Hid­den city tick­et­ing flight hack can save money, but it’s risky

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - ALEXANDRA POSADZKI

When Kevin, a Toronto-based en­trepreneur, trav­els to San Fran­cisco for work, he of­ten books a flight to Santa Ana, Calif., in­stead. Then he dis­em­barks the plane dur­ing the stopover in San Fran­cisco and skips the last leg of the flight to South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

Kevin — who didn’t want his last name used to avoid any reper­cus­sions from air­lines — says the travel hack, of­ten re­ferred to as hid­den city tick­et­ing, has saved him thou­sands of dol­lars over the past two years.

He says he has found flights to Santa Ana that stop in San Fran­cisco for as lit­tle as $190 US, com­pared with $450 US for a reg­u­lar flight to his des­ti­na­tion.

“It is some­what in­fu­ri­at­ing that if an air­line can get you from point A to point B for hun­dreds of dol­lars less, it does seem un­fair,” Kevin says.

Hid­den city tick­et­ing is not new, but its pop­u­lar­ity has grown thanks to some travel web­sites that make it eas­ier to find th­ese sorts of flights.

But while the sav­ings may be ap­peal­ing, ex­perts cau­tion that the prac­tice can be risky.

First off, the plane could be rerouted and not stop at the de­sired des­ti­na­tion, leav­ing you scram­bling to ar­range an­other flight or mode of trans­porta­tion.

Pas­sen­gers us­ing hid­den city tick­et­ing are also limited to car­ryon lug­gage, as any checked bags will end up at the fi­nal des­ti­na­tion, says per­sonal fi­nance and travel ex­pert Barry Choi. And air­lines will typ­i­cally can­cel re­turn flights for those who are no-shows, he adds.

Choi says in some cases it may vi­o­late the con­tract be­tween the air­line and the pas­sen­ger.

“Some of them state that you can­not pur­chase th­ese types of tick­ets,” he says. “So if you do, buyer be­ware.”

Ac­cord­ing to Choi, it’s more com­mon to find such deals when fly­ing across the bor­der or within the United States than within Canada.

The Canadian Trans­porta­tion Agency says the fed­eral gov­ern­ment does not have a stance on hid­den city tick­et­ing as the mat­ter is ad­dressed in most air­lines’ con­tracts with their pas­sen­gers.

Air Canada says its terms and con­di­tions re­quire all seg­ments of a trip to be flown as booked.

“Should a cus­tomer not take one of the flights, it is con­sid­ered as a ‘no-show,’ and as per stan­dard in­dus­try prac­tice de­scribed in our tar­iff rules, the rest of the flights in the itin­er­ary could be can­celled,” spokesper­son An­gela Mah said in an email.

WestJet says it has no pol­icy re­gard­ing hid­den city tick­et­ing be­cause it is very rarely used on its flights.

“Due to how we price our fares, hid­den city tick­et­ing would be a very rare oc­cur­rence on WestJet as it would usu­ally cost less to fly to A to B than from A, B, to C,” spokesper­son Lau­ren Ste­wart said in an email.

“We would, over­all, dis­cour­age this as it can cause op­er­a­tional de­lays and dis­rup­tion to the sec­ond leg of the jour­ney should the guest choose to no-show af­ter check­ing in.”

Rus­sell Han­non, a bud­get travel ex­pert, says he hasn’t heard of any in­stances where air­lines have taken ac­tion against pas­sen­gers for hid­den city tick­et­ing. But if it be­comes a ma­jor is­sue for the com­pa­nies they may do so in the fu­ture, he says.

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