New Website Finds the Lowest Airfares By Identifying Throwaway Segment Opportunities

Skiplagged is a new site that helps you find the lowest airfares including the kinds of fares that Kayak will not come up with… hidden cities and throwaways.

Instead of having to come up with cheaper cities to fly to through the city you’re actually planning to go to, this site does the work for you and suggests the itinerary. I’m not sure the website will last because it is helping customers to act contrary to the ticketing rules of airlines (and they certainly won’t be able to sustainably earn commissions from driving bookings, if that is indeed their model).

Last summer I wrote an extensive primer on hidden city and throwaway ticketing.

Airlines often price tickets from one city to another through a hub cheaper than flights that terminate at the hub. Flying United New York to Milwaukee through Chicago is often much cheaper than just flying New York to Chicago. But if you get off the plane in Chicago and don’t board your connection to Milwaukee, you’ve potentially saved yourself a lot of money. This is called hidden city ticketing.

This isn’t illegal but it is against most airline rules. Nonetheless, read my primer before considering trying this yourself.

I asked Skiplagged to find me a flight from New York LaGuardia to Washington National airport, and it came back with this $121 option:

It’s a flight from New York to Washington to Orlando, and tells you to skip the flight from Washington to Orlando. They also remind you “no checked bag” because of course any checked bag would go to Orlando.

This site gave me the option in seconds. I’ll probably still use ITA Software’s Matrix to ‘do-it-yourself’ these sorts of queries, but for folks who ask me “how do you know what cities to search for?” here is one tool.


About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I think the only way this site could possible stay alive is if it charged a monthly fee or membership fee and didn’t book any tickets for you. Similar to Expert Flyer business model.

    Great concept by the way.

  2. @Geoff well you can fly a full roundtrip, just only throw away the very last segment (all caveats in the prior post i linked to above)

  3. Hmm. For round trip options where the departing and/or returning has a skipping segment, the site forces you to book as two one ways! This would avoid airlines canceling useful portion of your tickets. Nice

  4. If passengers start using this a lot, I can see the airlines cracking down. This is too core to their pricing models At minimum anyone who tries to get miles will be easily tracked and possibly have their accounts frozen. I also wonder if the airlines will spin this as some kind of security risk if passengers start “disappearing” mid-itinerary. Even if not illegal, I am sure the airlines will all file suits to make the site owners bleed.

  5. For many years Southwest Airlines explicitly permitted this practice. Between two and three years ago that provision was quietly removed from their “Customer Service Commitment” document: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/southwest-rapid-rewards/1269840-hidden-city-still-explicitly-allowed.html

    The latest stealth tightening is that you will no longer get a refund for the taxes on the last leg and you will not earn _any_ points if you don’t fly the entire trip: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/southwest-rapid-rewards/1513013-no-longer-earning-points-hidden-city-ticketing.html

    Revenue-based earning made this change easy for Southwest. Mileage-based earning tracks segments, and would be harder to modify this way. Add this item to the list of fears of an industry trend toward revenue-based earning.

  6. Awesome!! What happens if your flight is cancelled? Airlines are responsible for getting you only to your end destination. Is one way to reduce this risk to choose a flight where, if cancelled, a later flight in the day follows the same itinerary?

  7. @TylerP – i have never had a problem during irregular operations getting an airline to keep my original routing (“I’m having an affair in X city and only need a 45 minute connection there…”) but you’re correct that is a risk as I have written in the past.

  8. Our travel agency received a huge debit memo from an airline whose software uncovered a pattern of throwaway flight segments which reduced costs for a client. Agencies may get debit memos. Travelers may find their frequent flyer accounts suspended and/or be blacklisted. What was clever practice in the past is getting more dangerous with more sophisticated software. Caveat Emptor.

  9. @advenTravel – I discuss the risks and also some mitigation options in the thread I linked to. For instance, if you are flying US Airways and credit your miles to a non-US Airways account, it also matters how frequently you are doing this

  10. Yeah, building a website to do this is stupid because if it catches on the airlines will eliminate this possibility. It doesn’t scale.

  11. @Ed, it’s a pricing strategy, so they won’t adjust the strategy, more likely they’ll just take whatever legal action is required to shut this website down.

  12. Gary, regarding 4, can you provide an example of a round trip from NYC to DC where the last segment is dropped? Thx.

  13. This just isn’t to express that ACN will be unable to catch the interest of and hold more major people.

    Cell phone bills are already high enough without it added cost.
    Knowing the precise colour code is really important; otherwise the connections may well not
    work.

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