Hidden City Ticketing: Techniques, Challenges and Ethics


Hidden city ticketing is a technique for saving a bundle of miles or money on flights, but how do you do it? What do you need to watch out for? Is it even ethical? We discuss the details on this week’s Frequent Miler on the Air.

Elsewhere on the blog this week, we cover ways to still get outsized value out of Delta SkyMiles, updated guides to using miles to visit Asia or Africa, a useful tool for snagging hard-to-find hotel awards, Bilt’s awesome new integration, and a lot more. Watch, listen, or read on for more from this week at Frequent Miler.

00:00 Introduction
00:42 Giant Mailbag
05:19 Mattress running the numbers: Now exchange points between Choice and Radisson
13:04 The News: Delta 15% discount on awards for cardholders
18:25 Awards we booked this week: JAL business class for 5
26:00 Main Event: Hidden city ticketing: techniques, challenges, and ethics What is it?
30:25 Drawbacks / warnings
30:36 You can never skip anything but the final segment
33:01 Keep it simple: don’t check bags
36:40 Irregular Operations (IRROPS)
39:39 Make sure you qualify for entry to the destination of your ticket
40:40 Techniques to find hidden city ticket opportunities
41:05 Skiplagged
42:36 One more warning: Airlines don’t like this practice
45:39 Google Flights
49:17 Use cheap prices as a starting point for looking at awards
52:30 Look at flying to Mexico or maybe Canada
53:04 Look where regions meet
56:01 Mixed-cabin award pricing (Avianca LifeMiles, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, and Virgin Atlantic for Air France or KLM)
1:00:13 Downside of hidden city award tickets
1:01:32 Seats.aero for finding these opportunities
1:03:50 Ethics: Is this practice unethical?
1:18:55 Question of the Week: Is relying on close-in award availability a viable travel strategy, or am I setting myself up for a world of pain?

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This week on the Frequent Miler blog…

Delta SkyMiles: Business class deals aren’t dead. Here’s how to find them.

This post from Greg’s about great business class deals will give that a whole new perspective on Delta SkyMiles. Greg shows how to get good value from Delta SkyMiles for international travel — by not flying to or from the United States (directly).

Best uses for Delta miles

In addition to the revelations in the post above, Delta announced a great enhancement this week: those who have one of the popular Delta SkyMiles credit cards can now get a 15% discount on awards flown entirely on Delta metal. That can certainly help make their cards more valuable for those with a lot of SkyMiles to redeem. Don’t forget that you can even earn elite credit on award tickets! This post includes the now-updated list of the best uses of Delta SkyMiles.

StayWithPoints: Find hard-to-get hotel awards

I actually haven’t yet played much with StayWithPoints, but Grreg’s review has made me realize just how exciting this tool can be. For those with the flexibility to plan a trip around award availability at a particular property, this tool could be a great way to snag those hard-to-get awards. At this point, most of my 2023 travel is planned, but I’ll probably still put this tool to use to search for a couple of places where I wouldn’t mind planning a small side trip if certain hotels were available.

Great service: Success with a Capital One Shopping missing cash back claim

We’ve written quite a bit about Capital One Shopping in recent months. However, I recently ran into a problem where cash back from an order got unexpectedly clawed back. I was very pleasantly surprised when customer service credited my shopping portal account with more than $400 as a courtesy to fix the problem. We’ve had a similar data point from a reader that I include as well. The moral of the story? If you’re missing cash back that you’re due from Capital One, you should definitely follow up with them.

Best ways to get to Africa using miles in 2023

I took this shot in South Africa, but there are certainly safari options in the Central / North region as well.

A standout value for travel to Africa is ANA’s price of 104,000 miles round trip in business class, though it may be somewhat difficult to find without high surcharges. Virgin Atlantic can be a surprisingly good option for flying Air France or KLM (particularly if you hit a transfer bonus) and of course Air Canada’s partners give you access to most of the continent with no fuel surcharges and a stopover for 5,000 additional miles on a one-way. This post includes more information about those sweet spots and plenty more.

Best ways to get to Asia using miles for business or first class (in 2023)

ANA offers some of the best mileage rates to and from Asia, but the surcharges on ANA flights have climbed over the past couple of years. Alaska and American continue to offer excellent rates on some of the best airlines across the Pacific, but those who can put together mixed-cabin awards might stand to do even better with Avianca LifeMiles or Cathay Pacific Asia miles. For all of your best bets to and from Asia in premium cabins, see this post.

Is unplanned travel more fun?

Unplanned travel can be a lot of fun (and sometimes a little stressful!)

I love reading Carrie’s thoughts about travel because I feel like so much of her energy was represented in the types of travels my wife and I were fortunate to enjoy years ago. Like Carrie, I would say that some of my best travel memories were totally unplanned and unscripted moments. But I particularly loved the section headlined “Cheap, on target, or timely: Pick 2”. It’s funny because it’s true.

[Update] Bilt adds free Point.me integration for award searches with partners!

Bilt Rewards has made a fantastic improvement for members as you can now run award searches powered by Point.me right within the Bilt app. Since joining and engaging with Bilt Rewards is free, this could certainly prove to be a terrific value-add, particularly for those new to planning award travel (yet also for those just looking to save a ton of time over searching each resource).

Amex Platinum Complete Guide (free Centurion Lounge guests ending Wednesday)

Our Amex Platinum Complete Guide was updated this week as a reminder that Centurion Lounges are no longer admitting free guests.

That’s it for this week at Frequent Miler. Keep your eye on this week’s last chance deals to make sure that you don’t miss those ending this week.

Want to learn more about miles and points? Subscribe to email updates or check out our podcast on your favorite podcast platform.
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Nick and Greg – quick idea for a future show. With such cool award trips, like ANA first, only being available from major cities, what are your tips/tricks/recommendations for positioning flights? With so many of us not living near these major airports, I thought it would be a cool topic. Thanks for all you guys do in making FM the best travel/points podcast out there. I look forward to every Saturday!

Greg The Frequent Miler

Nice idea!


@Greg- Seat.aero doesn’t seem to show Etihad First on routes. Is that a glitch or just like Point.me doesn’t show Emirates First class on Emirates? Just wondering and thanks

Greg The Frequent Miler

I actually asked them a similar question just a few days ago. Apparently the way they search award space with Etihad, looking for both business and first class requires separate searches. At the time they added Etihad, Etihad wasn’t offering many first class flights so they went with business class for now. They plan to revisit this soon. I’m sure if/when the Etihad Apartments return they’ll make that a priority.


On the topic of booking multiple backup tickets, I agree with you that its not an ethical problem, but I wonder if you guys are worried that it will be a killing-the-goose-that-lays-the-golden-egg problem where overuse causes airlines to get rid of free cancellation?

I see so many bloggers talking about booking 3 or more tickets each time they fly and cancelling the ones they don’t need at the last minute. It seems like at some point this is going to cause so much unpredictability for the airlines revenue management that they are going to decide they have to change things.


Regarding hidden city bookings: An airline ticket is a contract. It is a mutual agreement between the parties. If one of the parties enters into the agreement with a deceptive purpose, it’s fraud. Pure and simple. And, if you can’t trust a person with little things, how can you trust that person with big things? If I had an employee who thought the practice was acceptable, I’d fire the person.


I have an agreement to fly from A to B to C. I have paid in full. If a portion of that goes unused, I still paid for it. they have lost nothing. If the flight is changed from A to C, I may decline that flight and ask for a refund. Some people actually may need that connection to meet other travelers, or just don’t tolerate flying that long in one go. No other mode of transportation charges people less for a longer travel. A bus or train ticket from A to B to C will always cost more than A to B even if C is some remote low demand village. Instead airlines charge more from A to B than A to B to C despite that this uses more fuel, more staff hours, and then blames the customer for discovering this. Reminds me of the Ford company declaring that Electric cars are bad because they didn’t need maintenance, and of course they blamed the electric car owners

And the man who was sued by Lufthansa won, German Court rules that people are under no obligation to use their entire ticket, whether it be a plane, bus, or train.

I wouldn’t want an employer who thinks charging people more for using less is an acceptable business practice.

If I buy a combo meal at a restaurant instead of buying each item individually, and the combo is cheaper than buying each item individually, you cannot say I am breaking the agreement because I don’t feel like eating the fries. i still paid for all the food. If for some reason they priced the combo too cheap, that people buying the combo and not finishing it is actually costing the company money, that is the fault of the company’s pricing structure. not the customer.

Last edited 7 months ago by staradmiral

In the US, AA won a massive case on this matter in the past few years. If someone gets hammered for doing it, I’ll refer them to you for representation.


If u can’t trust them Get Rid of them.Like lawsuits ect.my motto was in by 7 and out by 9am. As a foreman and with my rentals too. We all make mistakes but don’t compound them and go broke..

Last edited 7 months ago by Cavedweller

In the US, AA won a massive case on this matter in the past few years.

Do you have a citation in support of this statement? To the best of my knowledge, the enforceability of this prohibition has never been tested in a US court. It was tested in Germany and found to be unenforceable there.