The way the airlines set their fares is more convoluted than figuring out which bathroom to use at the Democrat National Convention.
If you’re on a plane with 130 passengers, your 129 fellow passengers didn’t pay the same fare as you. In fact, chances are there were close to 130 different fares paid depending upon an entire matrix of variables that would give Albert Einstein a headache.
But sometimes the airlines’ confusing airfare formula is so illogical that you can hack their ridiculous system to your own advantage and save hundreds of dollars on your flight.
So as your million-miler editor here at Proud American Traveler, I’m going to let you in on one of those money-saving tricks right now.
And this little loophole gets around not one, but two annoying and expensive airline schemes.
Annoying Expensive Airline Scheme #1: We’ll Gouge You if You Try to Fly to One of our Hubs
Flying to an airport hub like Charlotte, Houston, Detroit, Newark or Minneapolis is expensive. In fact, those five cities nearly always top the list of most expensive cities in America to fly.
The reason is pretty simple. These hub airports are expensive BECAUSE they are hub airports — where one airline provides almost all of the flights.
A lack of competition means the dominant airline can charge you pretty much whatever they want since you don’t have any other options.
For example, a 30-minute American Airlines flight from Knoxville to Charlotte two weeks from now costs $400.
No thanks. I think I’ll just drive.
But a 7-hour American Airlines flight from Knoxville to Las Vegas with a connection in Charlotte costs less than half that much.
Even weirder, if you book that Knoxville to Vegas flight at the half price, you will be on the same exact plane, on the same exact flight, as you would if you booked your $400 ticket from Knoxville to Charlotte.
Think about that for a moment.
Annoying Expensive Airline Scheme #2: We’ll Charge You More for Less
Let me break it down.
American Airlines is charging you DOUBLE to take up one seat on one of their planes for 30 minutes, compared to taking up that SAME EXACT seat, PLUS taking up a seat on a second plane for another 5 hours.
No wonder American Airlines keeps filing for bankruptcy.
But it’s not just American. Delta does the same thing at their hubs in Salt Lake City, Atlanta, Detroit and Minneapolis. Same with United in Denver, Washington Dulles, Newark and Houston.
The three major airlines frequently charge you more to fly non-stop to one of their no-competition hubs than they would if you had a connection at that hub.
The airline industry is the only industry in America that charges you more for consuming less of its product… and charges you less for consuming more of its product.
That would be like being charged $40 for the “2 for 20” special by your local Applebee’s waitress — because you decided you were full after the appetizer and didn’t want to order your entrées!
“I’m sorry sir. You ordered an appetizer and two entrées for $20. If we don’t make your two plates of riblets, I’m going to have to charge you $40 for the cheese sticks.”
So the easy way around both of these annoying, ridiculous, illogical and expensive schemes?
Book a Connecting Ticket THROUGH Your Desired Hub
If you want to go to Charlotte, book a flight to Las Vegas (with a connection in Charlotte) — and get off the plane in Charlotte. Grab your carry-on bag and walk out of the airport, tossing your Charlotte-to-Las Vegas boarding pass in the nearest trash bin on the way out.
If you’re one of those militant rule follower types (you know who you are), you might feel a little naughty, you may even glance over your shoulder to see if anyone notices that you are exiting the premises when you’re supposed to be boarding your connecting flight.
Get over it. You just saved yourself two Benjamins.
You shouldn’t feel the least tinge of guilt about an absurd business model imposed upon you by an airline that was trying to gouge you out of $400, especially since they will probably fill your empty seat with another fare-paying stand-by passenger, allowing them to collect two fares for the same seat.
Now, there are a few important factors you have to consider before you use this “hidden city” loophole.
One Way Only
The first one is you can only do this on a one-way ticket and the segment you skip MUST be the last segment of your itinerary. That is because your airline will thoughtfully CANCEL the rest of your itinerary once you skip a segment.
What that means is that you can use this trick flying TO a hub airport like Charlotte, but it will not work flying FROM Charlotte. You may want to book your return flight separately from a cheaper nearby airport.
Do NOT Check Your Bag
Second, do not check your luggage. If your ticket says you are going to Las Vegas, that is where your checked bags will be going.
Here at Proud American Traveler we strongly discourage you from EVER checking a bag anyway. Carry-ons are the only way to go and here is how to do it.
Beware of Being Rerouted
Third, be aware of what might happen if your flight is canceled. The airline will try to rebook you on another flight to your ticket destination – a flight that may not connect in your desired city.
That is why I carefully consider which destination I choose for my ticket. Las Vegas might be a cheap destination, but if American Airlines has a lot of flights to Vegas through their other big hubs, it might not be the best choice. I try to pick a destination that doesn’t offer many other options other than connections through my desired hub.
Your Airline Hates You
Finally, you might want to consider the fact that the airlines hate people like me who exploit this loophole – a ridiculous loophole that THEY created.
But still… never underestimate how much the airlines HATE all their customers.
CNN recently reported that Lufthansa has filed a lawsuit against a passenger who uses this loophole frequently. The headline read like something out of the satire news site ‘The Onion’—“Airline Sues Passenger Who Missed His Flight.”
United Airlines sent one passenger (presumably one of United’s most frequent customers) a nastygram letter absurdly demanding he remit a personal check to the airline for all the inflated hub airport fares he avoided by NOT taking some of his flights.
Leave it to the airlines to create a convoluted system in an attempt to exploit its monopoly control of hub airports, gouge its customers with absurd fares – and then have the gall to threaten its best customers for using the airlines’ own ridiculous rules against them to avoid said-gouging.
But that just sounds like airline karma to me.