Skipping a leg of your flight often ends up being cheaper than purchasing a direct flight. For example, you need to get from Dallas to New York. A direct flight from Dallas to New York might cost 400$, but if you purchase it as a connecting flight (California – Dallas, Dallas – New York), then it costs just 200$. You could buy the cheaper ticket, save 200$, and not show up for the first leg of the flight (California – Dallas), right? Well, it’s not that easy.
In the scenario above, I explained a term called “hidden city ticketing”, which people use to save money on flights. But airlines don’t like that passengers are getting cheaper tickets, which is why skipping a specific leg of the flight may result in the cancellation of the whole ticket and other penalties.
In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about skipping parts of your flight – when it’s okay, when not, what are the penalties, and when hidden city ticketing is worth it.
What Happens When You Skip the First Leg of Your Flight?
Skipping the first leg of a connecting flight is usually a bad idea. Whenever a passenger doesn’t show up for the first leg of a connecting flight, the airline cancels all the other upcoming flights on the same ticket for that passenger. This also applies to any other leg of the flight that isn’t the last one. For example, if you’d show up for the first leg of the flight and skip the second one, it would cancel all the remaining legs of the flight.
So if you’re planning on saving money by purchasing a connecting flight and not showing up for the first one, scrap that idea – it won’t work.
When You CAN Skip the First Leg of the Flight
The only instance when you can (or rather COULD, potentially) skip the first leg of the flight, is if you’d have a valid reason. Each situation is different, but a valid reason could be due to weather, change of scheduled events, because the first flight is expected to be late, and other Force Majeure events.
In any case, you HAVE to call the airline first and explain your situation. It’s up to the airline employee to decide if they’re going to let you skip it or not without canceling the rest of the flights. Remember that airlines only cancel the rest of the flight because they’re combatting hidden city ticketing individuals. If you have a valid reason, and they don’t suspect that you intentionally bought cheaper tickets, they will most likely let you skip the flight.
For example, a passenger on TripAdvisor mentioned that he was able to skip the first leg because the first flight was expected to be 5 hours late, which would cause problems for him, and he could drive to the connecting terminal in 3 hours. He contacted the airline, they let him skip the first flight, and drive there instead. Note that he had slight issues in the connecting airport, so it might be worth it to ask them to send some kind of an email with approval that you could show at the airport.
What Happens When You Skip the Second (Last) Leg of Your Flight?
Skipping the last leg of the flight usually doesn’t result in any penalties (99 out of 100 times). That’s why people who do hidden city ticketing only do it when they need to skip the last leg of the flight. Another thing worth mentioning is that skipping the last leg of the flight isn’t illegal, but it’s against the airline’s Conditions of Carriage.
Theoretically, you don’t even need to notify the airline. However, it may be a good idea to do that anyway. That’s because whenever someone doesn’t show up for a flight, especially if it’s a connecting flight, the flight is usually delayed, which is inconvenient for other passengers. So if you’re trying to follow a polite hidden city ticketing etiquette, notify the airline that you won’t be showing up for the last leg of the flight right after you’ve landed in the connecting airport.
What Are the Airline Penalties for Skipping a Leg of Your Flight?
As I already mentioned earlier, Hidden City Ticketing is completely legal. But by skipping a leg of a connecting flight, you’re breaching the airline’s Conditions of Carriage, which gives them the right to cancel all of your frequent flyer points and any other bonuses. It’s the only REAL penalty that airlines sometimes (but still very rarely) enforce. So if you’ve got a bunch of points saved up and you don’t want to lose them, then hidden city ticketing probably isn’t for you.
In other, very, very rare instances, airlines have tried suing passengers who do hidden city ticketing and even companies that help people find hidden ticketing opportunities, such as skiplagged.com. In all of these instances, the court has dismissed the case. However, the person/company who’s being sued still has to pay legal fees for the trial, which is the only reason why airlines do this – it’s to scare other passengers into giving up (Ughh, I hope they don’t sue me for writing this). In most instances, they only go for people who do hidden city ticketing on a regular basis, costing the airlines upwards of 10 000$ – 100 000$ in lost fees.
So far I haven’t heard of anyone getting banned from future flights because of hidden city ticketing. That said, a few passengers have been banned from airline priority programs, such as the American Airlines Advantage program. So realistically, the only penalty that you could face is the loss of a few bonuses.
Can You Cancel the First or Last Leg of Your Connecting Flight?
In most cases, you’ll be able to cancel the first, second, or the last leg of your connecting flight, except if you’ve purchased a non-refundable flight. That said, it definitely won’t be cheap. You’ll need to pay any differences in ticket prices plus flight cancellation fees, which range between 100-200$.
So for example, if your cheaper, connecting flight costs 200$ and a direct flight 400$, for canceling the first leg of the connecting flight, you’d have to pay 200$ (400$ minus 200$) plus a 100-300$ flight cancellation fee, which is different for each airline.
To cancel a part of a connecting flight, you need to call the airline, find out if that’s possible, and pay any required fees. If you still haven’t bought the connecting ticket, it’s usually cheaper to buy a direct flight.
Is Hidden City Ticketing Worth It?
Hidden city ticketing is only worth it when you’re planning on skipping the last leg of the flight because skipping the first one will cancel the whole flight. In a few instances, you can save hundreds of dollars by doing hidden city ticketing.
In the picture above, I found a hidden city flight from New York to Paris where I could save 142 EUR. A direct flight from New York to Paris costs 387 EUR. A connecting flight on the same date from New York to Malaga with a connection in Paris costs just 245 EUR. So if I’d purchase the cheaper one, I could just leave when I land at the Paris airport and save 142 EUR. In cases like that, hidden city ticketing is definitely worth it.
Another thing worth mentioning is that you can’t have checked baggage when hidden city ticketing. That’s because your checked bags will most likely automatically be forwarded to the final destination when you land at the connecting airport. You could ask the airline to short-check your bag, but they most likely won’t allow that because they might suspect that you won’t be showing up for the next flight.
And lastly, hidden city ticketing can be risky because sometimes the connecting airport may change, especially during the Pandemic. If the connecting country closes down or the connecting airports raise their fees, the airline might choose a different connecting airport, and you’ll be stuck with a useless flight.
Tip: You can fit everything you’d need for 2-3 weeks in a single carry-on and a personal item if you become a minimalist packer. As a solid carry-on, I’d recommend the Maxlite 5 fabric suitcase. I’ve personally been using it for a few years now, and I can’t recommend it enough – it’s spacious, very lightweight, and it still looks brand-new!
Skipping the first or any other leg of a connecting flight won’t work because the airline will just cancel the rest of the flight. Skipping the last leg of the flight, however, is perfectly legal, and the only risks are that the connecting airport may change ahead of time, or your bonus points might be canceled for not showing up.