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Southwest is currently running a 3-day fare sale, with flights at $49, $99, $129, or $149. I don’t always post about these Southwest fare sales, because a) Southwest doesn’t fly from my closest airport (CVG) and b) it feels like Southwest is running a fare sale just about always.
In any case, I was browsing through some of the fares, and I noticed that there is some pretty blatant hidden city ticketing going on right now!
What is hidden city ticketing?
Hidden city ticketing is the art of buying a connecting flight to a destination that you’re not really going to, and then getting off half-way / “forgetting” to take your onward connection.
Consumers have the mindset that when they buy a ticket from A->B->C that they are buying a ticket from A to B and one from B to C. The airlines take the side that you’re buying a ticket from A to C, and it is irrelevant that there is a connection at City B.
Generally airlines do not LIKE when you engage in hidden city ticketing, though it’s been my personal experience and from what I have read, as long as you are not doing it all the time or otherwise rubbing it in their face. I bought a ticket from Salt Lake City to Charlotte to Cincinnati to go to the Family Travel for Real Life Conference in Charlotte, “accidentally” getting off in Charlotte and not taking my onward connection to Cincinnati (I bought a 4500 Avios ticket for the next day to go from CLT-CVG)
(SEE ALSO: Traveling #hobostyle)
(SEE ALSO: Recap of the Family Travel for Real Life (#FT4RL) conference!)
Some things to watch out for with hidden city ticketing:
- Obviously, don’t check any bags. Your checked luggage will not know you’re getting off half-way
- In case of a weather, mechanical or other irregular operations, you may be out of luck. The airline may try to route you a different way to where they think is your final destination
- You may not earn miles for your ticket (even the leg that you actually did fly)
Heading out to Arizona, Nevada and points west
I am looking at going with my son out west in November. I have the Southwest Companion Pass, which is expiring at the end of the year, and so I thought I’d take that chance to get a flight for “free”. One thought I had was to check out the 11:11 11/11 Veteran’s Memorial
That’s one of the things that’s on my travel bucket list, and going to Arizona might also let us take advantage of some pretty sweet one way car rental deals that are going on right now.
Hidden City ticketing going on at Southwest right now
So I started looking at Southwest tickets to Phoenix. Southwest doesn’t fly from Cincinnati, so I looked at Columbus
Several good options there. The nonstop is an option, but check out the 5:15 p.m. departure that goes to Phoenix by way of Las Vegas. It lists at a price of $175, but what happens if you try to book a direct Columbus to Las Vegas flight?
That same flight (leaving Columbus at 5:15 p.m. direct to Las Vegas) COSTS $201!!
So you would be better off booking a flight from Columbus to Phoenix, routing through Las Vegas, and then just getting off the plane at Las Vegas and not taking the onward flight to Phoenix! I am certain that there are other instances of this hidden city ticketing, but that was the one that I noticed. If you see others, leave them in the comments!
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Got it, but would you really do this just to save $26? FWIW, I’ve been finding that OAK-CMH non-stops are significantly cheaper (sometimes $100 less each way) than the connections/directs.
But it’s not like I’m really doing anything out of the ordinary? If I want to go to Las Vegas, wouldn’t it be prudent to book the CMH-PHX flight?
If you’ve already done this at least once this year, maybe the risk of being black listed may not be worth 25 bucks. Think of it as a baggage check fee, if that sounds better.
Well to clarify, the other time I did it was on American (technically it was US Airways back in March), so I don’t think that would be a factor here. Still, you guys are making me reconsider whether it’s worth the $26…
Dude you are so cheap it is ridiculous.
LOL – I know… it’s a problem I have 🙂
No way would I rake the IROPS risk for $26. Also, readers should be aware that you will earn ZERO points for a hidden city trip, narrowing the effective price difference by the value of the points foregone. Losing the points is the only penalty for flying hidden city on Southwest. It is allowed (for now) but they don’t like it.
Thanks – I did actually mention that you may not earn miles for the hidden city trip. I DID earn miles on my SLC-CLT hidden city trip back in March, but that was on American.
Every dollar counts… the money you save could buy you dinner. Go for it!
Don’t quote me on this, but I believe Southwest Airlines is quite chill with hidden city ticketers.
I’ve done hidden city ticketing twice. 2 years ago, coming back from San Francisco. It was $200 to fly to Dulles but it was $150 to fly to Norfolk with a 2 hour layover in Dulles.
The other time was this year going to Atlanta. $180 to fly from Reagan to Atlanta direct. $150 to fly with a connection. $90 to fly to Tampa with a layover in Atlanta.
I live in Anthem (Phoenix), which is where the Veterans Monument is located. (it is quite awesome to see)
Being that Phoenix is the 5th-ish largest Southwest hub it is very easy to catch hidden city tickets on the way in. On the way out, I will usually book two separate legs as I often find them cheaper than booking the entire flight as one.
Phoenix has frequent cheap flight to DEN, DAL, and MDW because these routes are also served by Spirit or Frontier. You can catch $44 flights from PHX to DAL and once in DAL you can get to a lot of cities for next to nothing. Don’t forget, Virgin Airlines also operates at DAL so you can get cheap flight from DAL to WAS.
And yes, I did over 5 hidden city flights, paid and award, last year on WN with no issues or qualms.
Caleb – that’s awesome. I was just in Phoenix over Veteran’s Day and saw the memorial – pretty sweet, though next time I think I’ll go on November 10th or 12th and skip the crowds 🙂
Good to hear that Southwest hidden city ticketing is alive and well!
I recently needed a one-way from LAS to PHX on short order (family medical emergency). Every flight from LAS -> PHX was $258. $258 for a one hour flight!! This was due to the lack of market pressures on this leg, so SWA charges what they can. While I support the free market system, it seems opportunistic, especially when I can fly PHX->SFO for about $130 or less. I have been on this exact same flight two months ago, at this price, and the plane was half full. Anyway, I looked at LAS->San Antonio, no dice. Then LAS->DFW and low and behold a flight that stops in Phoenix (Flight 579, the SAME flight they had for $258) changes planes and continues to DFW for $204. Savings of $54 and leaves an open seat on the PHX->DFW leg for a couple of large travelers to spill into.