American Airlines Confronts Passenger Pre-Flight for Throwaway Ticketing
Throwaway ticketing has long been a loophole that has been frowned upon by airlines. It involves purchasing a ticket with the intent to use only a portion of the itinerary. This happens when a passenger wants to travel only one way, but the round-trip fare is even cheaper. Or when a passenger books a ticket to a destination that they have no plans on traveling to, with a connection at the intended destination. They skip the last leg of the fare, and just get off at the connection. This is usually referred to as hidden-city ticketing or skiplagging.
While you might think that you can do whatever you want with something you have fully paid for, airlines have been fighting the practice for years. Some airlines have even sued passengers. But this usually happens after a passenger has completed its travel.
Now View from the Wing reports that American Airlines customer service staff actually approached a customer at the airport prior to traveling and warned against throwaway ticketing. Here’s the story that was reported by a VFTW reader:
I booked a hidden city ticket …[Charleston to Philadelphia to Washington National airport, and s]aved a few bucks, maybe $25 or so [compared to buying Charleston – Philadelphia non-stop].
When I went to check in online, the app and the website wouldn’t allow me and said I had to go to the counter.
Went to the priority lane, counter agent was pleasant even though it was 5:30am in the morning and he said I couldn’t check in online because he had to give me a warning about hidden-city ticketing. I played dumb and asked what that was and he explained.
He followed on to say that the warning is that they are watching me and if I don’t continue on to DCA on my flight this morning, I will be put on a list and I have the potential to have my Platinum status revoked. I just said ok and thanks and went on my way. Cancelled my flight to DCA as soon as I landed, and we will see what they have to say.
This was a passenger who takes advantage of hidden city ticketing regularly. So this is the reason that American Airlines knew his intentions.
Airlines don’t want their passengers using these methods to save money. So they do everything possible to stop it. Court cases against passengers who have done this have been thrown out, but there are still risks, even if it doesn’t get that far.
There are some things to keep in mind if you plan on doing this. You should only throw away your last leg. If you miss a flight, the rest of your itinerary will likely be canceled. Don’t check luggage, since it will end up at the final destination. Then there’s the risk of the airline punishing you by shutting down your account, taking away miles or your elite status.