Air travel is more complicated than what appears on the surface, one of the reasons why this website was created. Skiplagging is one of those intricacies which has garnered worldwide attention recently when German carrier Lufthansa pursued legal action against a passenger who deliberately skipped a flight to exploit an airfare loophole.
What is Skiplagging?
Skiplagging is where a passenger books a connecting flight itinerary with no intention of taking the onward connection. When wanting to travel on a direct flight from point A to B; there may be a cheaper option by booking point A to B, then C. The trick is that the passenger vanishes from the airport at the transit point, not travelling to the final destination, saving money in the process.
Still a little confused? Here is an example I have found with United Airlines for a domestic USA journey. In this scenario let’s say we are trying to travel from San Diego to Los Angeles.
Searching for a flight from San Deigo to Los Angeles, flights are on offer from $136.
For the super savvy, you can fly on the same plane to Los Angeles, but book a connecting flight to Reno for $103 – a saving of $33.
This practice isn’t limited to domestic US flights; there are cases worldwide on many international airlines where this has been exploited.
Despite this potential cost saving, there are many reasons why Skiplagging causes much more harm than good.
1 – You cannot check-in baggage
Travelling with a lot of luggage will deny you the opportunity to take part in this practice straight away. When checking in at San Diego, any baggage would automatically be checked through to Reno. With connecting flights, you would need a very left field reason to convince the gate agent to collect your bag in LA, remembering they expect you to be checking in again.
2 – The airlines are catching up to this practice
Even in researching this story and examples, the United Airlines website detected my search pattern and denied me access to their website. This has since been restored as I have no intention of booking this. Yet the airline could detect unusual search activity to put a stop to this, or potentially mark the booking in their system as suspicious.
3 – You are breaking the airline’s condition of carriage
All airlines have similar terms and conditions which expressly prohibit this practice. While you may shrug this off and not care, airlines can and do take a variety of steps to remedy their perceived loss.
Potential consequences for Skiplaggers include:
- Your ticket being cancelled without notice
- A demand to pay the difference between the paid fare and the actual fare of the intended journey
- Revoke frequent flyer miles from your account, or ban you completely
- Ban you from flying the airline in the future
- Take legal action through the courts
Is it really worth risking all of this to save a few dollars?
4 – Think of your fellow passengers
Have you ever sat on the plane waiting for the final door to close, but the flight attendant makes the announcement that they are trying to find the last passenger in the terminal? You will be that person they are looking for, as the airline assumes that you are lost in the terminal.
Think of the other passengers on the plane you’ve left waiting; those who have tight connections, businessmen and women trying to make important meetings, the families trying to get to weddings and those travelling for an emergency; everyone travels for very different reasons. Selfish actions like Skiplagging impact other peoples lives.
5 – Driving up the cost of airfares
Those in the US and Europe are quite lucky in how cheap their local airfares are. Australian and New Zealand airlines price most domestic and short-haul international fares as “point-to-point”. That is, you pay for each individual flight sector travelled, rather than the specially calculated “origin-to-destination” (O&D) model that is exploited by Skiplagging.
Most international airlines use O&D pricing structures for long haul international travel. I predict that continued Skiplagging into the future will see more airlines follow a point-to-point pricing model, which will create more expensive airfares.
So what do you do?
A common argument to support Skiplagging is “if the airlines don’t want to do this, then set airfares with more logical pricing”. I agree with the principle of this argument, however, this means you are supporting a point-to-point pricing model which leads to more expensive airfares for all passengers.
If your desired airline doesn’t offer you a legitimate acceptable airfare, shop around! Fly with a competitor or find alternate ways to reach your destination. Most of the time Skiplagging only saves a handful of dollars and puts so much more in jeopardy.
Let me know in the comments below is this something you support or do you agree it’s just too much to risk, in light of recent legal proceedings?
Feature photo: Connecting flight information at Singapore’s Changi Airport