American Airlines has banned a 17-year-old traveler from flying for three years after he planned to take advantage of a money-saving hack called skiplagging this week.
Skiplaggers save money by booking a ticket with a layover and skipping the subsequent leg or legs of an itinerary — a practice that airlines discourage because it cuts into their profits. In Logan Parson’s case, the final destination was New York City, but he planned to disembark in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Airline officials caught on to Logan’s plan once they realized he had a North Carolina driver’s license, according to Hunter Parsons, the teen’s father. After detaining and questioning the teen before his first flight in Gainesville, Florida, American Airlines canceled his ticket and banned him for three years.
“He never even got his boarding pass,” Hunter told Insider, adding that his family had to purchase a new $400 direct ticket.
"He was left to fend for himself 500 miles from home. He never violated any policy or broke any contract. He simply went to a counter to get his boarding pass," the father explained.
In 2021, American Airlines warned travelers that it would monitor bookings to crack down on skiplagging. Although most airlines forbid hidden-city flying, consumers have found ways to skirt these bans.
For more budget travel coverage, please sign up for our free newsletters.
How Does Skiplagging Work?
Since few people enjoy layovers, direct flights are more popular and expensive than itineraries with stops. Skiplaggers take advantage of those lower prices by abandoning a journey’s final leg or legs.
Skiplagged.com is the most popular destination to find “hidden-city ticketing” online. The flight search engine aggregates flights and shows consumers skiplagged rates, some of which can be $100 cheaper than direct flights.
But skiplagging isn’t without risks. To begin with, you can’t check your bags, as they’ll move on to your official final destination without you. Round-trip flights are out, too, as airlines will cancel your entire itinerary if you don’t show up for a single leg.
Airlines have also caught on to the practice, as Logan Parson’s experience shows, and penalties can be severe. On top of canceling your flight, airlines could revoke your frequent flier miles or memberships, or even sue you, one industry expert told the Washington Post.
Should Consumers Skiplag?
Probably not. If you look at Skiplagged.com, you’ll notice that the savings on most featured flights aren’t more than $100. That’s not that much money, especially once you factor in the potential consequences and logistical headaches associated with duping airlines. If you find an incredible deal and decide to go for a hidden flight, be sure to read Skiplagged.com’s FAQ on “hidden city” flying for a few indispensable tips.
The Bottom Line
Despite this week’s news, it’s unlikely that there will be a significant crackdown on skiplagging. For one, it’s hard to prove that a consumer intends to skiplag before they do it. And even if an airline suspects that someone might be exploiting the loophole, preemptively accusing customers of lying is likely to backfire, as the Washington Post points out.