Today, I’m going to show you how to save on flights with Google Flights features to get secret airfares. But first, some backstory.
My family travel to Connecticut about twice a year to visit family. We fly to New York, and then usually take the train from NYC rest of the way.
Luckily, there is are direct flights from San Diego (my home) to NYC. And the prices are usually high, at least $180+.
But what I’ve found over the years of booking this flight path many times, is that there are flights from SAN to other cities around New York, with a transfer in NYC, that are cheaper than a direct SAN-NYC flight.
For Example: We would find:
SAN-NYC direct for $200
SAN-NYC-BOS 1-stop for $160
To save some money, we would book the SAN-NYC-BOS flight for $160. When our first flight lands in NYC, our intended destination, we would leave the airport, instead of taking the connecting flight to BOS.
This is called a Hidden City Ticketing or Hidden City Fares. Airlines hate it when people book seats they have no intention taking. But there is really nothing they can do to stop travelers from taking advantage of it.
How to Find Hidden City Tickets with Google Flights
Here are the steps I use to search for cheaper flights.
Note that this only works for one-way fares. This is because if you book a round trip flight with outbound segments of A-B-C, and return segments B-A, but you skip the B-C flight on the outbound, the airline will cancel the return segment of B-A.
It’s much safer to book A-B-C and B-A as two separate one-ways instead of a round trip, to prevent B-A return journey from being cancelled.
Step 1. Go to flights.google.com and Search for the One-Way Flight You Need
Step 2. Set your Intended Destination as the Connection Point
Change the Destination as a city other than the city you want to travel to.
Without doing this, that airport won’t show up as a possible connecting airport. (We changed it to Washington DC, so NYC would show up in the connecting airport menu)
Click on the More drop down menu, and select the airport(s) of your intended destination as a connection point.
(We chose all 3 NYC airports in this case)
Step 3. Click on the Map to Find the Cheaper Fares
The Google Flights Map view is awesome. It will show us the fares to cities directly on the map. We can see the airfare to BOS is $160, MHT is $167, but the cheapest is to PIT for only $149.
We need to verify that the flight to PIT is routed through NYC, and not a direct SAN->PIT flight.
Step 4. View the Flight Details
Click on the Menubutton, and go to the Flights view, instead of the Map view.
In the Destination bar, type in all the airports we found on the map that had the cheaper fares, so we can compare, withcomma between each airport.
We enter in “EWR, BOS, BDL, MHT, PIT”
Step 5. Book the Flight
You can then directly book the SAN->EWR-PIT from Google Flights. This happen to be a United hidden city fare I’ve used before.
Before you take the flight, I want to offer some tips, guidelines and cautions when before taking any hidden city flights.
Hidden City Flight Tips
Here are a few things to keep in mind when booking and taking a Hidden City flight.
1. Hidden City Ticketing Works Only for Hub Cities
This will work for domestic and international flights, but only if the intended destination is a hub city. Hub cities are generally big cities, such as NYC, Chicago, LA, London, Shanghai, etc.
2. Only travel with Carry-On, No Check-in Luggage
This is a no-brainer, since you won’t actually go to your final destination. You don’t want your luggage to go there either.
3. You Might Not Get Your Flight Miles Credited
This depends on the airline. But since you didn’t complete the itinerary, you may not get the miles. Although I always got the miles for the flights I actually flew.
4. Don’t Tell the Airline You’re Doing This
Airlines hate this trick. So don’t brag about it to the airline employee at the airport or over the phone.
Other than that, it should be very straight forward. I’ve done it a bunch of times, and never had any issues.
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