“Logan Parson’s first flight by himself ended with airport officials taking the teenager into custody and whisking him away into an interrogation room,” reports the Independent. The teen was “denied boarding to an American Airlines flight,” reports the Washington Post. “He hadn’t committed a crime, nor was he accused of being unruly.
“His offense? Attempting to make use of a money-saving hack that gutsy fliers use every year.” Direct flights to major cities are so expensive, it can actually be cheaper to book a flight with stops in two cities — and then skip the flight to that second city. The Post points out that while passengers can save money with this so-called “hidden-city ticket” trick — or skiplagging — “most carriers regard it as a form of fraud.”
From North Carolina TV station WJZY:
In a statement to WJZY, American Airlines said, “Purchasing a ticket without intending to fly all flights to gain lower fares (hidden city ticketing) is a violation of American Airlines terms and conditions and is outlined in our Conditions of Carriage online….” Other major airlines, like Delta and United, also prohibit hidden city ticketing. Even [skip-lagging resource] Skip Lagged warns there may be consequences of hidden city ticketing, like your checked luggage moving on to the final destination instead of where you stop or losing frequent flyer miles you’ve accrued.
The Arizona Republic adds:
According to American and Southwest’s contracts of carriage, they can cancel any unused part of a ticket, refuse to let the passenger and their bags fly, not issue a refund and charge the customer for what the ticket would have cost for the full route. Airlines may ban a passenger from flying with them in the future.
Some airlines have challenged the practice in court but without success. In November 2014, United Airlines sued Skiplagged.com and its founder in court, claiming trademark infringement, according to court documents. A judge dismissed the suit the following year.
The Washington Post shares another warning:
Chris Dong, a Los Angeles-based travel writer and points expert who used to skiplag, says you especially can’t do this on a round-trip flight. “Airlines will cancel your return flight if you’re a ‘no show’ for any segment of a booked itinerary,” Dong said in an email.
While the teen’s father told WJZY that his son was “interrogated a little bit” before being “taken to a security room,” American Airline says their records don’t show that the teen was taken to a security room. Instead, they’ve told the Post that “Our records indicate the customer was questioned only at the ticket counter about their travel, while attempting to check-in for their flight.”
The fact that the teen was denied boarding underscores how serious airlines take skiplagging. It makes sense, since the practice saps revenue from them on two fronts: Not only do passengers underpay — potentially by hundreds of dollars per ticket — but the seat on the tossed leg could have been sold to someone else. Most contracts of carriage from major airlines expressly forbid skiplagging as a result.
The Post also got this quote from Clint Henderson, an industry expert and managing editor for the Points Guy. “The airlines are getting increasingly sophisticated and smart about it. I expect that will get even more prevalent as technology improves further.”