I recently learned about a new airfare search engine, www.skiplagged.com (H/T VFTW) that takes advantage of throwaway ticketing to save money on airfare. Throwaway ticketing is method of booking airfare that can save you money. I’ve used it in the past and have found it to be a helpful trick. Here is how it works:
Lets say you want to fly from Portland to Detroit the day after Thanksgiving. Most people would probably go to a site like Kayak or Expedia and search for a flight and then book the cheapest flight. Seems logical right? That’s because it is, but here is a little trick. For reasons that are beyond me sometimes the airfare will be cheaper if you add a connecting flight. So if you want to go from A to B it may be cheaper for you to book a ticket from A to B to C and then when you land in B all you do is get off the plane and “throwaway” the B to C segment.
One reason why this is not widely published is that, while it is NOT illegal, it is against airline policy. What does that mean? For the most part nothing. The worst thing the airline could do to you is cancel your ticket (and keep your money). If you have registered your frequent flyer number with the ticket they may also close your account or not credit you miles. However, there is no reason for an airline to ever find out that you are getting off the plane at point B. So the chances of these things happening should be small if you follow some simple rules.
Rule 1: NEVER call the airline. This is real simple, don’t call the airline! If you have issues do it online. If you must talk to an airline representative do not tell them you are getting off at point B. Here is a real easy way how someone might shoot themselves in the foot by calling the airline. So don’t do it!
Passenger: “Hi, so I am flying from A to B to C, but I am getting off at B. Is there any way my checked baggage can get off at B.”
Airline Rep: “You can’t do that and now I am canceling your ticket and keeping your money. Good day sir!”
Which leads me to rule number 2.
Rule 2: Do not check luggage. If you check luggage your luggage will get off at point C. You must carry on. Do not gate check for the same reason.
Rule 3: If you want a roundtrip flight you must book it as two separate bookings, i.e. two one ways. The reason why is that if you were to book this as a roundtrip ticket, when the airline realizes you missed the B to C segment they may cancel the rest of the ticket on that booking.
Rule 4: Do not link your frequent flyer account to these tickets. Taking advantage of throwaway ticketing occasionally is not going to raise the ire of the airline. However, if you were to do this often enough then the airline might take notice. One thing they could do is forfeit your frequent flyer account if you have linked it to these flights. So, do not be greedy and do not link your frequent flyer account.
Rule 5: The best airline to do this with is Southwest. Why? It is actually not against policy and they are totally cool with it. I know this because I have done this with Southwest and after reading their contract of carriage I broke Rule 1 and called and asked. They are fine with it. But the rule about checking luggage still applies. Do not check luggage and do not gate check.
For most folks this is probably outside your comfort zone. While the risks are minimal, the one thing that could mess things up is if there are operation problems that cause the airline to re-route away from point B. If that is the case just make up some excuse as to why it is very important to go to point B.
All of this is a long way of me explaining why www.skiplagged.com is so cool. If this is something that interests you, you may be wondering how to search for such fares? In the past the way I would do it is manually through either Southwest’s website (for Southwest) or ITA (for other airlines). Skiplagged has automated the process. With their site all you do is plug in your destination and if there is a lower fare to be found with “throwaway ticketing” they will show you that fare and tell you which segment to skip. Here is an example.
Lets say you want to fly from Portland to Detroit the day after Thanksgiving. A search on Expedia shows the cheapest flight as $305, with a 2 hour layover in Chicago.
Now do a search on Skiplagged. Portland to Milwaukee with a connecting flight in Detroit is $244. That is a savings of 20% and it is a direct flight! You save money and time. Pretty darn good for the day after Thanksgiving.
If this is something outside your comfort zone do not do it or only do this with Southwest. If this is something you are interested in, just be aware of the risks and follow some simple precautions. Another thing worth pointing out is that I have found that this works best when your destination is a hub. Unfortunately, Portland is not a hub so it is hard to find these types of tickets when Portland is your destination. However, your return trip is a different story.
More from Portland Travel Tips
Throwaway ticketing is good for the occasional domestic ticket, but for international travel on the cheap I have a much better strategy. Would you like to learn how to save tons of money on travel? Read more here.