Air travel remains a necessity, even as it gets ever more expensive. First, the cost of flights, which fell throughout most of the 2000s relative to inflation, is climbing once again thanks to higher fuel prices. And then there are the added fees for everything from checked baggage to those vile croissanwiches.
[url=]The Art of Hidden-City Ticketing[/url]
Well, there’s a way to save some of that money. It’s called “hidden-city ticketing,” but before I explain how to execute the maneuver, you’re going to need some background. Passengers flying to or from airports that are dominated by a single carrier — like Memphis, Newark or Dallas/Fort Worth — pay fares 20 or 30 percent higher than at non-hub airports. The prices are even more inflated when you’re flying from a smaller city with a limited number of flights. A nonstop one-way ticket from Des Moines to Dallas/Fort Worth is $375 on American Airlines, for example — more than the $335 Delta will charge you to fly from Miami to Anchorage.
But what happens when you’re interested in flying American from Des Moines to Los Angeles, which hosts a more competitive airport? That flight is only about half the price ($186), despite its being more than double the distance. Now, here’s the trick: American flights from Des Moines to L.A. have a layover in Dallas. If you want to travel to Dallas, the best way to get a reasonable fare is to book the flight to Los Angeles instead, and simply get off the plane at Dallas.
Making a habit of this certainly won’t endear you to the airlines. Most of them — the major exception being free-spirited Southwest Airlines — expressly forbid it in their ticketing rules. But those rules don’t carry the force of law, and most travel lawyers say that their recourse is limited. They could probably preclude you from flying with them in the future, but their case for demanding penalties is weak, and the risk of detection is low if you don’t book these kinds of routes more often than a couple of times per carrier per year. Just remember these tips for successfully executing the phantom flight trick: 1. Look to employ the switcheroo when your final destination is at a hub airport dominated by just one or two carriers, like Atlanta, Cleveland, Salt Lake City, Charlotte, Detroit, Cincinnati or Chicago O’Hare, all of which have overpriced tickets. 2. When you’re traveling to one of those cities, you should search for phantom flights into airports that are more competitive — New York, Miami, Las Vegas and Boston are good examples. Search engines like Kayak.com will allow you to select your routing through your desired layover airport. 3. Book your itinerary as a set of two one-way flights, rather than as a round trip. If you miss any segment of your itinerary, the airline will usually cancel the rest of it. 4. Don’t check your bags, because they’ll find their way to the final destination listed on your itinerary. And get to your gate early, lest the overhead bins fill up. 5. Don’t lie if you get caught — travel lawyers agree that misstating your intentions could leave you facing fraud charges. Instead, proudly state that you’re doing your part to help the airlines understand the inefficiencies in their pricing structures, and that you’re bringing exorbitant fares more in line with the free market. All of the fares are based on a kayak.com search for one-way flights on June 15. In each case, the price reflects the cheapest fare for the day on the carrier listed. The search was conducted on April 20.