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A couple of weeks ago, I asked on my YouTube Community tab whether any of you have ever “skiplagged” a flight? Less than 10% of you responded that you’ve done it, and over half of you responded that you’ve never even heard of it. So in this post/video, I want to explore the air travel technique known as “skiplagging“. It’s recently received a lot of press due to some airlines cracking down on passengers. Plus, we recently booked some flights that may require us to skiplag them unintentionally, so I wanted to share our personal experience.

What is skiplagging?

Delta Airlines flight approaching the runway for landing with its wheels down
Skiplagging is a controversial booking technique that can save money, but not without risks

Skiplagging is booking a connecting flight with the intention of missing the final leg of the flight plan. It’s possible to find flights that connect to your destination that are cheaper than non-stop flights to that location. It’s confusing that a longer and more complex flight itinerary would be cheaper. However, this has prompted some savvy travelers to use skiplagging to find cheap flights.

A one-way business class flight from LAX to JFK costs over $1600
A one-way business class flight from LAX to SJU that stops in JFK costs only $610

For example, suppose you want to fly business class from Los Angeles to New York. If I look up direct flights on Delta, the cheapest flight is around $1,600. However, if I were to create a flight plan that stops in New York en route to San Juan, Puerto Rico, the cost is $610 for the same flight. You can see why someone might purchase this flight with the intention of skipping the final leg to San Juan in order to get the lower price.

The airlines hate it!

View from between airplane seats looking toward the front of the plane
Airlines will often wait for connecting passengers rather than departing early

The airlines hate it when people skiplag. Airlines will often try to keep the gate open as long as possible if they think passengers are trying to connect. This means wasted time and effort by the airlines. I imagine that it likely causes confusion in their systems to have passengers who miss flights, as they probably assume that these passengers still need to travel to their final destination.

The ethical implications

In addition to logistical issues, there are ethical implications. It disturbs me to think that I’m causing a plane to leave late because the gate is being kept open for my arrival. The thought of the agents calling my name over and over again in the airport makes me cringe. Maybe I’m overthinking it! I hate it when people waste my time, so I can only imagine how the gate agents must feel when people skip flights. And I don’t even want to think about the passengers sitting in the a plane waiting for departure.

Signing pointing right for "right" and left for "wrong"
Skiplagging may be an ethical dilemma for many travelers

On the flip side, it’s frustrating that the pricing for non-stop flights can be so expensive. Also, the fact that many flights are overbooked makes a lot of people feel unsympathetic toward the airlines.

Skiplagging has been in the news

Fortune article on Lufthansa suing a passenger for skiplagging
Lufthansa and United have sued passengers for skiplagging their flights (see article from Fortune)

Regardless of how you feel about the airlines, there are many articles reporting that airlines are cracking down on passengers that skiplag. Specifically, United and Lufthansa have sued passengers accused of skiplagging. However, the passengers that were sued were regular skiplaggers (i.e., the airlines had a record of them doing it many times in the past).

Our recent experience with Delta

I was a bit nervous when I read these article. We booked a Delta flight from Burbank, California to Glacier Park International Airport, Montana, that stopped in Salt Lake City. A few weeks later, we decided to change the starting location of our upcoming road trip to Salt Lake City. We knew we had to either change our flights, cancel, or skiplag.

Delta Airlines flight landing on runway
Oddly enough, the Delta rep advised us to skiplag to avoid the cancelation fee

To avoid confusion, we called Delta to discuss the situation. We told them we needed to go to Salt Lake City instead of Glacier Park, and that we would like to cancel the last leg of our flight. Delta said it was $150 per ticket to make the change (i.e., $300 total). We asked if they would waive the fee, especially since we were giving them the opportunity to earn more revenue by selling the seats to other passengers. After some negotiation, the representative advised us to skip the last flight. Yes, we were told to skiplag!

Is it worth the risk?

I don’t recommend skiplagging if you can avoid it since it’s generally against the terms and conditions of the airlines. However, I don’t know how an airline can enforce the rule unless you’re someone who has a pattern of skiplagging. There are legitimate reasons why someone might skip a flight. Perhaps you feel sick. Maybe there’s an emergency that requires you to fly back home. Or even a work situation that causes you to miss a connection or redirect your travel to another location. It would be a challenge for the airlines to determine the intent of all travelers missing their flights.

Woman with red hair sneezing into a tissue
There are legitimate reasons why someone might skip a flight, including feeling sick

Though it’s not a good long term strategy for travelers. Since the airlines track your flight history, it makes sense that they are cracking down on repeat offenders that intentionally abuse the system and process.

Wait … there are tools for skiplagging?

Now that I’ve explained the risks and recommended that you avoid skiplagging, I should mention that there is a website dedicated to helping you find flights that take advantage of this loophole. It’s called skiplagged.com. It’s a flight search engine that looks for flights with connections as a final destination that are cheaper than non-stop flights.

Skiplagged.com can help you find cheap flights that connect at your desired destination

The company has been sued by United and Orbitz. From what I’ve read, the case was dropped based on a technicality since the company is based in New York and the lawsuit was filed in Chicago. I’m guessing it won’t be the last legal challenge that they’ll face, so be careful if you use this site to book a connecting flight with the intention of skiplagging.

Additional tips and considerations

If you decide that you need or want to skiplag a flight, here are a couple of things that you should keep in mind.

1. Avoid multi-city roundtrip flights:

US Passport on map of USA
Your flight itinerary may be canceled by the airline if you skip a flight

If you don’t complete your flight plan, then the rest of your reservation is usually canceled. This is important if you booked your return flight on the same reservation. Just know that the default action for airlines is to cancel your reservation if you don’t complete your trip. If you need to book a flight home, you’ll want to do it on a separate one-way reservation.

2. Don’t expect award miles:

via GIPHY

Like tip #1, canceling your flight plan can cause you to lose earned miles on the entire itinerary. Folks online have reported mixed experiences when it comes to getting loyalty miles for their skiplagged flights.

3. Avoid check-in baggage:

5 large hard suitcases and 5 backpacks
Avoid checking in a bag if you plan to skiplag a flight!

This is probably obvious, but you do NOT want to check-in a bag if you’re planning to skiplag. Doing so will result in your bag getting transferred automatically to the final destination on your flight itinerary.

Front-side of Travelon Wheeled Underseat Carry-On
Keep your carry-on bag small (like the Travelon Wheeled Underseat Carry-On Bag) in case the overhead bins are full

I recommend keeping your carry-on bag small. You’ll want it small enough to fit underneath your seat. Since the overhead bins quickly fill up, the airlines will often force passengers to gate check their carry-on bag. Keeping your carry-on bag small reduces the risk of a gate check since you can fit it underneath the front seat if necessary.

4. Don’t tell the airlines that you intend to skip the final flight:

I don’t recommend sharing your intention to skiplag with the airline!

While we broke this rule, I generally don’t recommend that you disclose your plan to skip a flight. From my experience, the airlines will NOT accommodate your situation. It’s better to do it without telling them.

5. Monitor any flight changes:

I’ve had situations where my connection changed, especially when I booked the ticket far in advance. The flight was still going to the final destination, but the connection point was different due to a flight cancellation or change in route.

Flight status board at the airport
Changes in flight plans can drastically affect travelers who intend to skiplag a flight

If this happens on a skiplag flight, I recommend that you request a refund for the flight (if possible). It doesn’t happen often, but is a serious risk if you are skiplagging.

6. Schedule flights with a long stopover:

Airport terminal at sunset with travelers walking by
A long stopover can reduce the risk of a change in connecting flight location due to a cancelation or delay

Similar to the previous tip, having a long stopover reduces the risk that your entire flight plan will change. The airline will try to get you to your stopover location since it means one less flight that they have to adjust in the event of a flight cancellation and rebooking.

7. Avoid skiplagging international flights:

Airlines are usually required to verify whether a passenger has a valid visa before checking in or boarding an international flight. This can cause all kinds of issues if you intend to skip a flight. I suppose you could get visas for both your planned and actual destination if necessary. Though it does seem risky. I personally wouldn’t do it, especially since I wouldn’t want to have to answer questions from customs and immigration officials. It would be especially awkward if they noticed that I skipped an earlier flight.

Small airplane trinket on a world map
Skiplagging international flights can result in complications, especially around visas and proving onward travel

Some countries are also sensitive about onward travel plans. You’ll want to be careful about proving your intention to leave the country. If an official finds out that you broke your arrival flight plan, they’ll likely suspect that you’ll do the same with your departure.

8. Don’t overdo it:

US Customs and Border Protection office in LAX
A habit of skiplagging might get flagged during a Global Entry interview

As I mentioned earlier, those that have gotten in trouble with the airlines had a habit of missing their flights. That data is trackable and it’s not worth being flagged by the airlines. I wouldn’t be surprised if it also came up during a Global Entry interview as a potential red flag during a background check.

Final thoughts

I believe that skiplagging presents a lot of risks for travelers. There are numerous logistical issues that can occur. Whether it’s flight changes, visas, or baggage, there is significant risk that your trip could be completely derailed due to skiplagging.

There’s also the risk of losing your points because the airlines crack down on you and close your account. For those of us in the points and miles hobby, and especially for those of you with a lot of airline miles and status, that could be a very painful and devastating experience.

Underside view of an airplane in the air
Airlines should adjust their pricing to discourage these air travel loopholes

Ultimately, I wish the airlines would make more effort to price their routes reasonably and competitively. This would discourage people to use this method to save money. The source of the issue has always been the pricing of the tickets. Addressing it seems like a better solution than seeking litigation against those that use the loophole.

What do you think of skiplagging? Have you ever done it? Please let us know in the comment section below.

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