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United, US Airways, American, and Delta among others rely on award charts to determine the price of your award. This method generally makes sense, but it also opens the airlines up to the hidden city trick.

If you can route through your desired destination on the way to a region that costs fewer miles, you can save miles as long as you travel with only carry ons.

Let me give an example that reader Ryan just emailed me:

Bangkok to Fiji costs 15,000 United miles oneway in economy and can route through Auckland on the Air New Zealand flight to Fiji.

Bangkok to Auckland to  Fiji for 15k oneway

Bangkok to Auckland costs 30,000 United miles oneway in economy.

Bangkok to Auckland for 30k oneway

That means adding Auckland to Fiji onto an award from Bangkok to Auckland reduces the miles outlay by 15,000 miles.

So if you want to book an award from Bangkok to Auckland, book Bangkok to Fiji instead and just leave the airport in Auckland with your carry on.

If you want Bangkok to Auckland, book Bangkok to Auckland to Fiji and just don’t fly the last segment.

 

There are several examples of the hidden city trick that you can use while booking your award. I’ve talked about some before.

There are surely other examples that will be shared in the comments. The way to find more examples is to look for a way you can route through your desired destination on the way to a region that costs fewer miles.

Things to keep in mind:

  • If you miss a flight, your entire ticket is cancelled, so make sure the flight you are skipping is the last one on your ticket.
  • Checked bags will go to your destination in most cases, but you must collect all bags at your first stop in the US when returning from abroad to clear customs.
  • Intentionally not flying a segment might violate an airline’s rules. If you do this, there is some risk of your frequent flyer account being shut down.
  • Award space is rivalrous. If you ticket space that you don’t intend to fly, you may be shutting someone else out of space he would want to fly.

Recap

Flying from Bangkok to Fiji costs 15,000 miles and can route through Auckland. Just Bangkok to Auckland is 30,000 miles, so you save 15,000 miles by appending a segment to Fiji that you won’t fly.

This is a specific example of using hidden city ticketing on awards. There are a lot more examples, and some drawbacks to ticketing this way.

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