US Bank FlexPoints to the Rescue when Throw Away / Hidden City Tickets Backfire

FlexPerks Visa Signature Card

US Bank FlexPoints to the Rescue when Throw Away / Hidden City Tickets Backfire

The purpose of this post is not to debate the moral or ethical issues behind throw away / hidden city tickets, but rather to share my friend’s costly story.  For those unfamiliar with throw away / hidden city tickets, the concept is pretty easy to understand:

  • Flights from City A to City B cost $200.
  • Flights from City A to City C with a connection in City B only cost $100.
  • Purchase a ticket from City A to City C and leave the airport in City B.
  • Gary @ View from the Wing has a great post regarding the pitfalls of throw away / hidden city tickets.

Airlines obviously frown upon this technique (similar to my card counting analogy from yesterday) and discourage passengers from booking throw away / hidden city tickets.  I unintentionally used this technique when I was coming home from Dublin with my family a few years back.  The outbound route was LAX-BOS-DUB and the inbound route was DUB-ORD-LAX on United / Aer Lingus.  I wanted to visit my grandparents in Atlanta, so instead of flying the last segment (ORD-LAX) with my family, I bought a ticket to ATL on Delta.  I believe this is technically considered throw away / hidden city ticketing, but I didn’t care.  It would have cost more money to change my United ticket from ORD-LAX to ORD-ATL than it cost to buy a separate Delta ticket from ORD-ATL.  There is a lot of gray area, as you can probably tell.

ORD-LAX or ORD-ATL

In my case, it worked out for me.  Unfortunately my friend was not so lucky.  He needed to get from Boston to Philadelphia (BOS-PHL) and the cheapest non-stop flight was $180.  He found a flight from Boston to Toronto with a connection in Philadelphia (BOS-PHL-YYZ) for $120 and booked the flight.  His idea worked perfectly until he got to Boston Airport.  They wanted to see his passport since his final destination was Toronto, Canada.  Unfortunately, my friend did not anticipate this problem and left his passport at home.  Long story short, they wouldn’t let him get on the BOS-PHL flight and he called me frantically.

BOS-PHL-YYZ GCM

By that time, it was late afternoon and there were not many non-stop flights left with economy class seating.  I checked on ITA Matrix and found a JetBlue flight from BOS-PHL that was leaving in under 2 hours.  The only problem was the ticket cost $380.  So much for trying to save $60 earlier.  I told my friend I would help him out and tried to redeem 20,000 US Bank FlexPoints for his $380 JetBlue flight (Book Airfare with US Bank FlexPerks).  Unfortunately, the FlexPoints travel rewards website will not let you book flights that are departing in a few hours.  I tried again and go the same error message.  My friend kept texting me and I could tell he was freaking out.  “Should I buy the JetBlue ticket myself?” he asked.  “Hold on,” I said, “I am going to get you this ticket.”  I searched the FlexPoints website and found the number for airline reservations (1-888-229-8864).  I called the number and Dan was there to help.  I told him what I needed and he gathered all the necessary travel information.  He placed me on hold for a few minutes and immediately got the ticket issued.  Side note: booking by phone involves a $20 phone charge, that I gladly reluctantly paid.  I sent a text of the confirmation number to my friend and he went to the JetBlue ticket counter and printed his boarding pass.  What a relief!  It is great to feel like a hero when your friends / family need you the most.

On that afternoon, I learned 2 very important lessons:

  • Bring your passport if you decide to do a throw away / hidden city ticket with an international destination.
  • Have a healthy stash of US Bank FlexPoints available for emergencies.

For more information, I highly recommend reading Gary’s post as he has much more information regarding the pitfalls of throw away / hidden city tickets.  If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.  Have a great evening everyone!

P.S. If you are interested in the US Bank FlexPerks Credit Card, please consider using my referral code (link) and you may want to freeze your ARS & IDA Credit Reports before applying (link).

16 thoughts on “US Bank FlexPoints to the Rescue when Throw Away / Hidden City Tickets Backfire

  1. pointswithacrew

    Yeah – always gotta watch out when you have tickets to a different country. Not as bad as some I’ve heard that have run into Visa problems, especially doing some of the (now-dead) Avianca LifeMiles hacks.

    Reply
  2. Brant

    Great save Grant and finally you are getting into the CC link game!! Bravo! If you get your links back you should push them a bit more as I believe it will allow you to keep them by virtue of the numbers.

    Reply
    1. Grant

      Thank you Brant. The link is just a referral link. Anyone with a US Bank FlexPerks Credit Card can refer anyone else to the card. The referral bonus is much smaller than the credit card affiliate links. I’m not counting on having those back any time soon.

      Reply
  3. whitney

    what’s the best place to go to search for a destination city that you want to throw away and a connecting city that you want as your final destination?

    Reply
  4. Brant

    Have you ever read “Huckleberry Finn”? I loved that book when I was a kid. I always thought that “Mark Twain” was a great writer. Turns out he was very successful, but not a writer at all.

    Just sayin…..

    Reply
  5. Heather

    I’m trying to book a first class fare for my husband that is $551 so 30K flexperks, however none of the flights will show up and the lowest redemption available is 70K. Do you know if there is anybody you can call when available flights do not show up on the website?

    Reply
  6. chrisFlyer

    I’ve found that Avios are often good for booking last-minute tickets on short flights. I don’t know if that would have been an option for your friend, but availability at the last minute is often pretty good, and BA only charges 4500 miles for short flights on OneWorld airlines with no close-in booking fees.

    Reply
    1. Grant

      That was my first choice, but there was no award space that day and my friend needed to get home that day. When I checked ITA, the JetBlue flight was the only nonstop flight with economy class seats available. I wish I had more options, but there was only one choice.

      Reply
  7. Heather

    Thanks for the advice. Not all of the flight were available,but they had many more options over the phone. The hold time was about 20 minutes, but we got it done.

    Reply
    1. Grant

      Glad you got what you needed. I’ve been on hold for 40+ minutes with US Bank sometimes, definitely not fun waiting that long to speak to someone.

      Reply
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