Main WikiMiles News Be a responsible budget-conscious flier: Identifying legal and illegal flight booking alternatives

Be a responsible budget-conscious flier: Identifying legal and illegal flight booking alternatives

06 Jan 2023

In every prestigious amenity, there comes a cheaper alternative only the dedicated and knowledgeable can find…

… and air travel is no exception. 

Booking a flight is a strict procedure because it adheres to established policies and airfares. The average traveler will barely come across discounted and cheap prices unless it is directly offered by the airline.

In return, bargain hunting became prominent as a way for passionate travelers to quench their thirst for traveling. 

Airfares are usually impacted by several factors such as:

  • The length of your stay
  • The day you intend to depart
  • The airline you are booking in
  • The date you will book your flight
  • The distance your flight will cover

To bargain-hunters, there are legitimate ways to get over airfare hikes and one of these is by taking advantage of layovers. For example: You book a flight from New York City to San Francisco but the journey is expected to stop in Seattle, the layover city sitting between the designated routes, before the flight departs again to San Francisco.

Book a One-way Ticket then Disembark at a Layover City

One of the renowned techniques—though disliked by some airlines—to save money from traveling is to take advantage of layovers through hidden city fares. In spite of its low prices, finding hidden fares demands a sense of patience and knowledge of airline competitions. 

In 2013, Aktarer Zaman created, a website dedicated to hidden city fares for the average American flier. He had four visions in mind, which include:

  • Making it easier for travelers to experience the world
  • Allowing flying to become accessible for everyone
  • Fighting price discrimination 
  • Denying the advantageous move of certain airlines

Zaman was sued by United Airlines and Orbitz in 2015 for deception; however, the lawsuit was eventually settled. In response, Zaman proposed: “When you go to the store and buy a bag of chips, is it unethical to finish only half of it?”

Hidden city fares are partially illegal and are not recommended as some airlines are now prohibiting it. Three airlines, namely Delta, United, and American have established policies banning the exploitation of hidden city fares. In addition, American expressed that these fares are strictly prohibited because they modify the purpose of the tickets in a way a passenger intends not to finish the flight at all.

George Hobica, founder of, stated that “For every dollar someone scams, and I do think it’s a scam, that dollar is going to be placed back into the airfare structure of the airlines that everyone else pays.”

Recently, Lufthansa Airlines sued a passenger for partially completing his flight from Seattle to Oslo. According to a spokeswoman, a fare is only rendered valid if it follows the complete flight procedure.

Travel to Your Destination with One Airline Before Traveling Back Home with Another 

Another form of airfare called a hacker fare is sometimes employed by travelers who wish to fly with two different airlines at a low price. Kayak, an online travel agency and metasearch engine, is known for offering hacker fares.

Giorgos Zacharia, the chief technology officer of Kayak, claims “hacker fares are what Kayak does to discover cheapness, but also more diversity in results in terms of flight schedules.” Domestically, if you fly out with one airline and return with a different one, you can create a lot of savings.

Some search engines justify this by comparing several fares such as United Airlines’ USD 321 ticket fare for a complete round trip from Chicago to Los Angeles versus USD 275 for an outbound trip with Delta Airlines and a return flight with American Airlines.

Why pay for a ticket at a high price in your country if you can buy the same for less in another?

Airlines are able to place rates on their flights by basing on competitive factors such as but not limited to a passenger’s location (via internet protocol address), local competitions, wealth of consumers, and their willingness to engage in air travel. 

Because virtual private networks (VPN) are legal in the United States, American citizens can subscribe to VPNs to access airline search engines of other countries and purchase resident fares.

Air China, an airline based in Beijing, will charge USD 739 for a flight from San Francisco to Beijing when a booker is using a VPN. However, internal flights in a foreign country is a different story. A fare from Buenos Aires and Bariloche in Argentina differ between a device with and without a VPN. With a VPN, the fare is only USD 249; however, the fare is USD 302 without a VPN.

Tierra Hotels, a foreign travel agent that operates in Atacama Desert, Patagonia, and Lakes regions in Chile, is known for directing North American guests to Cocha, a Santiago-based travel agency. 

Cocha offers round-trips between Santiago and Punta Arenas for USD 262. On the other hand, searching the same flight in Latam Airlines results in a fare of USD 324.

Arrive at One Destination and Leave From Another Area

Open-jaw tickets allow a traveler to fly to one destination and leave from another. For example: A traveler who flies from New York to London can return home by taking the Eurostar train leading to continental Europe before flying back from Paris instead of London.

Oftentimes, one-way flights outside the United States are offered at a high rate even if numerous airlines and search engines offer multi-stop services.

Open-jaw intends to expound more on these services by providing options within the same airlines. Flying to Heathrow and returning from Gatwick, despite both being London airports, is an example of an open-jaw booking.

Other examples are flights between London and Paris:

  • Flying from London City Airport to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport has a round-trip fare of USD 182. However, flying on an Air France flight between Heathrow and Charles de Gaulle is estimated to cost USD 197.
  • Outbound flight from Paris Charles de Gaulle to Heathrow and return flight from London Southend Airport to Paris via easyJet carrier is priced at USD 170—one of the cheapest fares.

Employing these hacks on your next flight is key to achieving an affordable journey, though you must utilize these at your own risks. For instance, hidden city fares are now illegal in numerous airlines and you may get penalized if you are caught incorporating it in your flight. As alternatives, resident and hacker fares, and open-jaw tickets are your best bets to make the most out of your budget.


If you are a road warrior or just an avid traveler you can realize significant savings by applying different travel planning strategies such as nesting and bundling trips, use of stopover and much more.  Those strategies are are discussed in detail below


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