Skipping a leg of a flight - TSA issues?
March 13, 2010 9:25 AM   Subscribe

Any reason I can't skip the first leg of a flight and board in a connecting city?

The family is flying back east in July, from Portland to Charlotte with a stopover in Atlanta. The goal is Holden Beach, 4 hours drive from Charlotte. We have our tickets. A flight to Charlotte for 4 was $800 cheaper than asking Orbitz for a nonstop to Atlanta or Charlotte, so I got the tickets into Charlotte with the connection through ATL.

We have a 3+ hour layover in Atlanta going there, from around 6 am (it's an overnight flight) until 9:30 am, then a 90 minute flight to Charlotte. The drive from Atlanta to Holden is only 7 hours, versus 4.5 from Charlotte, all on interstate, so we are debating just driving to and from the beach via Atlanta.

We could rent a car in Atlanta and return it in Charlotte, which is almost double the cost, so that's the issue with just doing the Atlanta thing on the outbound.

So, does anyone know if the TSA or airline could get bent out of shape if we were to return to Portland via driving to Atlanta and skipping the Charlotte leg of the flight? Assuming bags are not an issue, of course.
posted by docpops to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total)
Miss the first leg of a flight and you are generally knocked off all remaining legs, so there's your reason not to skip it.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:27 AM on March 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

The airline will cancel the remainder of your itinerary if you skip any of the flights.
posted by cabingirl at 9:30 AM on March 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

Doubt you could do this.
posted by dfriedman at 9:31 AM on March 13, 2010

This has been asked before. From my personal experience, they cancel your flight. You are then free to purchase a new ticket at a high price.
posted by Houstonian at 9:32 AM on March 13, 2010

Here's a recent Consumerist story about exactly that.
posted by kimdog at 9:35 AM on March 13, 2010

I've tried that on KLM, doesn't work. I wasn't in the system when I showed up at the desk of my choice and had to buy a whole new ticket. I remember the argument was something like, a booked flight is a whole product and not an assembly of bits of product from which you could choose and pick. I'm sure it's somewhere in the small print of your airline.
posted by Namlit at 9:47 AM on March 13, 2010

OK, sorry for the impulsive posting. Quite an education on draconian flight economics, though.

Thanks all.
posted by docpops at 9:51 AM on March 13, 2010

Don't feel too bad for asking-- I was actually able to do this once....pre-9/11.
posted by availablelight at 10:05 AM on March 13, 2010

Flyertalk has a few threads about this.

The phenomenon where it's more expensive (yet more convenient) to fly between the connecting city and a destination/origin than it is to fly from the origin to the destination is called a hidden city fare or travel or ticket, etc.

It seems ridiculous and unfair, but it's based on the market for an itinerary, and supply/demand for a ticket.

Like others have said, airlines will generally cancel the rest of your flight, and the return trip. People do take advantage of the phenomenon; they'll get off before the second leg of the trip (assuming they want to end up in the "connecting" city), and then beg for the airline to un-cancel the return flight. Or they'll get two one-ways on the same or different airlines so they don't need to worry about a canceled return flight. Try at your own risk, though; who knows if you end up blacklisted from airlines, or barred from frequent flier programs, or other undesirable things.
posted by sentient at 10:07 AM on March 13, 2010

Depends on the airline and the ticket. I will once again plug Alaska Airlines (I am writing mid-trip from Seattle). They are incredibly nice about things like this. I just arranged this week to get off at a connecting city, and pick up the connection later in the week, or if I can't make the last leg, they will let me board in the city I'm terminating in. Partly it's because I am an MVP member and bought the right kind of ticket; but partly it's because Alaska is *always* nicer and more flexible than any other airline I fly, which is most of them.

It can't hurt to call in advance and ask.
posted by fourcheesemac at 10:24 AM on March 13, 2010

Back in the 1990s I did this on AA, intending to fly LIT-DFW-LAS but joining up instead at DFW. I thought it would be no big deal, but I got to the airport and they had indeed cancelled my itinerary. The clerk metaphorically wagged a finger and gave me a ticket anyway, but in today's travel age I doubt they will be so forgiving.
posted by crapmatic at 10:49 AM on March 13, 2010

Also weighing in with the 'worth a try', provided you ask in advance. I was once able to do this for an Ottawa-London flight via Toronto. Think about it from the airline's point of view, and it means they get to sell the same seats twice on the first leg of the trip. Probably easier for the return leg of the trip, by which time they actually know you exist. (That's what it was for me.)

Again, this was before 9/11.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 11:42 AM on March 13, 2010

AA will cancel your ticket; I learned the hard way.
posted by tamitang at 8:08 PM on March 13, 2010

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