Can SkipLagged & hidden city ticketing help with Delta awards? YES (but don’t do it)!

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hidden city ticket for award flight mia to nyc to dca

Airlines hate it. Travelers love it. What is this travel trick? It is hidden city ticketing. That is, as you can see from my example above, starting a one-way trip from Miami (MIA) and connecting via New York (JFK) to Washington (DCA). Now here is the thing. It may be much cheaper to fly this route than just booking a direct MIA-JFK flight.

The “hidden city” ticketing comes in when you get off at JFK and never fly the connecting flight to DCA. The obvious issues are:

  • You must be all carry-on as you are getting off part way
  • If issues happen they may re-route you direct to DCA
  • You are breaking the airline rules doing this

None of this is against the law, so it is not like this is going to land you in jail. But again, you are breaking the airlines rules or “contract of carriage”. This is why many do NOT try these kinds of travel tricks to save money on tickets with sites like SkipLagged as well as others.

skiplagged mia to dca to get to jfk

But what about award tickets? Does hidden city ticketing work with award tickets also? And if it does, should you do it? First a test. Notice the above search from MIA to JFK using SkipLagged.

mia to jfk direct more skymiles

And if I now search for an award ticket direct for the same dates I see the lowest priced award in SkyMiles as 20,000 for a one-way award direct from MIA to JFK. But what if I plug in the SkipLagged suggested city for a purchased ticket. What happens?

mia to jfk and dca hidden city

Ah ha, all of a sudden, with a connection in JFK, the price drops down to 12,500 SkyMiles and I could just walk off the jet and save myself 7,500 SkyMiles. But should you do this? More on that in a bit.

nyc area to atl direct

You know you can even use Delta.com to look for hidden city award tickets. Notice if you want to go from the New York city area to Atlanta. The lowest price for a one-way award is 25,000 points for this date. But…

nyc area to atl or dtw with hidden city

nyc area to lex lowest price

Since “all roads lead to Atlanta” (at least when flying Delta) you could look at flying New York city area (HPN) to Lexington (LEX)  and end up with 12,500 SkyMiles via ATL. A 50% savings in SkyMiles is HUGE. But once again, is it a smart move.

Let me make this VERY clear – just because you can do a thing, does not mean you SHOULD do a thing and this is 100% the case with hidden city award tickets. Why?

Once again, the airlines do not like it, and with awards you could end really losing out!

How bad? Think SkyMiles account audit. Think account closure. Think removal of all your SkyMiles. Think cancellation of all your current booked award trips. Think never being able to be part of SkyMiles again (as well as elite status etc.)! Yeah, all of this is possible.

You see there is a big difference with a paid ticket. With a paid ticket you could NOT use your SkyMiles number or even use a partner number, like Alaska, when doing a paid hidden city ticket to reduce the chance of the airline going after you for breaking their rules (or not use a frequent flyer number at all in the record). If you make a habit of booking hidden city tickets they may still come after you, but if you only book them once in a great while the likelihood of airline reprisals is low.

With award tickets all the red flags go off. You are first off 100% tracked as you are using the airlines award currency to take the trip. I have no data to back this next bit up but I would think if you were to do this a number of times the above actions by Delta would be swift. Thus, I would not put my SkyMiles account at risk as I value my Diamond status way more than saving a few bucks or a few SkyMiles for that matter.

I guess the only one who should ever consider doing this to save a few SkyMiles on an award would be someone who is burning their last few SkyMiles and would not care if Delta kicked them out of the award program for life. – René

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8 comments

  1. If I ever did it – not that I would of course you understand – I’d report to the ground staff at the city where I intended to skip the next leg that I was feeling unwell, had forgotten my medication, and didn’t believe I should fly. But I wouldn’t make a habit of it

  2. Using SkyMiles(or whatever carrier currency) is program suicide.
    Using cash to book from Orbitz, Travelocity etc..(not on carrier site) seems safest.

  3. Have there actually been documented accounts (i.e. on Flyertalk) of SM members having their accounts closed due to hidden city ticketing, or is this just speculation?

  4. @Doug – All you have to do is read the T&C on Delta.com and yes I have talked to Delta people who have shared that accounts have been closed but most times these are blatant abusers of Delta rules who have been warned by Delta to stop doing whatever they are doing and they do not stop.

  5. I did it with miles and had no issue. I used Delta. I also have done it with paying for it and I as giving the miles for the trip. No issues.

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