If you’re on the travel side of TikTok, your feed is probably flooded with flight hacks and hidden gem destination recommendations. But if you’re thinking about trying out one of TikTok travel creators’ most popular pieces of advice — the “hidden city” flight hack — proceed with caution because it could land you in hot water with the airlines.
The premise is that you could save money by booking a trip that has a layover in the city you’re traveling to instead of purchasing a non-stop flight to that city. So, for example, you might be able to save by booking a flight from New York City to Dallas with a layover in Orlando rather than booking a non-stop flight from New York City to Orlando.
It’s not illegal to get off at the layover city and not board the next leg of your flight, says Katy Nastro, a travel expert with Going, formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights. However, you’re likely violating the contract you, as a passenger, have with the airline when you intentionally skip out on the final leg of your flight and you’re also undermining the airline’s ability to set prices for flights based on demand, she explains.
If you’re linking your frequent flier program information to your flights and you do this more than once, there’s a good chance the airline will catch on, she says. Frequent offenders could be stripped of their miles or points and even be banned from flying on the airline, she cautions.
Airlines have filed suit against Skiplagged, a search engine that uses an algorithm to reveal hidden-city flights. In 2021, Southwest filed a lawsuit against the site saying it didn’t have permission to display its fares. A judge dismissed a 2015 United lawsuit against Skiplagged.
But, if you do plan to try the hidden city hack, you’ll need to travel light and not check a bag since your luggage will be headed to the final destination on your ticket, even if you’re not, Nastro says. The risk here is even if you don’t check a bag, you could be on a full flight, and if the plane is running short on overhead bin storage, an agent might ask you to gate check your bag.
The hidden city hack (also known as “point beyond ticketing”) might be able to save you a couple hundred bucks on international trips. But another thing to keep in mind is if you’re doing this on your outbound flight, the rest of your itinerary will be canceled, Nastro cautions. So, it would really only work on a one-way ticket.
Other questionable advice that circulates on TikTok is the idea that you need to book your flights at a certain time on a particular day — like a Tuesday morning — in order to get the best deal. But really, airfare fluctuates, she says, with tickets in different fare buckets.
“Airfare drops and rises on a dime,” she says. “It can change four times in a day.”
(You may have noticed this if your friend booked a flight, and you booked one moments after her, and the cost of your ticket jumped by $100 before you got to the checkout screen).
There’s also no proof that going incognito mode on your browser to search for flights will save you money, Nastro says.
But, one flight hack that actually is legitimate? Flying on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Saturdays will likely save you money as those aren’t popular business travel days, Nastro says.