Hidden city ticketing carries risks

TORONTO — When Kevin, a Toronto-based entrepreneur, travels to San Francisco for work, he often books a flight to Santa Ana, Calif., instead. Then he disembarks the plane during the stopover in San Francisco and skips the last leg of the flight to southern California.

Kevin — who didn’t want his last name used to avoid any repercussions from airlines — says the travel hack, often referred to as hidden city ticketing, has saved him thousands of dollars over the past two years.

He says he has found flights to Santa Ana that stop in San Francisco for as little as US$190, compared with US$450 for a regular flight to his destination.

“It is somewhat infuriating that if an airline can get you from point A to point B for hundreds of dollars less, it does seem unfair,” Kevin says.

Hidden city ticketing is not new, but its popularity has grown thanks to some travel websites that make it easier to find these sorts of flights.

But while the savings may be appealing, experts caution that the practice can be risky.

First off, the plane could be rerouted and not stop at the desired destination, leaving you scrambling to arrange another flight or mode of transportation.

Passengers using hidden city ticketing are also limited to carry-on luggage, as any checked bags will end up at the final destination, says personal finance and travel expert Barry Choi. And airlines will typically cancel return flights for those who are no-shows, he adds.

Choi says in some cases it may violate the contract between the airline and the passenger.

“Some of them state that you cannot purchase these types of tickets,” he says. “So if you do, buyer beware.”

According to Choi, it’s more common to find such deals when flying across the border or within the U.S. than within Canada.

The Canadian Transportation Agency says the federal government does not have a stance on hidden city ticketing as the matter is addressed in most airlines’ contracts with their passengers.

Air Canada says its terms and conditions require all segments of a trip to be flown as booked.

“Should a customer not take one of the flights, it is considered as a ‘no-show,’ and as per standard industry practice described in our tariff rules, the rest of the flights in the itinerary could be cancelled,” spokeswoman Angela Mah said in an email.

WestJet says it has no policy regarding hidden city ticketing because it is very rarely used on its flights.

“Due to how we price our fares, hidden city ticketing would be a very rare occurrence on WestJet as it would usually cost less to fly to A to B than from A, B, to C,” spokeswoman Lauren Stewart said in an email.

“We would, overall, discourage this as it can cause operational delays and disruption to the second leg of the journey should the guest choose to no-show after checking in.”

Russell Hannon, a budget travel expert, says he hasn’t heard of any instances where airlines have taken action against passengers for hidden city ticketing. But if it becomes a major issue for the companies they may do so in the future, he says.

Choi says it’s important to keep in mind that skipping a connecting flight can cause delays for other travellers, as the airline will usually try to ensure that all passengers are on board before taking off.

He also says the travel hack could end up hurting consumers in the long run. If airlines see their profits eroding, they will likely pass those costs on to customers in the form of higher ticket fees, he says.

“That means you may save $200 now, but when airlines realize those losses, they’re going to start charging more.”

Just Posted

WATCH: Finishing touches being put on Servus Arena

The finishing touches are being put on Red Deer’s newest arena. The… Continue reading

Suspect in police chase in court

RCMP opened fire twice while trying to arrest suspects in vehicle chase in October

New temporary beds will immediately help Red Deer homeless

The 20 new temporary beds approved for Safe Harbour’s warming centre cannot… Continue reading

Red Deer RCMP are seeking man posing as a police officer

Suspect is large, in his 30s, with red hair and beard

Update: “Someone knows something” – police

Motorist dies near Ponoka after loose tire collides with vehicle near Ponoka

Red Deer police seize rifles and shotguns from storage locker

A man and a woman facing nearly 200 charges after 29 firearms seized last month

Notley criticizes MLA who fired staffer after sex harassment complaint

Notley says if Jason Nixon was her house leader he’d be out of a job immediately.

Red Deer needs to find a solution to syringe debris: city manager

City will consider the problem during the 2018 operating budget talks

WestJet Christmas video turns children’s wishes into reality

This year’s annual video took a new spin on the 12 days of Christmas

VIDEO: Replay Red Deer Dec. 10

Watch news highlights from Red Deer and Central Alberta

VIDEO: B.C. to end geographic area rent increases, close fixed-term lease loopholes

Both clauses allowed landlords to raise rents above the max annual allowable rent increase

UPDATE: Train hits hydro pole, causes outage near Deltaport

No injuries reported but traffic in and out of Deltaport is blocked

A Red Deer daycare coordinator wins provincial award of excellence

Nicole Morrell is a coordinator at Johnstone Daycare

Holiday shopping season picking up in Red Deer

With 18 shopping days left until Christmas, Red Deer businesses are cautiously… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month