Links for booking are at the end of this post.
How about a two-in-one trip to Honolulu and Melbourne for under $900 roundtrip? You can fly from New York City to Honolulu, then to Melbourne, and finally back to New York. This amazing deal involves four flights and some travel hacking techniques: hidden city ticketing and self-transfer.
Hidden city ticketing is when you book a flight with a layover at your destination, but you don’t take the connecting flight. This can be cheaper than booking a direct flight. Self-transfer is when you book separate tickets for each leg of your journey, instead of one ticket for the whole trip.
However, these methods have some risks and limitations. You should do your own research before booking this deal. For example, do you know what happens if you miss your connecting flight? Do you have checked baggage?
I will describe briefly what hidden city ticketing is as well as some of the risks associated with it.
What is hidden city ticketing?
Hidden city ticketing is when someone books a flight to a destination but disembarks at a layover city, rather than continuing to the final destination. People do this to take advantage of lower fares available for multi-segment itineraries, which include the desired layover city, instead of booking a direct flight to their final destination.
For example, someone who wants to travel from New York to Los Angeles finds that a direct flight is more expensive than a flight from New York to San Francisco with a layover in Los Angeles. They purchase the cheaper ticket and get off the plane in Los Angeles, without completing the San Francisco segment of the trip.
- Luggage Restrictions – Sometimes there is not enough room in the overhead bins on the plane for everyone to stow their carry-on. So to ensure that your bag does not get checked at the gate, leave the carry-on at home and bring only a personal item. Checked luggage goes to the final destination, and you may not be able to retrieve it at the layover (hidden) city.
- Skipping a Flight – For hidden city ticketing to work, you should NOT book a roundtrip ticket. You should instead only book separate one-way tickets because if you skip a flight on an itinerary, all subsequent flights get canceled.
- Flight Cancellation – If your flight is canceled (i.e. due to a hurricane or blizzard) or rerouted through a different layover city, the airline is not obligated to book you on another flight with the original layover city without charging an additional fee or requiring you to pay the fare difference. If the airline cancels your flight, you may be able to obtain a refund, but if your flight is rerouted, a refund may not be possible. In either scenario, you will likely have to book another ticket at the last minute, which could end up costing more than your original ticket.
- Frequent Flyer Miles – You should NOT book a hidden city ticket with your frequent flyer account. Hidden city ticketing goes against the airlines’ contract of carriage and can result in losing frequent flyer miles, as well as being banned from using the airline in the future if done too often.