The purchased flight for Hunter Parsons’ 17-year-old son was from Gainesville, Florida to New York City with a layover in Charlotte, North Carolina. The plan was for the teen to get off the plane in Charlotte, where he lives, and not continue to New York City.
Parsons told Nexstar’s WJZY his family has used skip lagging resource Skip Lagged for the past few years, but noted he never would have put his son in this predicament if he knew what would happen.
Skip lagging — the once-popular travel “hack” that involves booking whole flights but getting off at the layover — has other names, including hidden city ticketing and point beyond ticketing. You’ll most likely find those in any airline’s conditions of carriage. That includes American Airlines, Delta, United, and Frontier, all of which prohibit the practice.
Even Skip Lagged warns there may be consequences of hidden city ticketing, like your checked luggage moving on to the final destination instead of where you stop or losing frequent flyer miles you’ve accrued. The site also warns against “overusing” hidden city ticketing.
Parsons explained that once at the airport in Florida with his North Carolina driver’s license, the gate agent was skeptical of his son’s final destination. According to Parsons, his son was “interrogated a little bit” before being “taken to a security room.”
“They kind of got out of him that he was planning to disboard [sic] in Charlotte and not going to make the connecting flight,” told WJZY. That’s when an American Airlines representative reportedly canceled the ticket and made the family purchase a new direct flight ticket.
On Monday, Parsons confirmed that American Airlines has since banned his son from flying with them for three years. He told Insider this would have been the first time someone in his family would have actually skip lagged and not flown on the final leg of their flight.
Technically, skip lagging isn’t illegal. But, as mentioned above, doing so is considered a violation of your airline’s conditions of carriage. The consequences of hidden city ticketing may vary.
Aviation attorney Bruce Brandon called the alleged interaction a bit harsh.
“It’s the first time he’s flown, and he really doesn’t know what he is doing,” Brandon told WJZY. “… I just don’t understand why they [American Airlines] would do this.”
In a statement to WJZY, American Airlines said, “Purchasing a ticket without intending to fly all flights to gain lower fares (hidden city ticketing) is a violation of American Airlines terms and conditions and is outlined in our Conditions of Carriage online. Our Customer Relations team has been in touch with the customer to learn more about their experience.”
A spokesperson for American Airlines previously told WJZY they were not aware the teen had been detained in Florida and that the company hopes to speak with the Parsons as part of their ongoing investigation.