At Scott's Cheap Flights, we know the ins and outs of airfare and the best ways to beat the airlines and save. One of those ways is by using Skiplagged. This particular method has some caveats but if it can work for you, you can often save quite a bit.
What is Skiplagged?
Skiplagged is a powerful flight search engine that specializes in unearthing hidden city fares. Booking a hidden city fare, also called point-beyond ticketing or skiplagging, is when you buy a ticket to a point beyond where you actually want to go. Your ticket lists one destination but the city you actually want to visit is the layover city on the way. You book a flight from A to C with a layover in B, with the intention of staying in city B.
How does Skiplagged work?
Skiplagged finds cheap flights where the place you want to go is a layover along the way. For example, maybe you want to go from Kansas City to Chicago but those flights are pricey. Skiplagged might find a cheaper flight from Kansas City to NYC with a layover in Chicago. You book the flight to NYC, but you get off at the layover in Chicago and remain there.
Here's how Skiplagged illustrates it with a flight from Atlanta to Orlando. When you search, flights might be $250 for a route from Atlanta to Orlando, but Atlanta to Dallas with a stop in Orlando is just $130. So you book that flight and simply get off the plane in Orlando, saving yourself $120.
Skiplagged surfaces these hidden city options in addition to standard itineraries, so you may be able to find cheaper fare than searching only on sites like Google Flights and Kayak.
What Skiplagged is good at:
- Hidden city ticketing. Skiplagged unearths fares that may be cheaper if you end your journey at the layover city
- Finding cheap airfare when you have no particular destination in mind. Skiplagged’s homepage shows you upcoming sample fares, and it has an option to search flights to “Anywhere”
- Flight result filters. When using Skiplagged, you can filter by standard routing or hidden city, take-off and landing time, stops, and airlines
- Price alerts. You can sign up for alerts when cheap airfare becomes available
What Skiplagged is bad at:
- It’s not as robust as other search sites. It does not have a lot of the same functionality that other search aggregators like Google Flights, Skyscanner, Momondo, and Kayak have (there is no flexible date search, no multi-city/open-jaw search, and you can't search multiple locations at once)
- It doesn't always find the lowest price. Skiplagged doesn't search online travel agencies like Priceline or Orbitz (it takes you directly to the airline to book) so it doesn’t always find the very best price
- Offering an uncomplicated journey. There are lots of caveats to booking hidden city ticketing, which we’ll explain below
When you book using Skiplagged, there are some things you need to do
First, you cannot check a bag. In most cases your bag is going to be checked through to your final destination, and that just doesn't work if the airline things you're going to DC but you're actually deplaning in Dallas.
Second, you'll need to book two one-ways, not a roundtrip (or you can only skip a leg on the way home). Once you miss a leg of your ticketed route, the rest of your trip will be cancelled.
Third, as far as the airline knows, you're headed to the final destination listed on your ticket, and that means you're responsible for meeting that place's entry requirements. This is especially important if it's an international spot as you may need a visa or a proof of vaccination or negative test.
And finally, the airlines don't like it when you do this—and actually could penalize you by taking your frequent flier miles away if they can't you doing it often—so you can't tell them about your plans. If they change your flight and eliminate your layover, you'll need to call to ask to get rebooked on a similar itinerary.
How to Use Skiplagged to find cheap flights
Let’s use the example above of booking a flight from Kansas City to Chicago for dates in early April (there are no flexible dates with Skiplagged).
How to search for flights on Skiplagged
You have the option of selecting your type of trip, whether it’s roundtrip, or one way.
Hit “Search Flights.” You’re automatically shown the cheapest options, which here are two hidden city fares. You can tell they are hidden city fares because it says “skiplagged rate” on the left and the final leg of the itinerary (from ORD to BWI) is greyed out.
How to filter results on Skiplagged
As you can see on the left-hand side of the search results, you also have several filters to choose from. The full list includes:
- Number of stops
- Take off and landing times (i.e. morning or night)
- Flight duration
- Layover duration
- Preferred airlines
- Arrival airport
- Layover cities
Finding hidden city fares on Skiplagged
It’s not so much that you actually want to find a hidden city fare; it’s more than you want to know when a hidden city ticket might be cheaper than standard routing. That’s more likely to be the case when the destination you want to visit is a major hub.
For example, almost all United Airlines flights to or from smaller destinations in the American Midwest connect in Chicago. So if you’re looking for a flight to Chicago, a hidden city ticket that has a layover in Chicago but an official destination elsewhere may end up being cheaper than a flight that terminates in Chicago. But, if your end goal is a smaller, non-hub city like Des Moines, it’s less likely that a route to another city would involve a layover there.
Here’s an international example to put it another way:
You want to go from Buenos Aires to Miami. That flight costs $500, but a flight from Buenos Aires to Charlotte with a layover in Miami costs $400. You could save yourself $100 by booking a hidden city ticket (from Buenos Aires to Charlotte via Miami) and not continuing the flight once you’ve landed in Miami.
With Skiplagged, you don’t need to do anything special to find these fares; they’ll simply appear in your search results if they offer a competitive price compared to standard routing. You’ll know it’s a hidden city route because the last leg of the journey will be crossed off, and it’ll be noted as a Skiplagged rate.
If the cheapest option from Skiplagged includes a hidden city ticket, you will have to book two separate one-way flights if you want to do a roundtrip. This is because if you book a roundtrip flight and skip the last leg of your outbound flight, the airline will cancel your return flight.
Booking a flight on Skiplagged
When you’re ready to book, Skiplagged automatically gives you the option for booking two separate one-way flights, which you’ll always need to do unless the portion of the itinerary you plan to skip is on the return. Once you have skipped a leg of your itinerary, the airline will cancel all subsequent legs.
In this example, you’ll book a hidden city flight on the way there but standard routing on the way back. Since the leg you plan to skip is on the way there, you need to book two one-way flights; otherwise your return flight would be canceled once you skipped the Chicago-to-Baltimore leg.
For any hidden city flights, Skiplagged will take you directly to the airline to book your flight, so the airline’s cancellation fees will apply to your fare (which isn’t always the case when you’re booking through an OTA). However, there may be fees that weren’t shown on Skiplagged. For example, if you want advance seat selection and checked baggage, this could jack up the price of your flight.
For standard flights, you can book with the airline or on Skiplagged. For these flights, Skiplagged charges a service fee starting from around $8.
You can also search from your departure city to “Anywhere” to find other cheap flights, like New York City to Portland for $58 one way in June.
The Skiplagged app
How to use Skiplagged Rewards
For every flight or hotel you book on Skiplagged, you earn up to $25 that can be used to book more flights or hotels on Skiplagged. You can also earn when others book flights or hotels on Skiplagged through your personalized link. Not all flights and hotels are eligible for earning rewards.
To redeem rewards, log in to your Skiplagged account. Select a flight or hotel and then when you get to the booking page, click “Travel Credits" and then hit “Pay with travel credits.”
Frequently asked questions about Skiplagged
What does hidden city mean on Skiplagged?
A hidden city fare is an itinerary where you end your journey at the layover point even though you hold a ticket for a flight to a destination beyond that. Skiplagged identifies these fares by marking it as “Skiplagged rate” and crossing out the parts of the itinerary that you’ll book but not use.
Can you check bags on Skiplagged?
If you’ve booked a standard flight on Skiplagged, you can check bags; if it’s a hidden city itinerary, do not check your bags. They will be checked through to the official final destination, not your layover point, which means you and your bags will end up in two different places.
If you’re crossing international borders, there may be ways to get around this. Some flights require you to pick up your bags in the layover city, such as when you’re flying from another country to the US. If you’re ticketed from Amsterdam to Chicago and then on Des Moines, for example, you’ll have to pick up your bag in Chicago and take it through customs. This means that if you’re planning to end your travel in Chicago, it’s okay for you to check your bag on the first flight, since you can collect it at the interim point.
Some international flights with long layovers may also offer you the option to pick up your checked baggage at the layover point rather than having it checked through to the final destination. Airline policies on this can vary widely, so check with your carrier and get the details for your specific airline and routing.
Does Skiplagged charge a fee?
There is a service fee with each standard booking completed through Skiplagged, starting around $8. Hidden city bookings are done directly through the airline.
Is Skiplagged legal?
Yes, Skiplagged and the practice of hidden-city ticketing are legal, but you should know that airlines obviously do not approve of this practice. It is exceedingly unlikely the airline will notice as long as you don't book too many hidden city fares within a short amount of time. There have been a few lawsuits filed about hidden city ticketing, but thus far each one has been thrown out. However, the airlines can impose other penalties, like banning you from the airline or canceling your frequent flyer miles.
What does backpack only on Skiplagged mean?
Skiplagged recommends you only travel on a hidden-city ticket with a backpack or other small carryon that can fit under your seat. Any other baggage is at risk of being checked, even if it meets the size requirements of the airline. If the overhead bins fill up, for example, the flight attendants will require you to check your bag, and it will go to the final destination listed on your ticket—regardless of where you planned to end your journey. The only way to ensure this won't happen is to bring a single bag small enough to fit under your seat.
Can I skip the first leg of a flight?
No, and this is essential to know. If you skip the first leg of your flight, all subsequent flights in that itinerary will be automatically canceled by the airline. However, when you search airfares with Skiplagged and your cheapest option is a hidden city fare, Skiplagged will automatically take you to book two separate flights. You must book two separate one-way flights if you're skipping a leg on the outbound journey.
Can I book a roundtrip on Skiplagged?
Yes, Skiplagged also finds cheap standard roundtrip airfares that do not involve skipping a leg. You can also book a roundtrip journey if you're only planning to skip a leg on the return flight, not the outbound flight.
What happens if the airline changes my flight and it no longer goes through the hidden city?
It’s incredibly rare, but every now and then, an airline will change a flight’s routing. Obviously, if you have a hidden city ticket and the routing is changed so you’re going through a different city, this will mess up your trip.
You can’t tell the airline you were planning on getting off on your layover city. However, you can tell the airline that the timing doesn’t work for you. Come prepared with alternative flights that will take you through the city you wanted to go through and see if the airline is willing to change your itinerary.
How can I contact Skiplagged's customer service?
Skiplagged's customer service contact info can be found on their website. All customer service communication is done via email. Unfortunately there is no way to call and speak to someone from Skiplagged on the phone.
What are some Skiplagged alternatives?
There's no other site that does exactly what Skiplagged does in terms of finding hidden-city fares. However, you can use other flight search engines and use the filters to select where you want to have a layover to see if you can find cheap fares with a hidden city. Some of our favorite flight search sites and OTAs are:
The bottom line on Skiplagged
If you're in a pinch and need a cheap ticket, Skiplagged can be a great way to save money, but skiplagging or booking a hidden-city fare has some challenges. You'll need to pack light, and if your itinerary gets changed it can be a real mess. Still, sometimes the savings are so much they may be worth the added hooops.