Experts say that travelers have flown this way for decades and that detecting improper use of connections is tricky, making enforcement a challenge for airlines. Here’s what to know about this open secret of flying.
How does it work?
Airline ticket costs are determined by many factors, such as energy prices, passenger demand for certain routes and competition from other airlines. They aren’t merely a reflection of travel distance. For travelers, this means that it can occasionally be more affordable to book a flight with a layover along a more competitive route and get off there, rather than booking a nonstop flight to the desired location.
For instance, a traveler in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., wants to fly to San Francisco. A recent search turned up a flight from Fort Lauderdale to Portland, Ore., with a stop in San Francisco, for about $124. A nonstop flight from Fort Lauderdale to San Francisco would cost about $220.
Skiplagged and Kiwi facilitate searching for and booking these kinds of deals.
But it requires staying undetected. You can’t check a bag or link a frequent flier account to collect the mileage. And travelers who show patterns — flying the same routes repeatedly and missing the last leg of a flight — are more likely to be caught.
Why is it gaining in popularity?
Short answer: the cost of airfare, which has soared in recent years.
Mary Cropper, a travel specialist with Boston-based Audley Travel, called airfare pricing a “perfect storm.” Rising fares, in addition to fees for everything from beverages to printing boarding passes, have made skiplagging more enticing to passengers. While she doesn’t advise her clients to book this way, she said she understood the motivation.