What is skip lagging? This controversial travel hack could save you lots of money - but also get you banned from airlines

This travel hack could work for you - but it comes at a different kind of cost...

an empty airport during the middle of the week
(Image credit: Getty)

Heard of skip lagging? Here's what the controversial travel hack entails, and how it could truly make or break your travel experience. 

Let's face it - these days, finding cheap fares when flying can really be a challenge. There are plenty of apps out there that can do the guesswork for you in finding cheaper options, but how do you ever really know if you're getting the best deal on your flight? Plus, with all of the fees that come with booking airfare, sometimes it can be discouraging seeing how much your final bill adds up to. 

Frequent flyers have found a bit of a sneaky way around this, and it's a little-known travel hack called skip-lagging: aka, booking hidden city fares, saving you a lot of money in the long run. 

Woman walking away, out of the airport doors into the sunshine, holding a suitcase

(Image credit: Getty Images)

"The reason someone might try to utilize hidden-city ticketing is simple: People can fly directly to their destination without paying the direct flight price tag,” Going.com spokesperson Katy Nastro told Conde Nast Traveler.

Essentially, passengers are booking cheaper one-stop flights with layovers at their desired destination - and from there, then leave the airport, foregoing the second leg of what they had fully booked. 

According to CN Traveler, the site Skiplagged specifically has seen enormous payoff with people using this method: "Average Skiplagged savings on flights between San Francisco and Chicago are 55.08% less, Los Angeles and Atlanta 59.19%, Minneapolis and Detroit 63.91%, and Honolulu and Salt Lake City, 67.6%, according to Daniel Gellert, COO of Skiplagged," CN Traveler reports. 

This trend recently surfaced due to a young man who was practicing skip lagging - he booked a flight from Florida to New York with a layover in Charlotte, North Carolina which just so happened to be his final destination. Before taking off from his original takeoff location of Florida, his plan was recognized by a flight attendant, who made him by a full-priced ticket to Charlotte, according to News Nation.

Although the boy's plan was foiled, many have been using this hack for years - but experts are saying the efforts could be in vain.

"My strong advice is don't do this," Clint Henderson told News Nation on a live broadcast. "The airlines will catch on eventually if you're doing it enough... it's a really bad idea, as this young man found out, unfortunately."

Passengers in economy class

(Image credit: Getty Images)

“If a customer knowingly or unknowingly purchases a ticket and doesn’t fly all of the segments in their itinerary, it can lead to operational issues with checked bags and prevent other customers from booking a seat when they may have an urgent need to travel,” American Airlines told CN Traveler. “Intentionally creating an empty seat that could have been used by another customer or team member is an all-around bad outcome.”

But is the practice illegal? Technically no - but it is breaking airline policy, leaving you at mercy to the authorities of whichever airline you'd be taking this risk on. In fact, you could even be banned from a specific airline altogether from trying to skiplag a flight, says CN Traveler, as some airlines state this policy in their terms and conditions. 

Moral of the story? Use this money-saving hack at your own discretion.

Madeline Merinuk
US Lifestyle News Writer

Madeline Merinuk is woman&home's US lifestyle news writer, covering celebrity, entertainment, fashion, and beauty news.

She graduated in 2021 with a B.A. in Journalism from Hofstra University, winning multiple student journalism awards, including a National Hearst Award, during her time there. After graduating, she worked at today.com, the digital site for the Today Show, where she wrote pop culture news and interviewed big-name personalities like Emily Ratajkowski, Haley Lu Richardson, Emma Corrin, and more.

Her personal interests, in no particular order, are: cheese, Joni Mitchell, reading, hot yoga, traveling, having multiple chapsticks in every handbag at all times, and dancing to ABBA songs as if she were in the Mamma Mia movies.