Airline fares are higher than pre-pandemic levels, forcing those who want to travel to look into travel hacks. However, these hacks might unknowingly get you fined or, worse, banned from the airline altogether.
The increase in travel costs compared to 2019 prices.
What is skiplagging?
Skiplagging is a not-so-secret airline hack that gives you the opportunity to save a bit of money on your travels. Let’s say you want to go from Detroit, Michigan, to Washington, D.C. A direct, nonstop flight would cost you $223. Or, you could book a ticket from Detroit to Tampa, Florida, with a layover in Washington, D.C., for just $109. You’d get to fly the same journey to Washington, D.C., and just leave the airport before boarding the flight to Tampa, all while saving more than 50% on your trip.
There’s a popular website, skiplagged.com, that helps you find these fares, but they have recently gotten in trouble with American Airlines. Although it’s not technically against the law, most major carriers consider skiplagging against their policies. American Airlines has sued the company, claiming they are participating in “unauthorized and deceptive ticketing practices.”
If you are caught skiplagging, you can have severe consequences—your return ticket could be canceled, your frequent flyer miles stripped, or you could be banned from the airline altogether. This hack could potentially save you hundreds of dollars on airfare, but it can equally cost you significant stress, so it might not be worth it.
Although saving a bit of money on airfare might be enticing, there are only particular situations where it could be possible. Never book the fare through a third-party website like skiplagged.com, which will increase your chance of getting caught. You should also only do it on one-way trips and when you are not checking a bag. It could also be helpful to book a higher fare ticket than basic economy. If you participate in this risky hack, you should do it at most twice yearly. You should also avoid giving your frequent flyer number to the airline.
Other “hacker fares” and risky travel practices
Apart from skiplagging, another popular “hacker fare” to save money is through throwaway tickets. If you are traveling one way, you might notice that a one-way ticket is more expensive than a roundtrip ticket. You could purchase a roundtrip ticket and then “throw away” your return ticket to save some money. This is also against many airlines’ policies, so you risk facing the same consequences as skiplagging if caught.
Another travel hack that’s gone viral on TikTok recently is booking your ticket at the airport. This hack seems to only work for low-cost carriers like Spirit or Allegiant, but it can save quite a bit of money. User Gabrielle Moore (@_gabriellem21) posted a video showing her purchasing a Spirit flight at the airport for $53.80 — $46.02 less than advertised online. If you’re flying a major carrier like Delta or American, you run the risk of paying much more in person than if you purchased online. Even with budget carriers, this hack is not guaranteed to work. One commenter on the video noted that they tried this hack and saved $8 but paid $5 for parking at the airport, so it wasn’t worth the effort.
@_gabriellem21 Why didn’t I know this sooner?!✈️#travelhack #cheaptravel #cheapflights #travel ♬ fukumean – Gunna
What to do instead of hacker fares
Practicing common travel hacks that are perfectly acceptable is the best way to save money on airfare without running any risk. If you want to save money on airfare, try booking in advance, looking for tickets on different days of the week, being flexible with travel times, or traveling from different airports. The more flexible you are in all aspects of travel, the more likely you are to get a good deal.
Many travelers argue that these extremely overpriced airfare tickets are equally bad, if not worse, as some deceptive ticketing practices. Plus, airlines regularly overbook their flights and hope some passengers don’t show up, so travelers are playing by the same rules. However, you agree to certain terms and conditions when you book a ticket, so engaging in these hacks knowingly breaks these rules. Ultimately, it comes down to a personal preference and your own risk assessment.