Published on: October 6, 2023
Find the answers to all your questions in my detailed Skiplagged review!
Okay, I have a confession. I love traveling so much that sometimes I relax by planning imaginary trip itineraries.
I’m also a frequent traveler (and have been for years) with an arsenal of budget travel hacks up my sleeve.
And one of my go-to travel deal websites for booking flights on a budget is Skiplagged.com.
Although it’s an excellent search engine to help you find cheap flights, Skiplagged is more than just your average flight booking website.
Most notably, it has a central and unique feature: the hidden city flight.
So, what are hidden city flights, and–more importantly–is Skiplagged legit? Keep reading for my full Skiplagged review to find out the answers.
Note: this article contains affiliate links, which help run this site at no extra cost to you so I can keep providing free recommendations.
What is Skiplagged?
Skiplagged is a travel booking website that boasts amazing deals on flights, hotels, and car rentals.
The first thing you’ll notice when you arrive at the Skiplagged homepage is the phrase, “Our flights are so cheap, United sued us…but we won.”
The reason is Skiplagged’s hidden city tickets, which are cheap flights with a layover at your desired destination.
This cheap flight method may sound sketchy (with risks involved), but it’s perfectly legal!
How Does Skiplagged Work?
Skiplagged functions like any travel search engine. You type in your departing city, destination, and dates, then hit the search button.
Sometimes you’ll see flight options in your results labeled “Skiplagged rate.” These are hidden city options.
As an example, say you’re trying to fly from New York to San Francisco.
Your search may turn up a flight to Las Vegas with a San Francisco layover. You’ll purchase the Las Vegas flight but never board your second flight.
Thus, you’ve scored yourself a cheap direct flight to San Francisco.
Just note that for hidden city flights, the official Skiplagged baggage policy is backpack-only.
When you buy a hidden city ticket using Skiplagged, you’ll get a pop-up window warning you that you’re purchasing this flight at your own risk.
It will also say you should plan to bring only carry-on luggage, as a checked bag will end up in a destination city that you have no intention of setting foot in.
Of course, you can also purchase regular cheap flights on Skiplagged, as well as hotels and rental cars.
Skiplagged’s search engine digs up great deals, often turning up some of the cheapest flights on the internet.
A Quick Look at Skiplagged as a Company
Skiplagged was founded in 2013 by a young tech mogul named Aktarer Zaman, with the hidden city technique as its central theme.
In 2014, United Airlines and Orbitz filed a lawsuit against him because hidden city ticketing violated fare rules.
Zaman braced for a crowd-funded legal battle. Ultimately, in 2015, the judge threw out the lawsuit, and Skiplagged’s success has subsequently ballooned.
Zaman argues that consumers have every right to choose how much of a product they’d like to use after purchase.
But the travel industry remains hostile towards the hidden city technique. While the fine print on most tickets forbids the practice, there’s little they can do to stop you.
However, many airlines will penalize you if they catch you using a hidden city ticket.
This is why Skiplagged warns customers to be careful about using throwaway tickets.
They especially recommend not using your frequent flyer number when booking cheap flights that use hidden city ticketing.
Airlines have been known to revoke frequent flyer miles or even ban customers in retaliation.
Skiplagged Review: My Experience With Using the Skiplagged App
I’ve been finding Skiplagged travel deals for years. I always compare the prices on Skiplagged against other websites to find the best deals.
Sometimes Skiplagged will have the cheapest flights, and sometimes it doesn’t.
I’ve come close to booking Skiplagged’s hidden city flights, but my deep fear of getting caught breaking rules, combined with my tendency to overpack always, stops me in the end.
I have, however, booked tons of cheap regular flights on Skiplagged.
I originally learned about Skiplagged from a close friend.
She frequently used to book hidden city tickets on Skiplagged until she had an unfortunate experience. Her story is a cautionary tale.
My friend was on a flight from Philadelphia to Seattle, but her actual destination was the connecting airport: San Francisco.
She was well-versed in using the hidden city travel hack and would usually check in online as early as possible.
As she boarded the plane, they told her that the overhead bins were full and she’d have to check her bag. She tried in vain to fight it.
My friend had to board her second flight and go to Seattle to pick up her bag. Then she booked a flight back to San Francisco (not cheap).
The next flight to SF left the following morning, and she had to sleep on the airport floor, arriving at her intended destination nearly 24 hours later than she’d planned.
This harrowing experience stopped my friend from continuing to book Skiplagged plane tickets. However, she says she’d still recommend it to people who can travel only with a backpack.
Despite this unfortunate experience with hidden-city ticketing, she acknowledges that she still was able to save hundreds of dollars during the time she was using Skiplagged.
So, here are some Skiplagged tips:
- First off, if your layover is your final destination, it’s a serious risk to take a carry-on suitcase that can’t fit under the seat in front of you. Skiplagged advises carrying only a backpack on these types of flights, and they’re not kidding.
- Secondly, super early online check-in is a good idea even when not traveling on Skiplagged’s backpack-only fares. It usually means you’ll board earlier and will cut down on mishaps.
Using Skiplagged to book a regular flight is pretty straightforward. Sometimes you can book flights directly on Skiplagged (with a $10 service fee for each direction).
Other times, you’ll book your flight on a third-party website. For hidden city tickets, you’ll book directly from the airline.
If you book your round-trip flight on Skiplagged, it sometimes means you’re booking two Skiplagged one-way flights, and they’re just bundling them together into a round-trip flight.
In this case, you’ll have to book each of these one-way tickets in a separate window (when using a desktop).
I primarily use Skiplagged in a browser window on my laptop and only use the app for research when I’m out and about.
The app functions similarly to the website, but it’s easier to fill out forms and compare prices when I’m on a larger screen with a real keyboard.
While I haven’t actually booked a Skiplagged hotel, I’ve used it to research prices.
Skiplagged hotels are comparable to what you’ll find across many discount booking websites.
I wish these sites would keep those search results separate. I’ll go to Hostelworld.com if I’m looking for a hostel.
Skiplagged Rental Cars
While I haven’t booked a Skiplagged car rental yet, I have on my other go-to travel booking site, Skyscanner.
The prices and options on these two sites are pretty similar (although I find there are slightly cheaper options on Skyscanner most of the time, across the board.)
Similar to their flight booking interface, you can book car rentals directly on Skiplagged instead of going to a third-party site, which is pretty convenient.
Offers a unique way of finding deals
No other site offers hidden city tickets.
Skiplagged delivers a unique hack for finding cheap flights and saving money, which would otherwise take you a very long time to find on your own.
It also has cheap deals on regular flights
Even if a hidden city ticket feels too risky to you (or you need to check a bag), Skiplagged frequently has the best deal on a conventional flight option.
So, it’s worth looking at Skiplagged flights even without taking advantage of hidden city ticketing.
As far as budget travel sites go, Skiplagged is sleek, straightforward, and user-friendly.
While I wish they offered a little more when searching for flexible dates and destinations, it’s still ahead of most mainstream booking sites.
Hidden city flights are risky
The bottom line is that even though Skiplagged-exclusive flights can help you save money, this cheap flight hack has real risks and drawbacks.
You might get stuck in a situation like my friend’s.
You don’t want to change your entire itinerary and spend extra money to retrieve your bag from some strange city far from your desired destination.
Also, airlines hate it when people use hidden city ticketing. While it’s not illegal to do it, you risk getting in hot water with the airline, and they have the power to punish you for it.
Some examples include having your frequent flyer account suspended, losing your airline miles, or winding up on an airline’s no-fly list.
American Airlines is particularly salty with Skiplagged and issued a warning in 2021 that they’ll monitor bookings for hidden city ticketing.
So, if flouting the rules makes you anxious, it might not be worth the risk.
Plus, traveling with just a small backpack or carry-on bag isn’t always possible.
If you’re going to be traveling for an extended period, you’ll probably need to check a bag or at least bring a carry-on for the overhead compartment.
Not great with flexible dates and destinations
One of the main ways I’ve saved so much money on travel over the years is by searching for one-way flights within a wide date range and piecing together an itinerary.
Skyscanner, a site I’ve mentioned previously, is incredible for these types of searches.
However, there’s no Skiplagged multi-city search option.
Skiplagged has a line graph of alternate dates, and they offer a flexible destination option, but it’s hard to compare dates without opening a million tabs.
Also, I’ve found these functions work better for domestic flights than Skiplagged international flights.
Skiplagged service fee
Skiplagged can help you save money, but they charge a service fee for each flight.
So, booking a round-trip flight can add an extra $20 on top of the price you see listed.
It’s annoying, and I always forget this until I’m already committed to booking a flight.
Skiplagged Cancellation & Exchange Policy
Cancellation and exchange policies vary widely depending on the airline, third-party site, or fare type you booked.
You’ll find the cancellation info in your Skiplagged confirmation email and can proceed from there.
Some flights are eligible for free cancellation within 24 hours, and if so, you’ll find a red “cancel booking” button in your confirmation email.
If you’re outside that window, it’s always worth calling Skiplagged customer service to check.
Skiplagged Discounts and Sales
While I’ve never seen Skiplagged advertise a sale, you can find a ton of Skiplagged discount codes and Skiplagged promo codes with a quick Google search.
I’ve found that Googled discount codes are a mixed bag, but they sometimes work.
FAQs About Skiplagged
Is Skiplagged a legit site?
Yes, you can feel perfectly secure about booking a flight with Skiplagged. There are just some caveats in terms of the hidden city tickets mentioned above.
Is Skiplagged safe?
Skiplagged is safe, to a degree. It’s not a scam site, and if you’re booking a conventional flight, it’s like any budget travel site.
You can even get Skiplagged trip protection on some flights.
But hidden-city ticketing has undeniable hazards, so book them at your own risk.
Is Skiplagged legal?
Yes! When United attempted a lawsuit against Skiplagged, the courts threw out the case. That set a precedent. Consumers can use as much or as little of a product as they choose.
But, while you can’t go to jail for flying on a hidden city ticket, it still violates the airlines’ policies, and they can penalize you.
You stand to lose your airline miles or, in the most extreme and rare cases, even face a lawsuit.
Does Skiplagged work?
Absolutely! Skiplagged works for booking both regular and hidden city fares.
Is Skiplagged free?
If you book directly on Skiplagged, they charge a service fee (roughly $10.)
Can Skiplagged get you banned?
Using Skiplagged’s hidden city method can get you banned from a specific airline–if they catch you!
Are Skiplagged hotels legit?
There’s no “hidden-city” equivalent in the Skiplagged ‘stays’ section. Booking a hotel through Skiplagged is just like using any other online travel agent–and it’s perfectly legit.
Is throwaway ticketing illegal?
Is Skiplagged illegal? No. But intentionally missing a flight IS against airlines’ policies.
Why do airlines dislike the practice of skiplagging?
Airlines want to make as much money as possible; they don’t want you to get something cheaper than they’re offering it for.
There are also other reasons ‘skiplagging’ pisses off airlines. When lots of people don’t show up for flights, it can throw things off for them in varied ways.
Can you get a Skiplagged refund?
Some Skiplagged flights are eligible for free cancellation, while others are not, so there’s no official Skiplagged cancellation policy.
Are there ever any Skiplagged business class deals?
Skiplagged search results show fares in all classes, although it’s not available as a filter.
Additionally, Skiplagged’s focus is showing the cheapest possible flights, and these will virtually never be first class or business class. So to find these types of fares, you’d have to scroll down to the priciest results.
Can I intentionally miss a connecting flight?
You can miss your connecting flight without immediate consequences.
But if you do it too frequently on the same airline, you risk penalties ranging from losing your air miles to actually being sued by an airline.
What is a hidden city?
A hidden city is a layover city. If that layover location is your final destination, and you don’t board your connecting flight, that’s a hidden city flight.
Do I have to pay if I miss my flight?
When you book a hidden city flight on Skiplagged, you’re paying for the fare to the final destination, which is sometimes lower than a flight whose final destination is the layover city.
You won’t incur a fine for missing your flight, but if the airline catches wind that you’re habitually doing it on purpose, they may retaliate.
In worst-case scenarios, this could mean a Skiplagged lawsuit.
What are some alternatives to Skiplagged?
Read our detailed Hopper review.
Conclusion: So, is Skiplagged Any Good?
I always check prices on Skiplagged when researching fares, which can be terrific for finding a cheaper flight.
So, as another travel research tool and for booking straightforward flights, it can be great for comparing deals and even booking directly.
I’m less inclined to recommend the hidden city fares that Skiplagged is known for, however.
Hidden city fares can save you money, and if you play your cards right, you can get away with it consequence-free. Plus, for some people, cheating the system gives them a thrill.
Personally, I run high anxiety. And for me, the risks of booking a hidden city flight–and the nervousness it triggers in me–just aren’t worth the savings.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elina Ansary is a writer, visual artist, and avid traveler. She grew up in San Francisco, CA, and spent her childhood camping up and down Northern California. These days, she visits artist residencies around the world and has lived in Amsterdam, Australia, and now Brooklyn, NY.
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