In a recent incident at a Florida airport, a teenager was detained and accused of engaging in a controversial money-saving travel hack known as “skiplagging”. The incident has brought attention to the legal and ethical implications of the practice, which involves purchasing an indirect, cheaper, flight ticket with no intention of completing the entire itinerary, with the layover as the planned final destination.
The teenager, Logan Parsons, had a ticket from Gainesville, Florida, to New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, with a layover in Charlotte, North Carolina. According to airport officials, the individual was flagged by an agent for having a North Carolina driver’s license, which made officials suspect the teen could be planning to end the trip in his hometown, despite having a connecting flight to New York.
Skiplagging, also known as hidden city ticketing, is a travel strategy where passengers intentionally book a flight with a layover at their intended destination. Instead of continuing the second leg of their journey, they simply disembark at the layover city. In certain cases, this has saved passengers hundreds in plane tickets. Flights with layovers are commonly cheaper than direct flights, even when the final destination is further. Airlines and industry experts argue that this practice violates their terms of service and disrupts the airline’s revenue management.
Upon being taken to a security room and interrogated, the teenager admitted to intentionally purchasing a ticket with his actual final destination as the layover, to save money. “We’ve used Skip Lagged almost exclusively for the last five to eight years”, said the minor’s father, Hunter Parsons, responsible for booking the flight.
Authorities subsequently detained the teenager, called his parents and confiscated his boarding pass, forcing them to buy a new direct flight to North Carolina. “Our concerns are he is a minor and was kind of left to fend for himself several states away,” the father confessed.
American Airines cleared the situation by stating that “Purchasing a ticket without intending to fly all flights to gain lower fares (hidden city ticketing) is a violation of American Airlines terms and conditions and is outlined in our Conditions of Carriage online.”
Skiplagging might not be illegal, but it may breach the contract between the passenger and the airline. Airlines contend that skiplagging violates their terms and conditions, causing them financial losses and disrupting their seat inventory management.
The legal ramifications of skiplagging remain murky, with different jurisdictions and airlines adopting varying stances on the matter. Some carriers have implemented measures to identify skiplaggers and penalize them by either canceling their future flights, charging them extra fees, or suspending loyalty program benefits.