, take advantage of your time and start calling the airline over the phone while you wait in line.

Look for lines toward your left.

According to CNN, looking for lines toward your left side can help you spot the one that's shorter. Studies show that Americans are more likely to turn right than left when entering a building. 

If your flight is delayed, relax at an airport lounge.

Even if you're flying economy, it doesn't mean you can't access airport lounges. Most lounges sell day passes so that anyone can experience last-minute pampering and relaxation. 

You can also get a Priority Pass, which gives you access to more than 1,000 airport lounges around the world. 

Finally, check your credit card to see whether or not it gives you lounge access. Some, like American Express Platinum, have access to Delta and Centurion lounges. 


To explain the concept, Keyes used the hypothetical example of a passenger in Chicago looking to travel to New York:

He said that people in Chicago can find flights that have a layover in New York. In this particular case, they can buy a ticket for a flight that will stop in New York, but have Burlington, Vermont, as its final ticketed destination.

Once the flight arrives at New York, you would simply get off the plane before the flight departs for its ticketed destination.

As a result, you can get to New York for a much cheaper price. 

Keyes told Business Insider that you can use the website Skiplagged to help you find flights with layovers that match your intended destination.

But there are some caveats to hidden city ticketing, as it is considered a controversial practice.

"It is 100% legal, but it is against the airline's contract of carriage, meaning that they don't like it when passengers do this," Keyes told Business Insider. "If the airline knows that you are doing it, then they might not let you on that plane, or they can kick you off."

To prevent missing your flight, Keyes has a few suggestions:

  • When you use this strategy, do not tell the agents that you are doing this and do not check a bag, as this luggage is going to end up at the final ticketed destination.
  • Make sure your flight is not rerouted to stop in a different location midway to its destination.
  • Never buy a round trip ticket when using this strategy. When you don't get off the plane at the indicated ticketed destination, the airline will cancel the rest of your trip.

George Hobika of Airfarewatchdog previously reported that hidden-city ticketing has lead to reduced revenue and increased-no shows for airlines. 

Keyes highlighted some of the penalties that airlines could inflict upon passengers for using this tactic.

"Theoretically, what the airlines could do is say 'okay, if you want to fly the rest of this itinerary, you have to pay the full price of the ticket,' which can be whatever they say it is," Keyes told Business Insider.

"They could theoretically confiscate some frequent flyer miles and say that you are acting in a way that is contrary to the rules and regulations of the program. Or they could theoretically stop you from getting on that next flight," he said.

Airlines have also tried to sue Skiplagged for enabling travelers to practice throwaway ticketing. But this simply garnered more media attention for the search engine.

Although there could be penalties for fliers, Keyes said airlines do not actively search for passengers that get off before their ticketed destination. 

"It is 99 times out of 100 not worth the airline's while to try to find people doing this," Keyes told Business Insider.

Keyes explains hidden city ticketing and other ways to get cheaper flights in much greater detail in his e-book, "How to Fly for Free: Practical Tips the Airlines Don't Want You to Know."

NOW WATCH: The easiest way to trick an airline into charging you less for your flight

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