Hidden city ticketing is a somewhat controversial backdoor method to save money on airfare. I’ve recently come across an example of such a fare involving Halifax, so I thought I’d make a brief blog post about it in case anyone was wondering about this kind of booking and whether or not it’s a good idea.
How Does it Work?
Simply put, a hidden city ticket is when you book a flight to a certain destination when your real intention is to end your journey at the connecting airport. One can potentially get a great deal this way, but there are several caveats:
1. The airlines don’t like it. Still, the only instances I’ve read involving a warning or some form of punishment (the passenger billed for difference in fare or termination of their frequent flyer account) are when an individual exploits this angle repeatedly.
2. The airline is only obligated to get you from A to B. The specific connection you booked is not guaranteed. If, for example, your flight is changed to a non-stop, you’re out of luck. You could try making a request to retain the original itinerary, but you’d be relying on the goodwill of the agent.
3. Checking bags is probably out of the question. There may be cases where bags are not checked through to the final destination so you can pick it up at the connecting airport, but generally, if you’re going to book this kind of ticket you would stick to carry-on only.
4. Once you’ve missed a segment of your flight itinerary, the rest of the ticket is void. So you can only do this on a one-way or before the final (unwanted) leg of a round-trip or multi-city booking.
5. As someone who suffers from anxiety, I’ll point out that the worries attached to booking such a ticket should not be overlooked. If you think you’ll be stressing about the outcome if things go awry, the savings won’t be worth it. Even the notion of the gate agent calling my name to board the plane as I’m heading down the road would likely bother me. Many folks wouldn’t give that a second thought.
A Halifax Example
I recently learned of some cheap round-trip airfares from Paris to Montreal on various Star Alliance carriers. The blog post (Loyalty Traveler) also mentioned that one-ways from Paris to Montreal were very low as well. And when I surveyed all the options, I noticed that the WestJet flight that connects in Halifax is included in these bargain fares.
For comparison, the fares one-way Paris to Halifax go as low as $330:
Yet, a Paris to Montreal flight with a Halifax connection comes in at $180 on some dates:
As you can see, one can shave off a quite a bit by booking the flight to Montreal instead of Halifax. Just mosey out of the airport instead of catching your domestic onward flight. It would save nearly half the cost of the ticket…as long as you don’t instead get put on that Air France direct flight at the last minute…
I have made a few unconventional flight bookings in the past. I once found a lower fare that included a short hop from Moncton to Halifax before flying to Reykjavik. I also capitalized on a double open-jaw “fuel dump” fare. And I used the generous stopover rules of the old Aeroplan program to make three trips out of two redemptions. But in all cases I flew all segments so there were no “hidden cities” involved.
When searching for airfare deals, I don’t seek out this kind of ticket. I think the bargain would have to be truly outstanding for me to risk booking it. Others will differ and maybe even enjoy the thrill of nabbing a sneaky deal in addition to the savings.
The Paris to Montreal airfare does however present an interesting opportunity for a nested itinerary. If Montreal is part of your regular travels, you could book two trips to Europe by bookending the cheap ticket with either a separate round-trip or two one-ways.
Anyway, it’s fun to ponder the possibilities.