Let’s talk Planet Earth. If you know anything about me, you know I very obviously…
In all my years of travel, I’ve heard about every tip and hack imaginable. I’ve even shared some of my own many, many times. However, one I’ve only vaguely heard of and haven’t tried personally is what is now known as skiplagging. It came into the news recently because a teenaged boy was banned from American Airlines for three years when he tried to skiplag. Since then, it’s been a hot topic in the travel community.
So naturally, I’ve done some investigating. If you’ve heard about it and want to learn more, here’s everything you need to know below.
What Exactly is Skiplagging?
Essentially, skiplagging is when you book a flight with a layover and get off at that layover instead of at the final destination. People have long found out that many times it’s cheaper to book a flight from X – Y – Z and get off in Y rather than just booking a flight X – Y.
Because airlines love to use a complicated algorithm to maximize profits, there is never just a set price from one place to another. This is also why the same flight increases in price when you go back to check without clearing your browser cookies.
Potential Issues with Skiplagging
Now as the news has pointed out, there are a lot of potential issues with skiplagging and it’s not a guaranteed way to save money. Here are some consequences you should be aware of:
You risk losing your luggage.
You know how sometimes at the gate, the agents will ask people to volunteer checking their carry-on luggage to their final destination? And once overheard space begins to fill up, they’re not so much asking for volunteers as they are demanding them. If you’re in a later group and space runs out, you are going to have to give up your suitcase or backpack. Sometimes they’ll print and slap the tag on before you even know what’s happening.
If you plan to skiplag, you now have a huge problem. Continue on to your final destination to get your suitcase and spend more money booking a flight to your intended destination? Forget your intended destination altogether and potentially lose out on getting a refund from your hotel and anything else you’ve reserved ahead of time? Or lose your suitcase altogether to the lost and found and have to buy all new clothes and toiletries?
Whichever happens, did you really wind up saving anything in the end?
Airlines hate it and will ban you if caught.
Airlines absolutely hate skiplagging and have it listed on their prohibited booking practices. If they catch you doing this, they can and will ban you. Think about how inconvenient it would be to be banned from your local airport’s most used airline.
They’re pretty savvy about how they’re catching skiplaggers too. According to the aforementioned article about the teenager banned from American Airlines, it says they caught on when they noticed his North Carolina license. His flight was Gainesville – Charlotte – New York City, and they only thought to investigate because of the address on his license. I can’t imagine what he could’ve done to go undetected if they were being that watchful!
It can cause flight delays.
Have you ever been on a flight that’s delayed forever and finally that one passenger comes running on? We’ve all been there, and there’s nothing worse than having to board and then be stuck on a plane for longer than you need to be.
I’m not sure what could make an airplane choose to wait for passengers or just leave without them, but imagine causing an entire flight delay because you’re missing in action. This creates issues for everyone involved right down to the flight attendants who only start getting paid when the boarding doors close.
You could be charged penalty fees anyway.
When all is said and done, if you’re caught, you’ll wind up paying way more than if you had just bought that direct flight. You could be charged penalty fees, and if they catch you at check-in, you’ll be forced to pay for a new flight regardless.
Referring back to the American Airlines story, the teenager bought his skiplagging ticket for $150 USD. When they caught him, they made him pay for a last minute direct flight that cost over $400 USD! Something tells me they didn’t refund that original $150 USD either. That’s a lot to lose when you got your skiplag ticket to save money in the first place.
Skiplagging options don’t save as much and aren’t as available as they seem.
Finally, just like mistake fares, skiplagging isn’t a guaranteed option every time. If you just scan flights on skiplagged.com, you’ll notice a lot of fares only really save you a few bucks and are only on specific dates. It’s not something you particularly want to rely on for saving money on flights even if your airline is fine with it and you don’t have to worry about any consequences.
IF You Still Want to Try Skiplagging, Remember:
Never check a bag.
Goes without saying but if you intend on skipping out on your layover, you definitely should never check a bag. That bag is going to a flight’s final destination whether you’re on board or not, and who really wants the headache of figuring out how to get their luggage back?
Make sure you have a good seat group.
As I mentioned above, if you don’t have a good seat group, you could be forced to check a bag if overhead space fills up. If you skiplag, make sure you have as early a group number as possible to prevent this from happening.
Do not make it a habit.
If you’re a frequent flier and do this frequently, airlines will eventually catch on. I imagine if airlines had a passenger that was constantly missing connecting flights, they’d start to have their name flagged.
You cannot book round trip tickets.
Another downside is that you can’t book round trip tickets. If an airline suspects you of skiplagging, they’ll cancel the return portion of your trip, and you’ll have to book a direct flight home anyway. Kind of defeats the purpose of saving money!
Do not use your frequent flier ID.
If you do this and want to remain undetected, you definitely cannot use any frequent flier ID. That’ll make it easier for them to track any skiplagging and the skiplagging itself will get you banned from the airline and its frequent flier program.
Be prepared for the consequences.
There are so many unforeseen consequences that can come with skiplagging, and you have to be prepared for them. To me that just adds another stress when flying itself is stressful enough.
What Do I Think?
Ultimately, it isn’t for me, but I can see why people want to try it. All airlines have honestly gotten worse over the years. Remember when all you had to book was economy, business, or first class? And choosing your seat and a carry-on suitcase were included in your ticket price? Now we have about five different tiers of economy and just choosing your seat can cost upwards for $100+ dollars! I won’t ever hold it against someone for trying to find a way to save money when flying.
However, there are just too many risks and potential consequences for me to ever try skiplagging myself or to recommend it to any of you. Flying is already stressful enough and airports can be chaotic even in the best of times. It’s not worth it to me to try and save maybe $100-200 on a flight when so much could so easily go wrong.
What do you think of skiplagging? Let me know your opinions below!