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FAQ: Air Traveler's Handbook 1/4 [Monthly posting]
Section - [1-20] Hidden City Fares

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A hidden city fare occurs when a flight from point A to point B
happens to make a connection in point C and is cheaper than a direct
flight from point A to point C. This is a quirk of the way in which
airlines price their routes, which has little to do with the distance
flown. The prices are driven by market conditions. Prices drop when
there is a lot of competition on a route. The flight from A to B might
be a very busy route, with several airlines serving that market, while
the A-C and C-B routes might be not as busy. Usually such hidden city
fares occur when A and C aren't hubs for the carrier in question, but
B is, and B is dominated by the airline. So the airline routes you
through B, but charges you less than if you were to purchase two
round-trip tickets..

Theoretically, you could buy a ticket from A to B, get off at
point C, and throw away the B to C portion, saving some money, if
point C was your ultimate destination.  Airlines frown on this
practice, and taking advantage of a hidden city fare is explicitly
forbidden by their rules. If you happen to skip a leg of your flight
(e.g., logged as a no-show on the airline's computer), the airline has
the right to cancel all subsequent legs, and will do so to discourage
folks from using hidden-city fares. So the only case in which you can
"safely" take advantage of a hidden-city fare is when you're taking a
one-way flight. If you buy a round-trip ticket from A to B through C,
skip the C to B leg, and try to board the return flight at B or C,
you'll find that your reservation has been cancelled and you'll be
required to buy a new ticket at the full-price one-way fare.

You also can't take advantage of a hidden city fare if you've checked any
baggage, as your baggage will be sent through to your ultimate

Airlines have started to really crack down on the use of hidden city
fares. They can not only cancel subsequent flights on their own lines,
but also recommend cancellation of subsequent flights on other
carriers. They've programmed their airline reservation systems to
watch out for hidden-city reservations, flagging potential violations
in the passenger's record, and in some cases will automatically cancel
all subsequent legs if one leg is skipped. Even if the reservation
system doesn't automatically cancel the subsequent legs, the agent at
check-in will see the warning flag and will be very suspicious of any
skipped legs.

Some airlines (e.g., Delta) have a practice of checking you in for all
outbound flights at the point of origin. But this doesn't make them any
more susceptible to folks who use hidden city fares, because if you
don't show up for the return flight at B, they'll still cancel all
your remaining legs. Also, sometimes the boarding passes are marked
"check-in required".

Hidden city fares happen most often when the connecting point is
dominated by one airline (the carrier of your flight) and the ultimate
destination is a competitive market. 

If you happen to catch an earlier flight than your scheduled one, be
sure to reconfirm your subsequent flight segments. Any departure from
your ticketed reservation can potentially cause your itinerary to be
flagged as a hidden-city violation (e.g., "NOSH" for no-show), if the
gate agent didn't record the earlier flight properly.

If you're the dishonest type and are going to lie about actually
having taken the skipped segments, at least have the intelligence to
remove the ticket and boarding pass (keeping the stub of the boarding
pass) from the ticket packet. [I once saw a couple try this stunt in
New York, and the gate agent caught them at it. The wife had removed
her ticket and boarding pass; the husband hadn't. The husband claimed
that the gate agent at the hidden city had forgotten to remove the
ticket. The gate agent didn't let them on the flight because the
computer showed that they had missed TWO segments of their flight --
from the hidden city to their ultimate destination and back. In
addition, the gate agent had been on duty the last time they passed
through, and didn't remember seeing them board. The agent's supervisor

If you know in advance that you want to skip a segment of your flight
(e.g., you're flying from A to C via B, but want to get off in C,
visit with some friends, then drive up to B to visit some more friends
and return home), tell this to the travel agent when you buy the
ticket. They can make a note about it in the record so that your
return flight won't be automatically cancelled when you miss the B to
C leg.

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Top Document: FAQ: Air Traveler's Handbook 1/4 [Monthly posting]
Previous Document: [1-19] Moving Up the Return Flight
Next Document: [1-21] Buying Someone Else's Nonrefundable Ticket

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Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:12 PM