What is a hidden city ticket?
Hidden-city airline ticketing is when a traveller purchases a ticket from departure point A to destination point B, with a stop at transfer point C, with the intention of finishing the journey at point B and therefore throwing away the rest of the journey.
An example of this would be flying from Manchester to New York City via London Heathrow, then, on the return leg, choosing to get off at Heathrow (Point B) instead of continuing the journey back to Manchester
Why are hidden-city tickets cheaper even though you are travelling more miles?
Airlines price their fares based on a number of factors, but the largest is supply and demand. Convenient, direct flights are always in higher demand than routes with stops and usually have far less competition, so airlines price them higher. For example, for flights from London to Lima, Peru there are a multitude of single-stop options on airlines such as KLM, Iberia, Delta and others competing on price. But British Airways has the only non-stop route and therefore does not need to reduce the fare to generate demand.
Can I skip the first leg and get on midway through the journey?
Unfortunately not. When you skip ANY leg of your booked itinerary, the airline will proceed to cancel the rest of the trip. So you must start the journey at the original departure airport and should only skip a flight when you do not expect to take the rest of the journey.
What are the advantages of hidden-city tickets?
The single biggest advantage is the large savings a hidden city route can give you versus flying directly. Here’s an example of a non-stop route from London to Tokyo at £716 on British Airways.
Meanwhile, on the same dates and times, you can book these flight from Barcelona to Tokyo with a short stop in London for a good deal less at £477 return:
On the return leg, the traveller would get off at London, which is the hidden city in this example, and forgo the last leg from London to Barcelona.
Adding a one-way flight from London to Barcelona to start the route is almost always quite cheap and even with the addition of that one-way flight into the total price, you’re saving almost £350 (and could use this as a way to visit Barcelona for free).
Are hidden-city tickets legal? What are the risks??
Airlines don’t particularly like when travellers take advantage of the pricing systems, but it is 100% legal to skip out on the last leg of your route. Some airlines do state it in their contracts that the person must fly the entire route, but people miss flights all the time and there are no repercussions (nor should there be!).
The only realistic risk occurs in the rare occurrence of a flight re-route due to weather conditions or unexpected circumstances, in which case you may not make it to Point B and are instead re-routed to your final destination (Point C) via a different route. Circumstances like these cannot be predicted, but are a rare occurrence.
I have also heard rumours of some airlines confiscating mileage/points from repeat offenders, but I do not personally know of anyone who this has happened to.
What about checked luggage?
The primary downsides of hidden-city tickets are the rules regarding checked luggage. When you check a bag on a flight from Cape Town to Madrid with a standard stop-over in London Heathrow, the bag will be checked the entire route to Madrid and will not be released to you in London should you wish to get off there. Therefore, when travelling a standard ‘hidden-city’ flight, make sure that you DO NOT check a bag on the return flight if you plan to get off before the final destination.
The only time this does not apply is if you have an option to book a flight with an airport-change on the return route. For example, the route below (see image) includes an airport change from London Heathrow (LHR) to London Gatwick (LGW) on the return leg. This means that passengers will have their checked luggage released to them at Heathrow, at which point they can choose to head home rather than taking the final leg of the flight. An example route will look something like this:
In summary, the pros and cons of hidden-city tickets are:
- Opportunity to save a lot of ££ on flights
- Get to visit 2 cities for less than the price of one
- Usually cannot check a bag on the return route
- Small risk of missing connection in very rare case of a re-route
For more information on other methods of finding cheap flights visit our ultimate guide.
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