I have some travel for work / fun coming up at the end of August so I am in the process of trying to book all those flights.
I will be traveling from Chicago to Los Angeles to Seattle back to Chicago.
Normally this would be pretty straight forward but much of the travel is unfortunately planned on the Thursday before and the Monday after Labor Day, aka extremely popular travel days.
I got lucky in that the Chicago – Los Angeles leg is already booked and I burned 12,500 AA miles for the Seattle – Chicago return, but I am still stuck on the Los Angeles – Seattle flight.
I have been trying to scourer the web for cheap one way fares from Los Angeles to Seattle but am having no luck, and much of the Saver availability for United and British Airways is long gone.
The difficulty in finding an affordable One Way fare reminded me of Gary from View From The Wing’s excellent post last week on “Using Hidden City & Throwaway Ticketing to Save Big Money on Airfare” that I think every one should read at least once.
Gary does an excellent job covering all aspects of Hidden City Ticketing, so I don’t want to step on his toes but basically Hidden City Ticketing can really save you a lot of money on Airfare if done right.
For those of you not familiar with Hidden City Ticketing, basically a “Hidden City” is a Airport Stop or Connection.
Since I live in Chicago and O’Hare is a United and AA Hub, not to mention the biggest Airport until you hit the East Coast, many of the smaller cities around Chicago like St. Louis, Milwaukee, Peoria, etc route their flights through Chicago before continuing on to their final destination.
Gary lays out how exactly to find Hidden Cities, the tools to use, etc but just to show you how much this can save you (especially when you have to book a One Way flight), here is an example so you get the basic idea.
Say you are in Peoria, Illinois and need a One Way ticket to get to Chicago O’Hare to catch an International flight.
If you booked a direct flight from Peoria to Chicago, the cheapest fare would be a cool $404!
However, if you plugged into Kayak.com that you needed a One Way flight from Peoria to NYC instead, it would only be $182.
This is really silly because in terms of distance Peoria to NYC is MUCH further than Peoria to Chicago.
What is interesting about these 2 trips is that the flight from Peoria to Chicago on both itineraries is the SAME EXACT AA flight, yet the longer Peoria to NYC flight is actually cheaper.
Since both flights stop in Chicago, hypothetically you could book the cheaper $182 Peoria to New York flight that has a connection in Chicago, and then hop off the plane in Chicago.
There are quite a few “Best Practices” when doing Hidden City Ticketing such as always carrying on your luggage, never providing your main Frequent Flyer Number, etc, so be sure to follow those suggestions.
Gary’s post covers all the ethics of Hidden City Ticketing, so I won’t go over them again but basically Airlines frown upon doing this because it takes away their ability to price gouge Customers (queue tiny violin).
I personally have never taken advantage of Hidden City Ticketing because I fly from O’Hare which is a United and American Airlines hub, so flights are fairly reasonably priced.
However obviously not everyone lives near a hub, and as Gary’s post points out, certain routes can cost over $1,500 for a single flight, while a “Hidden City” is only $150.
I wouldn’t suggest doing Hidden City Ticketing for every flight because it can be a hassle to set up, however if you are in a bind and the Airline is trying to extort you, it is definitely a tool you should consider to help get you to your destination at a fair price.
Given how many unnecessary fees Airlines LOVE to charge like my favorite $75 Close-In Ticketing Fee, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over the Airline’s loss in revenue from Hidden City Ticketing but that is just me.
For a full explanation of how to do Hidden City Ticketing and to see if you can save some money on your next Revenue Flight, check out Gary’s post.