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Opinion: Why airlines hate hidden-city ticketing (and maybe you should too)

Submitted founder George Hobica writes why airlines, and possibly paxs, should be weary of the practice. ( More...

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Sounds like sour grapes to me. The seat was paid for. Why do they care if anyone was in it or not?
Chris Bryant 18
Actually, if the seat is paid for and no one is in it, it should be a bonus for the airline in reduced weight making for reduced fuel used for the flight.
Matt West 8
Another possibility is that the airlines might actually have room for all booked passengers this way and not have to pay anyone to bump them to a later flight saving them anywhere between $200 and $500 per person.
siriusloon 4
And more elbow room for at least a few passengers.
bassman523 1
On at least one airline, the savings can be much greater than $200-$500 per person for an involutary removal when one contemplates the policy for involuntary removal from a flight because it's over-booked. I fly UNITED all the time and they told me the internal policy is 3 times the face value of the ticket price, up to as much as $1400 (or $1700, I can't remember). They also told me the involuntary removal is based on check-in time: last in - first out (LIFO). In other words, the last person to check-in is the first one involuntarily removed. So it seems to me that an empty seat is possible HUGE advantage to the airline...
Mark Lansdell 1
They are crying over potential after they have already made actual money plus the savings from less weight. They cry over opportunity lost after they creeated the opportunity.
Ken Lane 1
There ya go trying to apply common sense. Knock it off!
patrick baker 13
more cranky behavior from airlines not fully in control of their business.
Airlines hide behind one-sided contracts, whilst ignoring the basic social contract of service and good performance. shut up and make your flights more comfortable and timely.
siriusloon 5
When some airlines seriously propose charging for the use of washrooms (Ryanair, for example) and all airlines charge extra for everything they think they can get away with, then any method that save passengers some money is valid as long as it breaks no laws. If airlines had more respect for passengers and didn't treat us like self-loading cargo and didn't try to squeeze every possible dollar out of us while providing ever-decreasing "service", then this method wouldn't be an issue at all.
ToddBaldwin3 3
You have to take anything Michael O'Leary says with about a ton of salt. He's proposed charging for the lavatory, providing in-flight porn delivered to your mobile device, standing room only seats, and single pilot cockpits, among many other outlandish ideas. Most of the time, it's just free advertising for them. If the airfare system were a bit less complicated, that would help. Why does a one way ticket cost twice as much as a round trip ticket? I've paid for round trip tickets, then later cancelled the the return trip. It was much cheaper that way.
rmchambers 4
If Virgin can afford to fly people from LAX to Austin for $150, then the trip to Dallas should be cheaper. The airlines ARE screwing you if they can make money flying you to a $300 destination and then on to Austin for less than the trip to Dallas. I have no sympathy for the airlines that do this creepy stuff and then complain when people figure it out.
twhiteca 3
I don't know when the tariff rule changed (I was a NCA and then RC agent back in the 60's to 80's) but this type of fare construction used to be called "most distant point". Every fare, and joint fare (remember when airlines used to co-operate at you could get a through fare between places like DLH and LAX using the regional carrier connecting to the trunk), had a routing number and if you could find a "more distant point" on the routing number for the fare that included your intermediate "real" destination point - and the fare was lower to the distant point, otherwise what would be the use - you could use the distant point fare. You indicated this fare construction - before computers when we scribbled these things by hand - by circling the airport designator of the more distant point in the fare construction ladder.

The reservation was made to the "real" destination, not the "most distant point", the bags were checked to the "real" destination and you got boarding passes to the "real" destination. Everyone happy. And all in the tariff filed with the CAB.

I guess computers can't handle this stuff.
Brian Lloyd 3
Welcome to the law of unintended consequences. The airlines created the situation and then didn't expect -- or like -- the end result. Personally, I agree with Chris -- the pax bought and paid for that seat to the destination and it really doesn't matter if he is in the seat or not. The airline doesn't like the unintended way the fare is being used because they are losing *potential* money.

Sorry United, you can't have it both ways. If you play games with fares, don't cry when the pax play fare games back.
Mike Davis 3
Flying occasionally out of the midwest (strange terminology - should be midcentral), it has been a long time since I was on an airliner with empty seats. Perhaps that's because I fly OUT of the middle of the country (KXNA, KTUL), mostly to the east coast (KEWR, KRIC). On the other hand, you can judge the number of no-shows by the ability of an airline to accommodate a dozen standby passengers on some of these flights.
indy2001 3
According to the author, not all airlines prohibit hidden-city ticketing. Does anyone know of any?
Pretty sure Southwest doesn't "mind".
It also happens on British Rail within the UK
John Lewis 2
Why aren't they upfront and say if you are going to San Antonio it will cost $150.00 and if you are going to Dallas, $300.00? Same plane, no harm done. Instead they try to play games with us and penalize travellers for getting off in San Antonio.
kari koran 2
FYI some cities gives money to airlines based on # of passengers on the plane to get them/keep them fly to their city.
Michal Mudd 1
I have to wonder how often have these games possibly cost a small city scheduled service in part or entirety because semi-locals find the seats full and resort to just driving and the arriving passenger data suggests a lack of need for service? Personally, I'd be pissed if I couldn't get a ticket home to timbucktoo in a timely because of cheapskate skipdoodles creating phantom flights.
Mark Lansdell 1
As long as corporations and governments create loop holes, people will take advantage of them. They are hardly phantom flights or you wouldn't be able to get there. The airlines have been paid for the seat some pax just got off early.
Ken Lane 1
Austin opened the door to non-stop flights from and two London via BA. I have no doubt some serious credits, if not outright cash was handed out. As long as it's not a burden on taxpayers, I don't care. But the flights are still 60% higher than taking a $70 SWA flight to DFW and catching BA on to London.
Geforce FX 4
sounds like it's written by some airlines PR people
siriusloon 2
If that were true, it would have been a very one-sided article that only described how awful it is. However, the article was fair and gave the pros and cons.
johnmunroe -5
I agree. The USA today article spelled it out clearly. Basically, all it creates is a bad situation most of the time for most of those concerned whether they be pax or airline.It can delay flights.It can preclude pax getting the flight they want. It disrupts. It can cause fare increases. Generally speaking it's a lose/lose outcome for both pax and airline. The snoozer who set up the website Skiplagged is possibly breaking the law and making money out of unsuspecting travellers. And from where I'm standing it is plain immoral into the bargain
david watson 0
The issue that is not the public.... is that this type of ticketing has huge risks for the traveler.

1. If it is a RT and they drop a hidden city segment the ticket is cancelled and they have no return option.

2. If they have checked bags the bags go to hidden city, not their intended destination.

3. Airline changes routing... and does not follow the 'plan' and they end up in Biloxi and not in Chicago

4. If they tell gate agent that they or there bags are only going to first city...they are denied boarding and have homeland security all over them like a rash...

This is a hack.... legal... but it comes with huge risks. Buyer beware...Not a chance in xxxx of getting a refund..
Robert Martin 3
When my wife was a travel agent (some years ago), these hidden city fares were popular with frequent business travelers -- with the catches noted, such as not checking baggage and keeping your mouth shut. Then the airlines started cancelling the return on a missed leg. Then the airlines started billing back the agencies, and threatening to pull an agency's plates if the airline thought they were promoting the use of hidden city fares.

The airlines solved part of the problem by cutting travel agencies out of the loop -- nobody to blame anymore, or to bill back.

But they still keep the fare structure that encourages this behavior. And stamp their feet and tell customers that's not nice and they can't do that when they take advantage of it.

With the airlines cutting travel agencies revenue, my wonderful wife changed careers, going for the big bucks -- teaching. We still miss the days when there were perks associated with being a travel agent.
Mark Lansdell 2
The article made the same points and they are certainly valid. If any of that happens there is no recourse to the traveler. He is stuck in the scheduled destination city. But, how often does that happen?. When was the last time you were on a diverted flight and had to go to the scheduled destination. It's well worth while to play the game successfully a dozen times and pay a little extra and be inconvenienced the 13th time. When did you check you bags through a gate agent? Sometimes an FA might find a need to check a bag because of available room in the over head, but not a gate agent. After 911 yo have to have a ticket to check a bag and the DNs have to match up. So if you have checked baggage the tactic won't work. If you want round trip passage the tactic won't work. But, it works for one way fares with no checked baggage . The airlines are getting so greedy over baggage charges it's worth checking with UPS, DHL and FedEx and other freight carriers to take you bags for you. Insurance is more in your favor too.
Mark Lansdell 1
I see more wrong with this article than right. We're hardly talking about real costs we're talking about opportunity costs and greed. I'm an infrequent flyer any more, but it seems to me that, with the advent of smaller and faster computers many of these combinations could be eliminated. It's the airlines choice, in most cases, to combine cities that make this strategy work. Further, if they are getting paid for the whole trip and some only fly part of the mileage, the carrier is flying the second part of the route with less weight and we are told to believe that a single pound is worth about a $1.00. At 200 lbs I'm worth $200.00. So what's their beef if it isn't the greed of opportunity lost.


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