It’s always a pleasure to get a great deal on airfare. I also got a great deal on return airfare to Saint Petersburg from New Delhi in the month of May. So, without a single thought I booked that ticket on Transaero flight. There were no problems, no complications in my journey until I came to know that May 9 is celebrated as the Victory Day in Russia and this year they were going for even bigger celebration in Moscow as it was the 70th anniversary of the Victory Day celebration.
I made up my mind to witness that celebration in Moscow on 9th May, but my flight was for Saint Petersburg on 8th May. However, it had a landing in Moscow, then a change in the plane, (even change in the Airport, Moscow has 3 major airports), with 7 hour connection time. So, I thought that I would skip the Moscow-Saint Petersburg leg of my flight to stay in Moscow on 8th night. I booked a hostel in Moscow and stayed relaxed. Just one day prior to departure, I was discussing this arrangement in my office and then, I came to know about this term Hidden City Ticketing of airline industry.
Suddenly, my all plans started crumbling. I searched a lot on the Internet, but there was no way out. The only available option was to reach Saint Petersburg as per the original ticket and again return back to Moscow on the same day with another ticket. Else, I had to skip the Victory Day Parade in Moscow. But it also involved two nights cancellation of hostel in Moscow and re-book another one in Saint Petersburg to watch the parade in Saint Petersburg. The Victory Day Parade celebration takes place all around Russia, in each and every city. Of course, the best and the most spectacular is in Moscow only.
Without any delay, I decided to book a flight from Saint Petersburg to Moscow and luckily, due to high competition between the airlines on this route, fare is relatively cheap, even only one day prior to departure. Train was another option, but normally on this sector, train fare normally equals to the flight fare. But, if I got a high price on that sector, I might had left the Victory Day Parade in Moscow. All this attributed to the Hidden City Ticketing.
What is this Hidden City Ticketing? Hidden City Ticketing normally works on Hub and Spoke models of the airlines networks. Suppose, You want to fly from New Delhi to Moscow, but fare is very steep. Then, you find a cheaper deal from New Delhi to Saint Petersburg with a stopover at Moscow. Instead of buying the first ticket, better to buy the second ticket, and once plane stopped at Moscow, just walk out and abandon the next leg of flight from Moscow to Saint Petersburg.
But in reality, you can’t do this. If you have only one way ticket, then there is a slight chance. But, if you have a return ticket, then not showing for any leg of your journey, will actually lead to the cancellation of all subsequent legs of your flight.
Other Implications are:
1. Airlines may block your frequent flyer account or deduct many miles from your account.
2. They may charge the penalty from your travel agent.
3. Passengers also may find their reservation canceled, or be denied access to their luggage if they checked it.
4. As abuses are detected, the passengers may be told they cannot use their tickets and will have to buy new ones at the higher fare.
Is there any way out? Unless you are in the last leg of your flight, there is no way out. If you skip any leg of your itinerary, your contract with the airlines stand cancel and your all subsequent legs will be cancelled. If you want to skip your last leg, you can, without any problem provided you don’t have any check-in baggage to your final destination. Normally, when we check-in for two sectors on the same PNR with connecting flights, our luggage gets checked in for the final destination, unless there is an airport change during the connection. Therefore, you should not have any check-in baggage for the final destination, if you want to skip the last leg.
Why is it harmful for airlines business? Suppose a flight from Delhi to Saint Petersburg has 20 such passengers, who wish to abandon their journey in Moscow, but airlines reservation system does not know this. The flight from Moscow to Saint Petersburg is showing full, but actually there are 20 vacant seats of such passengers. Some last minute passengers may force to buy the few available seats at very high price, however seat availability is still much more. It also leads to the delay and fuel wastage at the gate, when airlines staff may wait for such passengers upto last minute, unaware of their exact intention. Therefore, from the airlines point of view, such practice is considered unethical and they take it very seriously.
That is why the United Airlines and Orbitz sued Mr. Zaman owner of Skiplagged, which listed hidden-city options alongside conventional fares (with a “NO CHECKED BAGS” disclaimer), and linked to Orbitz to reserve them. Its an interesting legal battle with lot of mention on the internet.