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.
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.
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!