Last updated: 01:18 PM ET, Wed July 22 2015

Using Hidden City Ticketing? Beware British Airways.

Airlines & Airports | Rich Thomaselli | July 22, 2015

Using Hidden City Ticketing? Beware British Airways.

British Airways could soon be cracking down on the use of hidden city ticketing.

According to the well-respected English travel blog Head For Points, BA is tired of passengers who have been using the frowned-upon – and, some say, illegal – practice of hidden city ticketing.

It appears customers are taking advantage of a current British Airways promotion in which travelers can fly from any German city that BA serves to Hong Kong for 1,000 euros – including a stopover in a number of cities including London and Singapore.

What is hidden city ticketing? Well, until this year when the practice was exposed, it was one of the great little travel secrets that airline passengers enjoyed amongst themselves with very little policing by the airlines.

Though the sun, the moon and the stars have to align to make it happen – including the fact that you can’t have checked bags – it can be a glorious money-saver. Let’s say a passenger wants to fly from Munich to London. It might be 1,500 euros. But then the passenger finds the hidden city – a layover city – for which the fare is cheaper due to supply and demand. They simply disembark at the layover city and claim a cheaper ticket than a direct flight.

That’s exactly what is happening with the British Airways promotion. Passengers have been booking the discounted ticket to Hong Kong from Germany with London as a layover – and getting off the plane in London with no intention of returning an hour or two later for the continuation of the flight on to Hong Kong.

They get to the destination they wanted at a discounted price.

However, ever since United Airlines and Orbitz sued – a website that publicizes hidden city fares – airlines are catching on and being more vigilant about the practice.

In some cases, they will suspend a frequent flier’s mileage account. In others, they will cancel the return portion of the ticket.

According to Head for Points: “Two people, independently, told me last week that British Airways will begin to take a harder line. Both of these people are very close to the situation. The trigger has been the ludicrously cheap tickets to Hong Kong which British Airways is selling from Germany.  … If the final leg of your Germany to Hong Kong ticket is a few months after the Hong Kong to London leg, be aware. Your card is marked. British Airways will be watching to make sure you take the final flight to Germany.”

The first domino fell with United. Now this one has fallen with BA. Expect more to follow.

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