While most of the media around former President Trump’s Save America PAC centers on their paying $20 million dollars in legal fees, there’s a nugget buried in their travel expenses that shows the political committee also violates airline rules when purchasing tickets.
Save America’s disclosure form shows them covering a fee to Skiplagged, the website that assists in booking throwaway or hidden city tickets.
Throwaway ticketing is a practice that’s gone on for decades. Airlines often charge more money for non-stops than they do for connecting itineraries. So people book a flight with a connection through the city they want to travel to, and just don’t take that second connecting flight. As a result, they can often save money, but there are risks.
It is not illegal to engage in throwaway ticketing. It violates airline rules. And people disagree with the ethics. You ‘agree’ to the airline’s contract, with terms you likely do not know about, when you buy the ticket. Most people think they’re buying seats on two flights, so it’s up to them whether to use those seats or not. To the airlines, though, a trip between Gainesville and New York is different than a trip from Gainesville and Charlotte and comes with different pricing. Flying to Charlotte instead of New York, at a cheaper price, is stealing.
Late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia trumpeted his use of throwaway ticketing to highlight that when he’d take a private jet flight he wasn’t getting a financial benefit. So high profile people using the tactic isn’t new, and doesn’t get them banned the way American Airlines recently banned a teen for doing it. If you try it, it’s important to know the risks.
- If your flight is delayed or cancelled, your airline may want to re-route you through a different hub than the city you actually wanted to fly to (and get off in).
- You can’t check bags, because those will go to your final ticketed destination rather than where you’re flying. And if you’re forced to gate check a bag when overhead bins are full, you’re in a bind.
- You can only book these one way because if you throw away anything other than the last flight in your itinerary the rest of the trip gets cancelled.
And of course since you can’t check bags on a ticket like this, you really shouldn’t check in at the airport and involve a live agent in the process. Check in online or using the mobile app. And if you don’t do that, at least use a kiosk.
The Biden administration’s proposed airline fee disclosure rules would require any website displaying airline schedules to show specific fee information prominently. They treat airlines as owning that fee information, and allow airlines to choose which sites to work with and provide fee data to. By not distributing the fee information that websites are required by law to display, airlines can shut down services like Skiplagged that they do not like.
Will airlines ban Trump’s campaign team over violating ticketing rules? Could 2024 be an election over throwaway and hidden city ticketing, with Biden against it and Trump in favor?
Meanwhile, looking through the financial disclosures, with the Trump Hotel in DC gone (it re-opened as the Waldorf Astoria last year) the Save America PAC appears to favor The Jefferson hotel when in Washington, although not exclusively.