What Happens When You Skip Flight On An Itinerary?

What Happens When You Skip Flight On An Itinerary?

34

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about what happens when you skip a segment on a flight itinerary. There are a variety of reasons people may do this, so in this post I wanted to look at that from a few perspectives:

  • Why people intentionally skip segments on an itinerary
  • What happens to your ticket if you skip a flight on an itinerary
  • How to minimize the risk of skipping a flight on an itinerary
  • The potential consequences of skipping a flight on an itinerary

Note that this is not an endorsement of this practice, but rather is intended to answer questions that people may have.

Why people intentionally skip segments on an itinerary

There are a variety of reasons people may want to skip segments on a flight itinerary, the most common of which is known as throwaway ticketing.

As we all know, airline pricing can appear to be irrational, and this is largely because of the pricing power that airlines have in various markets.

Airlines know that they can charge more if they operate a flight nonstop than with a connection (since people value a nonstop), they know that certain cities can sustain higher prices than others (for example, there’s more finance money in New York than Colombo, and airfare reflects that).

So how does this play out? Take for example this Seattle to Miami to San Juan itinerary on American, which costs ~$473 one-way in business class.

American business class fare from Seattle to San Juan

Meanwhile if you booked just that same Seattle to Miami flight, you’d pay ~$370 more.

American business class fare from Seattle to Miami

So the idea is that you book the itinerary to San Juan, but then get off the plane in Miami. Let me emphasize that this violates American’s contract of carriage.

Throwaway ticketing violates airline rules

What happens to your ticket if you skip a flight on an itinerary

As soon as you skip a segment on a flight itinerary, the remainder of your ticket will be invalid. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work across the board.

If your entire itinerary is on one airline then that’s almost certainly how it’s going to play out.

However, I’ve heard of instances where people have had a ticket on interline partners where a segment was skipped and they could still board a flight down the line. That’s not how it’s supposed to be, and it doesn’t happen consistently, but I have heard of some instances of it happening, and I imagine that comes down to some airline systems just not communicating well.

But assume that if you skip a segment, your entire itinerary will be canceled. This isn’t an issue if you’re booking a one-way and skip the last segment. However, you couldn’t book a roundtrip, skip the last segment of the outbound, and still expect to take the return portion of the trip.

Airlines can cancel the remainder of your ticket is you skip a segment

How to minimize the risk of skipping a flight on an itinerary

If you know you’re planning on skipping a segment on an itinerary, make sure you don’t check bags, or at least make sure you are able to check your bags through to the destination you intend to fly to.

Most airlines have a policy against short checking bags, meaning if you were flying from Seattle to Miami to San Juan, you’re typically not allowed to pick up your bags in Miami. The exception is if you have a long layover, in which case you may be able to do so.

Also make sure you don’t have to gate check your bag, because it would be rough to discover that bag will be sent to your final destination if you have no intention of actually flying there.

Furthermore, keep in mind that you’ll still need to meet all the travel requirements for the destination you’re ticketed to travel to, even if you don’t intend to fly there.

Lastly, if you’re going to do this, make sure you don’t end up making duplicate bookings on one airline that are scheduled to depart around the same time. In other words, if you book a Seattle to Miami to San Juan itinerary and plan on skipping that last segment, don’t book another segment on American from Miami to somewhere else around the same time.

My one other tip involves using your frequent flyer number for your itinerary, so stay tuned for that.

Avoid gate checking bags if you’re skipping a segment

The potential consequences of skipping a flight on an itinerary

Let me start by saying that I’m not a lawyer, so I’m only sharing my take as someone who (usually) has some common sense and is pretty familiar with airline rules. Also keep in mind that different countries have different laws.

With that out of the way, what are the potential consequences of skipping a segment on an itinerary?

It’s not illegal

Skipping a segment on an itinerary isn’t illegal in any country that I know of. I think this is worth clarifying because in the airline industry the term “illegal” is often used in a way that has nothing to do with laws.

For example, an “illegal connection” is one where there isn’t enough time to connect, per the airline rules. If you find yourself having an illegal connection, you don’t need to expect the police to meet the flight. 😉

Using any throwaway ticketing techniques would at most be a contract dispute, so there’s nothing inherently illegal here one way or another, as far as I know. As I’ll explain below, in some countries it’s actually completely legal and supported by court cases.

It (typically) violates the airline contract of carriage

While not illegal, intentionally skipping segments on an itinerary does almost always violates airlines’ contracts of carriage.

For example, American’s contract of carriage says this:

Reservations made to exploit or circumvent fare and ticket rules are prohibited. Examples include purchasing a ticket without intending to fly all flights to gain lower fares (hidden city ticketing).

How an airline could try to punish you

So if you do decide to skip a segment, how could an airline punish you?

  • They could punish you in regards to your frequent flyer account, since that’s something that’s 100% within their control, as they own the program and the miles
  • Airlines threaten that they’ll charge you the fare difference between what you booked and what you flew, but we only very rarely seem them try to pursue that
  • An airline could try to sue you, but the effort required would be extreme, and it’s questionable if they’d win; this all depends on the country as well, because in Spain a court actually ruled that airlines couldn’t punish passengers for throwaway ticketing (and we’ve seen similar verdicts in other countries)

One important thing to keep in mind is that the airline would have to prove intent here. In other words, they’d have to prove that you were trying to “exploit or circumvent fare and ticket rules.”

There are plenty of other situations where someone may be skipping a segment. Maybe they accidentally fell asleep in the terminal and missed their flight, maybe they became ill and couldn’t fly, maybe they had a genuine change in plans, etc.

So it’s all about intent, and that’s not something that’s necessarily easy to prove in court, unless someone makes a habit of it.

There are also innocent reasons plans can change

My take on skipping flight segments

This post isn’t at all an endorsement of any throwaway ticketing or hidden city ticketing techniques, but rather is intended to address the concept more broadly.

If you are going to engage in some sort of throwaway ticketing (which most airlines prohibit, but several courts have ruled is permissible), my general advice is:

  • Make sure you’re not checking bags, and make sure your carry-ons are within the size limits and that you board early, so that you’re not forced to gate check them to your final destination
  • Like everything in life, moderation is key; if you do this once with an airline, chances are they won’t care, while if you do this constantly, they will likely take note
  • If you are going to do this, I’d recommend doing it with a different airline than the one you’re crediting the miles to, since the most likely punishment from the airline would involve your frequent flyer account; that risk isn’t there if you’re crediting miles to another frequent flyer program, for example
Avoid checking bags if skipping a segment

Bottom line

There are reasons you may find yourself in a situation where you skip a segment of an itinerary (either unintentionally, or otherwise intentionally if you’re engaged in hidden city ticketing). Hopefully the above is a useful rundown as to what happens, the risks, etc.

It’s not a practice I engage in personally, but it sure is tempting sometimes when you see how much cheaper connecting itineraries can be.

If anyone has any firsthand experiences with skipping segments, please share your experience!

Conversations (34)
The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.
Type your response here.

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Anyone can comment, and your email address will not be published. Register to save your unique username and earn special OMAAT reputation perks!

  1. Arie Guest

    Have done this a few times on international flights without problems. The trick is not to just be a no show, but go to the airline agent, let them know you feel I'll and can't possibly get on another plane. Usually I get sympathy and so far no issues.

  2. Giancarlo Guest

    Kinda a waste to write this whole article and not mention the Italian competition authority ruling which is the most authoritative position by a developed country's government on this: https://liveandletsfly.com/skipping-airline-segments-italy/

    (Applies to all tickets issued in Italy including by international carriers not touching Italy!)

  3. Mark Guest

    For international flights returning to the US, wouldn't we always be able to get the bags due to custom control. Say we book United AMS-IAH-DFW and skipped IAH-DFW leg, I would always be able to claim my bag at IAH due to custom right?

    1. ScottS Member

      Yes, you'll always have to get your bag and "recheck" to your next destination. Now if you "accidentally" walk out of the secure area and don't recheck your bag and decide to leave, oops :).

  4. Kim Guest

    I had a booking in October and return November last year.
    The original booking was Oslo-Munchen-Beijing-Shenzhen and return Bangkok-Munchen-Oslo
    Lufthansa cancelled the Oslo Munchen flight and moved me to another flight that would make me travel for almost a day longer, but I could change and fly this route instead: Oslo-Frankfurt-Tokyo-Shenzhen.

    Now, I was supposed to get a visa in Bangkok the month before, but the visa centre was closed so I didn't...

    I had a booking in October and return November last year.
    The original booking was Oslo-Munchen-Beijing-Shenzhen and return Bangkok-Munchen-Oslo
    Lufthansa cancelled the Oslo Munchen flight and moved me to another flight that would make me travel for almost a day longer, but I could change and fly this route instead: Oslo-Frankfurt-Tokyo-Shenzhen.

    Now, I was supposed to get a visa in Bangkok the month before, but the visa centre was closed so I didn't get a visa, so I just booked a ticket from Shenzhen to Bangkok a few hours after arrival from Tokyo.

    When I checked in in Oslo I got boarding cards until Tokyo and they said I would get the other boarding card for Shenzhen there.

    So I fly from Oslo to Frankfurt and then to Tokyo, and then I go to the gate and say I need a boarding card, and then I see the lady start making a lot of phone calls talking with colleagues, and I then was denied boarding for my flight to Shenzhen because I have no visa. The 24 hour rule is not valid in Shenzhen.
    I didn't get any help from Lufthansa/ANA, just moral support.

    So I booked a flight to go to Bangkok.

    So about a month later, I was flying my return, and just before midnight, I wanted to check in and choose a seat. Booking not found! Oh, no!

    But luckily, this was an error in the computer system at that time, and the next day was everything all good.

  5. Bob Guest

    I once skipped the last segment on a United itinerary. That segment showed up in the Travel Credits section of my account for about 4 years. The value showed as $0.

  6. Volleyball New Member

    Had a LAX to Berlin Delta flight with a Paris layover, and I got off in Paris. I had no consequences other than them canceling my return flight without any notification. Whenever I need to go to ticketing to show a passport or check luggage, I don't check-in online as I thought it was pointless. Had I tried to check in, I would have noticed I was unable to and wouldn't see my flight, triggering me to call the airline to find out what was going on

  7. Auric New Member

    In 1993, we flew PHL-DEN-SAN with our then 3-year-old daughter. A week later, it was time to go home. We tried to check in and USAir insisted that my daughter had not boarded the DEN-SAN leg and therefore her entire return flight had been canceled. We pointed out that she was clearly in SAN, and must have flown there with us. USAir told us that the 3-year-old would have to fly alone on a later...

    In 1993, we flew PHL-DEN-SAN with our then 3-year-old daughter. A week later, it was time to go home. We tried to check in and USAir insisted that my daughter had not boarded the DEN-SAN leg and therefore her entire return flight had been canceled. We pointed out that she was clearly in SAN, and must have flown there with us. USAir told us that the 3-year-old would have to fly alone on a later flight since there was only one seat available and the adults could not change their reservations. We said fine, book her to fly alone. They relented and found a way for her to get on the original flight with her parents.

  8. Zach Guest

    A couple of thoughts:

    1) On an international ticket, you can game this a little with regard to checked bags. Just book an overnight connection in your connecting city (under 24 hours), and you can retrieve your bag.

    2) Beware …. If a cancellation of your first flight causes the airline to reroute you to your destination, you may not get sent to or through your intended connecting point.

    1. CPH-Flyer Gold

      Many airports and airlines accept luggage to be checked through overnight as long as it is below 24 hours. So that's pretty bad advice.

    2. GUWonder Guest

      For my overnight layovers of 8-24 hours, I have generally had no problem with getting the agents to short-check the bags to my overnight layover points so I can use my bags during the overnight transits. I have done this a lot at check-ins in the US, Europe, South Asia and Latin America. Beside needing the items inside the bags at the scheduled overnight layover point, short-checking the bags and claiming them for overnight possession...

      For my overnight layovers of 8-24 hours, I have generally had no problem with getting the agents to short-check the bags to my overnight layover points so I can use my bags during the overnight transits. I have done this a lot at check-ins in the US, Europe, South Asia and Latin America. Beside needing the items inside the bags at the scheduled overnight layover point, short-checking the bags and claiming them for overnight possession also may help with reduced baggage theft risk.

      By the way, if you want some background on the GUWonder situation elsewhere, check out the comment section in this other blog article:

      https://travelingformiles.com/a-day-to-forget-as-qatar-airways-service-standards-hit-a-new-low-a-3-part-saga/

  9. BradStPete Diamond

    Do Not Do This. You can do it Once, Maybe Twice... BUT the airline will catch up with you and will penalize you. I have had travelers go from Platinum to ZERO. This is in total violation of your contract of carriage and there are consequences. In my Travel Manager role I have seen it and typically the fare savings are not worth it. The Airline is watching,

    1. NotJustaFF Guest

      Did you read the article? Ben specifically said NOT to use you FF number so your entire post is pointless.

  10. PointsandMilesDoc New Member

    Thanks for the great post Lucky.

    Any information on actually cancelling the last leg after flying the one you want? In the example you gave SEA-MIA, could you just disembark in MIA and call a few hours later to cancel the last leg? Not expecting to get a refund or credit, but at least to show you weren't skipping?

  11. Ramsey Guest

    Skipping a segment with a budget airline in the UK does not invalidate the rest of the ticket. You can skip/ miss the outward leg of a Ryanair or EasyJet return flight and the return flight remains valid.

  12. JT Guest

    Ben. Interesting you post on this today. A friend of mine regularly travels for meetings in the US and the fares are sky high when he goes for 2 days mid-week (Europe to US). I recommended booking what I call 'crossed tickets' to cover 2 return trips. West of ticket 1, East on ticket 2, West on ticket 2, East on ticket 1. This can dramatically reduce the total cost. Today, his agent refused to...

    Ben. Interesting you post on this today. A friend of mine regularly travels for meetings in the US and the fares are sky high when he goes for 2 days mid-week (Europe to US). I recommended booking what I call 'crossed tickets' to cover 2 return trips. West of ticket 1, East on ticket 2, West on ticket 2, East on ticket 1. This can dramatically reduce the total cost. Today, his agent refused to book it claiming that this was totally against all the rules, could result in flight bans, legal action etc. I was stunned. Reading BA's conditions of carriage (for example) I can find nothing that prohibits this. I GUESS that the American condition (which I didn't see in BA's) could be stretched to an extreme level to include this. Have you ever heard of an agent/airline insisting that even if coupons are used in sequence, you cannot travel on any other ticket in-between??

    1. Auric New Member

      The best way to do this is to book each trip on a separate airline, preferably airlines in two different groups (United Airlines and American Airlines, for instance). They are extremely unlikely to be able to search across airline alliances. I have had corporate travel agents do this for me, and even suggest it.

    2. JT Guest

      Agree. But many people want tier points with one airline. This approach can be very cost effective for commuters because you build in a weekend stay which wouldn’t otherwise exist. I was just shocked to hear an agent refuse to book it and make such accusations without them being able to show the issue in the conditions. I think they are fearful of the skipped coupons issue and blow back from the airlines, so anything that saves cost is ruled out!

    3. Chessplayer Guest

      If you want to do, book it with two different airlines ideally not from the same alliance. Airlines do check those cross bookings and will not hesitate to cancel tickets if caught. It happened to me once.

    4. Onthedownwind New Member

      I've worked in corporate travel and for airlines for 30 years. We used to call this 'back to back' ticketing. There were many such practices. e.g. any UK-Canada itinerary in J would be split into 2 saving around 10%. Reality is that with better tech, the airlines can detect this kind of activity much easier and they can summarily 'ADM' the agent - an Agent Debit Memo charging the agency for the difference. Another common...

      I've worked in corporate travel and for airlines for 30 years. We used to call this 'back to back' ticketing. There were many such practices. e.g. any UK-Canada itinerary in J would be split into 2 saving around 10%. Reality is that with better tech, the airlines can detect this kind of activity much easier and they can summarily 'ADM' the agent - an Agent Debit Memo charging the agency for the difference. Another common practice was rebooking the same classes in the same booking/PNR to 'refresh' the fare w/o ticketing, called 'churning'. This has all but been eliminated by airline tech. As an agent, you also don't want to risk an airline cutting you off completely.

    5. GUWonder Guest

      Airlines have often had rules prohibiting nested/back-to-back ticket use by consumers trying to save money in the manner you indicate. Amusingly, such airline policy incentivizes consumer “disloyalty” even more. How so? Because nesting the tickets is instead done by adding in a different airline with a different contract of carriage instead of concentrating the business all in one airline/airline family.

  13. Carl Guest

    I am looking for a one way (after a cruise), in premium economy from Europe to the US. A one way ticket is about $2k while a round trip (Europe to US and back to Europe) is $700. I think it is a no brainer but, could I cancel the return flight after I arrive is the US? There is a two week gap between flights.

  14. George Romey Guest

    Generally if you skip the vast last segment of your ticket unless you do it repeatedly no issue. Your seat is simply given to a standby or goes empty-either way you paid for it. Where it might get tricky is in the case of a reroute in which you are routed through another hub or direct to the destination you don't want to go to. Needless to say you can't check bags but if you're...

    Generally if you skip the vast last segment of your ticket unless you do it repeatedly no issue. Your seat is simply given to a standby or goes empty-either way you paid for it. Where it might get tricky is in the case of a reroute in which you are routed through another hub or direct to the destination you don't want to go to. Needless to say you can't check bags but if you're in a later boarding group and you're forced to gate check it's going to where you don't intend to go. Some there's is some risk to doing this.

  15. Luis Guest

    Remember that any international flights into the US requires passengers to clear customs with their bags regardless of if they have a connection or not. So it makes it really easy to skip the last leg even with checked bags.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      This is an excellent point!

  16. Mate Guest

    I was using an Alaska companion fare with my partner and decided to skip a leg that he still planned to fly. The Alaska rep threw him off the plane angrily when they figured out I wasn't going to board... fair enough I guess!

  17. Mika Guest

    Air France DOES let you start your journey elsewhere in your journey for a fine (3.4B in Contract). It'll cost you 500 euros in economy for long haul flights but it some cases it could be worth it. In terms of hidden city intineraries, AF in my experience is generally generous when there is a CDG to ORY transfer involved. On a couple occasions I have skipped out on connection that landed in CDG (picked up my bags) and was supposed to leave from Orly.

    1. Mika Guest

      Also totally forgot, Italian law DOES let you skip any segment for contract "bought" in Italy. I have not personally done this and I believe it only applies to EU airlines but not sure. You do need to call the italian call centre of the airline to notify them at least 24 hours in advance

  18. rrapynot Guest

    Had a family member who needed to fly SFO-DEN the same day. Fares for SFO-DEN were over $500. SFO-DEN-MIA was $97. You can take a guess which option they chose.

    1. Auric New Member

      The major downside is that if the SFO to DEN flight was canceled, the airline could put you on an SFO-MIA flight or maybe an SFO-ORD-MIA routing. You pay your money, you take your chances. This even happens internationally. I was flying ICN-YVR-YYZ-PHL. The flight from ICN was delayed and I would miss the connection at YVR despite a planned long connection so that I could visit a friend. Air Canada rerouted me on a...

      The major downside is that if the SFO to DEN flight was canceled, the airline could put you on an SFO-MIA flight or maybe an SFO-ORD-MIA routing. You pay your money, you take your chances. This even happens internationally. I was flying ICN-YVR-YYZ-PHL. The flight from ICN was delayed and I would miss the connection at YVR despite a planned long connection so that I could visit a friend. Air Canada rerouted me on a direct flight from ICN to YYZ connecting to an earlier flight to PHL. I missed having lunch with my friend in Vancouver.

  19. William Guest

    What would be really helpful is an article about airline policies for someone who booked from Italy. Because most of them do accept this practice but you have to email someone or call in, and sometimes you can only skip a whole one-way part and not just a leg

  20. derek Guest

    Slightly more than 10 years ago, I skipped a segment on Delta but I boarded the flight. I then ran out of the jetway and was not noticed by the gate agent. Nothing happened that I know of. I was able to use the remaining segments.

    Ticket was

    US city - SLC - LAX - partner airline - somewhere then return the same way. I skipped the SLC-LAX flight in order to do things in...

    Slightly more than 10 years ago, I skipped a segment on Delta but I boarded the flight. I then ran out of the jetway and was not noticed by the gate agent. Nothing happened that I know of. I was able to use the remaining segments.

    Ticket was

    US city - SLC - LAX - partner airline - somewhere then return the same way. I skipped the SLC-LAX flight in order to do things in SLC that came up after booking the ticket. I then paid for my own SLC- LAX later that day on another airline.

  21. Phil Guest

    What about skipping the last segment, one-way ticket, when booked with award miles and the last flight is on a partner airline

  22. GUWonder Guest

    “However, I’ve heard of instances where people have had a ticket on interline partners where a segment was skipped and they could still board a flight down the line. That’s not how it’s supposed to be, and it doesn’t happen consistently, but I have heard of some instances of it happening, and I imagine that comes down to some airline systems just not communicating well.“

    Yes, I pulled that off with a bunch of US-CPH-US...

    “However, I’ve heard of instances where people have had a ticket on interline partners where a segment was skipped and they could still board a flight down the line. That’s not how it’s supposed to be, and it doesn’t happen consistently, but I have heard of some instances of it happening, and I imagine that comes down to some airline systems just not communicating well.“

    Yes, I pulled that off with a bunch of US-CPH-US tickets that were operated only by airlines in a revenue-sharing TATL JV. I no-showed for some of the US-CPH flights and then still used the CPH-US portion. It was a gamble, but I got it to work repeatedly for a while and haven’t tried it since a few years before Covid-19. I was surprised it worked the first time and even more surprised that it worked the second time. But then I just did it a few more times anyway. If I managed to check-in online for the return portion of the ticket, I was good to go despite the earlier no-shows. :D

    But usually it doesn’t work like that.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Auric New Member

In 1993, we flew PHL-DEN-SAN with our then 3-year-old daughter. A week later, it was time to go home. We tried to check in and USAir insisted that my daughter had not boarded the DEN-SAN leg and therefore her entire return flight had been canceled. We pointed out that she was clearly in SAN, and must have flown there with us. USAir told us that the 3-year-old would have to fly alone on a later flight since there was only one seat available and the adults could not change their reservations. We said fine, book her to fly alone. They relented and found a way for her to get on the original flight with her parents.

1
Auric New Member

The major downside is that if the SFO to DEN flight was canceled, the airline could put you on an SFO-MIA flight or maybe an SFO-ORD-MIA routing. You pay your money, you take your chances. This even happens internationally. I was flying ICN-YVR-YYZ-PHL. The flight from ICN was delayed and I would miss the connection at YVR despite a planned long connection so that I could visit a friend. Air Canada rerouted me on a direct flight from ICN to YYZ connecting to an earlier flight to PHL. I missed having lunch with my friend in Vancouver.

1
Zach Guest

A couple of thoughts: 1) On an international ticket, you can game this a little with regard to checked bags. Just book an overnight connection in your connecting city (under 24 hours), and you can retrieve your bag. 2) Beware …. If a cancellation of your first flight causes the airline to reroute you to your destination, you may not get sent to or through your intended connecting point.

1
Meet Ben Schlappig, OMAAT Founder
5,163,247 Miles Traveled

32,614,600 Words Written

35,045 Posts Published

Keep Exploring OMAAT
  • November 28, 2023
  • Ben Schlappig
93
BOOKED: My Wildest Review Trip Yet?
  • November 20, 2023
  • Ben Schlappig
8
Redeem Miles For ITA Airways Business Class!