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“Bouncing tickets” is a money-saving method for travelers looking to save money on airfare, but travel experts warn the practice comes with significant risks.
Also known as “hidden city ticketing,” the practice is one way to exploit a quirk in air ticket pricing.
The basic concept is as follows: Passengers don’t fly direct to their destination city, but buy a multi-trip flight with a stopover in their destination city. Passengers will disembark at a transit station instead of taking the final leg of the flight.
Sally French, a travel expert at NerdWallet, said travelers would be “surprised” how often skipping tickets is cheaper for passengers than buying a direct flight.
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However, the practice also pissed off the airlines. In fact, it’s banned in many countries – with varying degrees of consequence if the passenger is caught.
David Slotnick, The Points Guy’s senior aviation business reporter, said snowboarding had “been around for a while”.
However, “it’s debatable,” he said.
“I think this reveals a strange and counterintuitive way that airline pricing models work,” Slotnick said. “But in terms of being able to use that to save money, it’s a huge risk, and unless you fully understand what you’re doing, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.”
Participating in this practice is made easier thanks to online travel bookings, including through Skiplagged.com French said they specialize in this type of booking.
Skiplagged.com has a series of frequently asked questions It addresses some of the associated risks and recommendations for addressing them.
“It’s perfectly legal and offers great savings, but there are a few things to be aware of,” the company said in an FAQ, adding: “You might annoy the airline, so don’t do it too often.”
Earlier this month, a teen explained the risks when she tried use practice. The teen was scheduled to fly from Gainesville, Florida, to New York, via Charlotte, North Carolina; instead of disembarking in New York, the passenger planned to disembark in Charlotte.
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American Airlines reportedly discovered the passenger’s intentions and canceled their tickets.
In addition to flights being canceled and then having to be rebooked at the last minute, which could wipe out initial savings, travelers could also be barred from an airline’s frequent flyer program and lose all accompanying benefits, Slotnick said.
Airlines may also ban passengers from flying with the airline in the future, he said. In theory, they could also take travelers to court for damages.
When booking a flight, the passenger agrees to the airline’s contract or conditions of carriage. Experts say these contracts set rules for passengers and generally prohibit springboarding (although that specific term is often not used).
American airlines’ contractFor example, state: “Your ticket is only valid to and from the cities listed on your ticket and itinerary.”
More specifically, it also prohibits “bookings made to take advantage of or circumvent fares and ticket rules”, examples of which include: “purchasing tickets without intending to fly all flights in order to obtain lower fares (hide city ticketing)”.
Operators generally don’t like this practice because, on the one hand, they may lose revenue. For example, they might be able to sell an empty seat to another passenger, or a more expensive nonstop ticket to a fare evader.
What’s more, Slotnick said, when passengers deviate from expectations, it disrupts the airline’s internal planning, flight scheduling and data science.
“They’re not mad at people saving $20 on airfare,” he said. “It’s more about predictability in the dataset.”
Skiplagged.com chief operating officer Dan Gellert (Dan Gellert) said in an email that the “springboard” phenomenon exists only “as a result of the airline’s own pricing scheme.”
“Airlines have a monopoly on certain hub airports, and their pricing reflects that,” Gellert said. “Thousands of people book ski or hidden city tickets every day, and we typically don’t hear of any issues with any of them.”
Travelers using hidden city tickets may experience additional inconvenience. For example, you can’t check your luggage, which will continue to the final destination rather than the transit city, French said.
Bringing luggage on board as carry-on luggage is also a gamble, adds French: If the plane’s headroom is full when you board, you may be forced to check your bags.
Passengers will also need to book a separate one-way ticket. Experts say that’s because the airline may cancel your return ticket if you miss any part of the flight.
Plus, flight schedules are “very unpredictable,” French said. The airline may choose to reroute your flight via another city, which means your stopover destination (where you intend to go) may change.
“There are many (other) ways to find great deals,” especially for travelers who are willing to be flexible about when and where they travel, French said.Alternatives include using services like Google explore and goThis allows consumers to set flight alerts, she said.