This Website Can Find Flights Other Sites Won't Show You, But There's A Catch

In theory, booking a flight is simpler than it's ever been. You head online, look at your options, enter your payment details, and that's one main component of a trip sorted. However, taking the easy route can leave you out of pocket by hundreds of dollars. On top of everything else, the pressure that the coronavirus pandemic put on airlines could mean that it's harder than ever to get a cheap air ticket.

Luckily, there are some online tools that make booking a bargain flight very easy. Just as there are tools that help you pick a flight based on the damage it might do to the planet, there are also tools that can help you exploit little-known airfare loopholes. One method, which could save you up to 80% on an airline ticket, involves buying a flight to an airport you never intend to visit. 

A specialist website makes finding these loophole flights very easy. But while booking the money-saving flight might be simple, there are a few complications that come with it. You'll need to be aware of some catches that could get you denied at the gate, cost you your luggage, or even end with you in a different destination than the one you had planned.

The method involves booking a hidden city flight

When you're booking a flight, you normally choose what airport you're departing from, where you want to go, and select whatever option meets your needs. But there is another way to do things, and that involves booking a "hidden city" flight. Normally, layovers are something you avoid if possible, but a hidden city flight relies on them. Instead of spending a few hours in the airport and then boarding your connecting flight, you simply leave when your first flight lands.

Why bother doing this? On paper, you're buying at least a couple of additional flights you don't intend to use. But weirdly, booking a hidden city flight can actually be significantly cheaper than getting a direct flight to your intended destination. For example, a direct flight from Atlanta to Orlando might cost $350, but if you book a flight from Atlanta to Houston with a layover in Orlando and just get off when your first plane lands in Orlando, it might only cost you something like $120. 

So how do you find hidden city flights? Well, if you know the routes airlines take well, you can pop a couple of destinations into something like Google Flights or Skyscanner and spend some time searching for a bargain. Alternatively, there is a website dedicated to finding hidden city flights and saving you a good chunk of cash.

There is a website that can help you find hidden city flights

There are a few websites around that specialize in offering hidden city flight deals. One of them is Skiplagged, which claims its unique algorithm can find the deals quicker than anywhere else. The site boasts that customers can save up to 80% on flights between destinations like New York and San Francisco using its search tools. The site's management describes itself as a group of "improvisers and frequent travelers" who started Skiplagged because they "grew tired of the inefficient and expensive process of travel planning," so they "sought to improve it by creating a lightning fast search portal."

Hidden city ticketing is in no way illegal, but airline companies don't seem too happy with Skiplagged's founder. Back in 2014, United Airlines and Orbitz filed a lawsuit against the then-22-year-old Aktarer Zaman. The lawsuit described the website as "unfair competition" and claimed it was promoting "strictly prohibited travel" while attempting to claw back $75,000 in lost revenue from Zaman (via CNN). The suit failed, and Skiplagged is still going almost 10 years on. 

While you aren't doing anything illegal by booking a hidden city flight, there are some things to keep in mind. You should only book the flights one way, as your return flight will likely be canceled when you miss the initial leg of it. If you're making a round trip, you'll need to look for a second hidden city flight back. Beyond that, there are still a few catches you need to watch out for.

Unfortunately, there are a few catches

While you may save a significant amount of cash with a hidden city flight, it isn't all smooth sailing. There are a few catches you'll need to be aware of if you want to arrive at your final destination without a hitch. The first relates to luggage. You can't check anything as it will just end up going to your final destination. Carry-on bags are also a risk here, as there is a danger you may be asked to check them on a particularly full flight. To be safe, you should only take a backpack small enough to fit under the seat in front of you. 

Flights with an international final destination also require special consideration. You'll likely need a passport to board, and you may need a visa for the country on your ticket, even if you don't intend to get the connecting flight there. Some journeys may also require a return ticket before you can board, but you can just buy one from the airline and cancel it as soon as you've boarded the flight you actually want to take. 

It's also worth noting that, while hidden city flights are legal, airlines don't like people using them. Make sure you don't connect a frequent flier account to your ticket purchase or you may lose your hard-earned miles. Equally, don't use the system too often; this includes flying the same route with the same airline multiple times in a short timeframe. Finally, there is a small (roughly 2% according to Skiplagged) chance something like bad weather could change your itinerary, which means the connecting flight may not go where you intended to go.

Sometimes, you can extend a layover into a mini vacation

There is a way you can do something similar to a hidden city flight without upsetting the airlines. As Tripsavvy explains, some airlines offer stopover flights, which allow you to spend a few days at your layover destination before boarding a flight to your final destination. Some airlines charge a fee for this service while others, like Icelandair, offer free stopovers of up to a week. Some airlines, like Air China, will even get you a free hotel for the night.

This service is ideal for travelers planning a multi-leg trip. Say you're visiting Asia or Europe and want to hit an extra country without impacting your travel budget too much. As you're working with the airline, you won't have to worry about things like luggage restrictions as your bags will be unloaded on each leg of the trip. Still, this method isn't totally catch-free. 

Not every airline offers the service, some of those that do might charge a fee, and there may also be a limit on the length of stopover you can book. On top of that, certain countries may require you to pay for a visa if you're staying there for a few days, which could further add to your travel costs. As with everything travel-related, look at your options, weigh up what's best for you, and try to keep everything within budget.