Some airline passengers have devised what they think is a clever way to save money on airfare: by skipping a leg of your flight

Can you reduce the cost of airfare by cancelling one leg of the flight?

Here’s one example: If you need to fly from Miami to Boston, the direct flight (Miami – Boston) might cost $500. But if you purchase the Miami-Boston leg as a connecting flight (Las Vegas – Miami, Miami – Boston), it might set you back just $250. Then you could save yourself $250 on the airfare and not show up for the first part of the flight (Vegas to Miami). Sounds easy, but how does that really play out? 

The so-called “travel hack” I just shared with you goes by other names as well: “hidden city ticketing,” “skiplagging,” or “throwaway ticketing.”

Passengers have tried to use it to save airfare. The problem is that none of the operating commercial airlines are OK with this so that fliers can get less expensive tickets. 

I’ll discuss the ins and outs of this travel tactic and answer some common questions I’ve received about it. I’ll also offer you some details about specific policies, fees, etc.

Let’s get started!

Can I Cancel a Portion of my Flight?

My short answer is: I would avoid canceling any leg of a flight you’ve booked unless for some reason, you may not make a connecting flight, or for some other emergency. It’s not a practice I would recommend following regularly, as it can potentially wind up costing you more in the long run. Unless you’re willing to incur some additional penalties and costs.

Note that: The U.S. Department of Transportation requires airlines to refund your money for a reservation IF you cancel a flight within 24 hours of booking UNLESS they offer a free 24-hour hold option when shopping for tickets.

If you are looking to cancel or change a segment or leg of your flight, you first need to know that not all airlines will allow you to do this without some sort of penalty. They don’t like it when travelers do this in order to get lower airfares!

Skipping a specific leg of the flight may result in the cancellation of the subsequent legs of your trip, of the whole ticket altogether, and other penalties (like higher prices if you try to rebook). Some airlines will allow you to change only one leg while others will require that you change your entire itinerary. 

It’s no mystery that airlines don’t like or endorse this practice. They even discourage it. The main differences between carriers is not so much whether they’ll allow you to cancel a leg of your flight, but you’ll see differences in their cancellation windows, and in their refund/rebooking policies. The fare you’ve purchased will also affect your ability to receive a refund or cancellation without fees (e.g., First Class vs. Basic Economy, etc.).

In such cases, knowing whether changing one segment of your trip is possible can be helpful. You should definitely verify with your specific airline before attempting this.

What Are Typical Airline Policies on Canceling One Leg of Your Flight?

Airline policies on canceling one leg of a flight, also known as “hidden city” or “throwaway ticketing,” can vary. Some airlines prohibit this practice and may cancel the entire itinerary if they suspect or discover you doing so. Most airlines may allow it technically, but some may not honor frequent flier miles or upgrades for the segments that were not flown. 

Each airline has their own policy regarding canceling one leg of a flight. Some airlines may allow you to cancel one leg of a round trip flight without canceling the entire trip, while others may require you to cancel the entire trip and rebook the remaining leg.

It is best to check with the specific airline you are traveling with to understand their policy and any potential fees associated with canceling one leg of a flight. Additionally, if you have a multi-city flight, you may need to cancel all legs of the flight.

It’s important to review the airline’s policy before booking and to be aware of any potential risks, such as being denied boarding or having your frequent flier account suspended.

Additionally, it’s important to note that it is technically illegal to purchase a ticket with the intent of not using part of the itinerary, and if the practice goes on regularly, some airlines may even sue for the differences in fare.

Is It Worth It to Try Hidden City Ticketing to Save Money on Your Flight?

Hidden city ticketing can frequently result in a cheaper overall fare. However, it is important to consider that this practice is against the terms of service of most airlines and can result in a number of penalties, including being banned from future flights with that airline (though admittedly, being banned from future flights is a rare, if ever, occurrence).

Note that if your luggage is checked through to the final destination, it will not be available to you at your layover. It may be worth trying hidden city ticketing to save money on your flight in the short term, but it is important to weigh the potential risks and penalties in the long term before doing so. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend it, unless you’re canceling/skipping out on the last leg of your flight, and this saves you money.

I wouldn’t recommend doing it regularly unless you’re prepared to incur some penalties, lose some frequent flier miles potentially, and incur some potential additional costs.

Can You Skip the First Leg of a Round Trip Flight?

It depends on the terms and conditions of your flight booking and the airline’s policies. Some airlines may allow you to skip the first leg of a round-trip flight, but you will likely have to pay a fee for the change. Other airlines may not permit this and may require you to take the first leg of the flight or forfeit the entire booking.

I’ll get into more airline-specific policies later in this article. Still, it is always a best practice to check with the airline directly to determine their policies and any potential fees associated with skipping the first leg of a round-trip flight.

What Happens if You Don’t Take the Last Leg of a Flight?

If you do not take the last leg of a flight, it is considered a “no-show,” and the airline may cancel the remainder of your itinerary, including any connecting flights. You may also lose the value of the unused portion of your ticket and may be charged a fee for not showing up for the flight.

Additionally, your baggage may be offloaded and sent to your final destination without you, resulting in additional fees for retrieving it. It is important to inform the airline if you will not be taking a flight to avoid any potential issues.

What Happens If I Book a Round Trip Flight and Only Use One Way?

If you book a round-trip flight and only use one way, the unused portion of the flight will typically be considered a “no-show.” Depending on the airline’s policies, you may be able to get a refund or credit for the unused portion of the flight.

However, some airlines may charge a fee for canceling or changing the reservation, and others may not allow refunds or credits at all. It is important to check your airline’s policies before booking a round-trip flight to understand any potential fees or restrictions associated with using only one way of the trip.

What Happens If You Skip or Cancel the First Leg of Your Flight?

Skipping the first leg of a flight (or any leg of your flight) with later connections scheduled is probably the worst thing you could do. Whenever you don’t show up for any leg of a booked flight, or if you cancel the first leg, the airline will almost ALWAYS cancel all the other upcoming flights on the same ticket for that passenger, including your return trip.  

Can I EVER Cancel a Leg of My Flight?

The only time it would make sense to skip a leg of your flight (with more than one stop) is for a viable reason, like inclement weather, unavoidable change of scheduled events, etc. In a case like this, you’d want to call the airline first to explain the scenario. It’s up to the airline employee to decide if they’re going to let you skip it or not without canceling the rest of your flights. So it’s possible to do this, but I wouldn’t recommend making a regular practice out of it. 

What Happens When You Skip the Second (or Last) Leg of Your Flight?

Skipping the last leg of the flight isn’t illegal, but it is in violation of the airline’s Conditions of Carriage. Skipping the last leg of your flight usually doesn’t result in any penalties (99 percent of the time)

You can cancel or no-show without informing the airline, but you may want to inform them as a courtesy. Usually when someone is a no-show for a flight, that flight is delayed because they will page you and wait for a reasonable amount of time. So if you’re trying to save some money with some hidden city ticketing maneuver, be sure to notify the airline that you won’t be showing up for the last leg of the flight immediately after you’ve landed in your connecting airport.

What Are the Airline Penalties for Skipping a Leg of Your Flight?

If you haven’t picked up on this yet, “Hidden City Ticketing” is absolutely legal, though it is technically a breach of your airline’s Conditions of Carriage, which gives your airline the right to cancel all of your frequent flier points and any other bonuses and perks. If you’ve got a bunch of frequent flier points saved up, you might not want to attempt a hidden city ticket hack.

What Are Different Airline Policies, Allowances, and Penalties Regarding Cancellation of a Leg of Your Flight?

Most airlines have some sort of 24-hour cancellation period within which you can cancel your ticket without penalty, with the understanding that you’re canceling your entire reservation. Same day cancellations are typically subject to availability (if you need to change your flight, or for whatever other reason). 

Here are the cancellation policies for some of the major U.S. commercial airlines. When in doubt, it’s always the best idea to check with your airline directly with any questions.

American Airlines

According to American Airlines’ Website: “Change of plans? We allow same-day confirmed changes on select flights for a fee, with some exceptions. Customers can stand by for a flight at no charge.”

Delta Airlines

According to Delta’s Website: “If your travel plans change, you can find options to cancel your ticket prior to departure or apply for a refund if your ticket is refundable. Additionally, if you booked your flight within the last 24 hours, find out details about our 24-Hour Risk-Free Cancellation.“

Southwest Airlines

According to Southwest’s Website: “You can change or cancel your flight up until 10 minutes before your scheduled departure time.” 

United Airlines

According to United Airlines’ Website: “… there are no change fees for most Economy and premium cabin tickets for flights within the U.S.; between the U.S. and Mexico or the Caribbean; or for international travel originating in the U.S., you have even more flexibility to adjust your plans.”

So, Can you Cancel One Leg of a Flight to Get Yourself Cheaper Airfare?

Technically you can, but you risk souring your long-term relationship with an airline. Skipping the last leg of the flight isn’t illegal, but it violates the airline’s Conditions of Carriage. Each airline has its own specific policies regarding cancellation windows and refund policies, but universally, the regular practice of “hidden city ticketing” is not recommended.

If you DO decide to save some money by canceling a leg of your flight, make it the LAST leg of your flight, so you won’t have your luggage go to another city without you, and so you won’t have any part of your itinerary canceled or be charged any fees/be required to re-book. To cancel ANY flight without penalty, be sure to call the airline directly and don’t just try to do it online or on the airline’s app.

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