I’ve been hearing a lot lately about why “travel hacking” is wrong. Don’t worry, I’m not going to try to debate the morality of manufactured spending! I’m thinking about various ticketing schemes. A couple of stories came out not too long ago about “cheating” the airlines’ ticketing systems that got me thinking.
The first, from Fox News on “hidden city ticketing”. This is where you buy a ticket with a connection, and instead of flying to the final destination you get off the plane at the connection, which was your ‘hidden’ actual destination. Example would be buying a ticket from San Antonio to New York that has a connection in Philadelphia, but instead of going to New York you end in Philadelphia where you were actually going.
Then Christopher Elliott at USA Today wrote about “throwaway ticketing”. This is similar to hidden city ticketing, but instead of ending your trip at a connection you just don’t use the return part of a round trip. Example would be buying a round trip ticket from Dallas to Las Vegas, but you stay in Vegas and skip the flight back to Dallas.
So why on earth would a passenger do this? Well the simple answer is sometimes it is, bizarrely, cheaper. Why would an airline charge less for a flight with a connection? That’s the million dollar question. Is it because of supply and demand of airline tickets? Like, the San Antonio to Philadelphia flight might be a flight that sells out even when tickets are overpriced, but for whatever reason (more competition?) San Antonio to New York has more challenges selling out. The airline prices tickets more competitively even though the distance to get to Philadelphia versus New York is shorter. So essentially it’s the airlines playing the market.
Maybe another reason a flight with a connection might be cheaper is the savings airlines make using a hub. So instead of having flights everywhere to everywhere, you route flights through hubs which saves money.
Travel hacking is not something new, nor is it considered breaking the law. However, it can be against airline policy and if they catch you breaking it often enough they may penalize you. I’ve never used either of these hacking methods to save money. While ticket prices are a factor in which flights I choose, as a business traveler timing and convenience are bigger considerations. That being said, I don’t know that I see either of these as actually “cheating” and I don’t know that I’m opposed to them in practice. But since people seem so passionate one way or the other I wanted to get your take on it.
Readers, what do you think about throwaway ticketing and hidden city ticketing? Are they cheating, or just working within the system airlines have given us? Any business travelers use these methods on a regular basis?
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