American Airlines is stepping up its fight against so-called throwaway ticketing by blocking online check-in for “suspects” engaging in this practice. Expect a lot more of this in the months ahead.
American Airlines Cracking Down On Throwaway Ticketing
Throwaway or hidden city ticketing is a simple concept. Airlines often charge more for direct flights so when booking, say, Los Angeles to New York, it may end up costing more for that flight alone than booking Los Angeles to New York to Orlando, even though the LA to NY flight is the same.
Airlines hate this because it costs them revenue and throws off accurate load projections and threaten to close frequent flyer accounts for violators who choose to engage in this behavior. In practice, however, as long as you don’t make a habit of it your frequent flyer benefits are at very low risk. Be warned, however, that you cannot check bags and this only works one-way ticketing since once you miss a segment, the rest of your segments are cancelled.
Some airlines are more aggressive than others in patrolling this practice. American Airlines seems to be one of those carriers.
A reader shared the following note with View from the Wing:
Went to the priority lane, counter agent was pleasant even though it was 5:30am in the morning and he said I couldn’t check in online because he had to give me a warning about hidden-city ticketing. I played dumb and asked what that was and he explained.
He followed on to say that the warning is that they are watching me and if I don’t continue on to DCA on my flight this morning, I will be put on a list and I have the potential to have my Platinum status revoked. I just said ok and thanks and went on my way. Cancelled my flight to DCA as soon as I landed, and we will see what they have to say.
It’s a scary warning, but it makes sense…especially now. My first reaction was, wow, American Airlines agents have way too much time on their hands.
But that is precisely the point.
With the second airline bailout now officially signed into law, everyone is coming back to work. But with flight schedules slashed, routed reduced, and services trimmed, that means many employees have or soon will have more time on their hands. When two people are present to do the job of one, “spring cleaning” type projects begin.
As technology improves to pinpoint throwaway ticketing violators, expect more blocked check-ins and accompanying warnings. After all, American Airlines is back to being fully staffed until the end of March.
Yes, American Airlines is in a period in which it needs all the customers it can get. But clearly there are some customers American Airlines does not want. I am of the opinion that throwaway and hidden city ticketing is perfectly legitimate (and of course legal), but that an airline reserves the right to retaliate by shutting down your frequent flyer account. Thus, I don’t engage in the practice very often and never on United since I have earned lifetime status.
For more casual travelers, though, it can be quite alluring to save (in some cases) $100+ per ticket. Just be warned: airline employees now have more time on their hands.