Yes, I buy and fly on “hidden city” or “point beyond” tickets from time to time. It has been a while, but mostly because fares for my trips haven’t necessitated looking for such “discounts” in my travels. And yet still I am torn on the recent tales of Skiplagged, a website which made finding and booking such fares easier. I think the site does not do a good enough job of explaining the risks associated with such trips to consumers but that is not against the law. Violating a contract or inducing others to do so, however, is. Plus there’s the part where I’m convinced that the current fare structure is probably way better for way more consumers than the alternatives.
Don’t get me wrong: I wish fares were lower across the board. I don’t like paying more for a trip if I can avoid it. But I am not at all convinced that charging by distance flown or segments flown rather than based on the airports at each end of the journey will do travelers any favors. Fares are, generally speaking, lower in markets where there is competition. And there are far more of those than there are non-stop markets. And, while there are some airlines which are not opposed to such travel behavior, they are typically smaller and without as many connecting itineraries. The main exception to that pattern is Southwest Airlines which has a lot of connecting flights but also a reasonably robust hub-and-spoke operating model. It already does have some routes where the practice could save money and may find itself less likely to tolerate it going forward.
Maybe the practice is ethical and maybe it is not. I don’t know that I really have an answer to that question. Much of it hinges on deciding what you’re buying when entering into a contract with the airline. The company certainly believes it is sell transportation from Point A to Point B; whether there is a C, D or E along the way does not always factor in to the situation. And yet sometimes the C, D & E cities do matter. Airlines will choose to price a connection cheaper than a non-stop or to make some connecting points cheaper than others. In that regard a passenger truly is buying the specific routing, not just travel from A to B.
Still, choosing to not fly as booked does mean breaking that contract. It is unclear just how enforceable said contract is against passengers but plenty of travel agents have seen enforcement actions over the years. And, enforceable or not, you do agree to it as a customer when buying the ticket. Is it ethical to enter into a deal knowing that you plan to not uphold your half? I really do not know, though I’m inclined to say no.
And there’s still the part where many, many people are now looking at the concept of hidden city ticketing and are now convinced that they should be booking flights this way to save money. Not that it was ever really a secret, but the discussion has not been so mainstream in the past. I’m mostly just worried about the passengers who do not really understand what they’re getting into with these tickets. Little things like no checked bags or possibilities of reroutes can have potentially large ramifications. It is not a beginner-level move and the recent media attention will have many beginners looking at it. That has me worried at many levels.
- Why Airlines Hate Hidden City Ticketing
- Op-Ed: Hidden-city ticketing not so hidden to the masses anymore
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