CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WJZY) – The purchased flight was from Gainesville, Florida to New York City with a layover in Charlotte, North Carolina. The plan was for Hunter Parsons’ teenage son to get off the plane in Charlotte, where he lives, and not continue to New York City.
The practice — booking whole flights but getting off at the layover — is frowned upon in the airline industry. It’s known as hidden city ticketing, point beyond ticketing, and skip lagging.
And even though Parsons says his family has used skip lagging resource Skip Lagged for the past five to eight years, he says he never would have put his son in this predicament if he knew what would happen.
Hunter says 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,” the elder Parsons told Nexstar’s WJZY. That’s when an American Airlines representative reportedly canceled the ticket and made the family purchase a new direct flight ticket.
Aviation attorney Bruce Brandon says the alleged interaction seems a bit harsh.
“It’s the first time he’s flown, and he really doesn’t know what he is doing,” said Brandon, as he listened to some facts of the interaction. “… 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.”
Other major airlines, like Delta and United, also prohibit hidden city ticketing. 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.
According to Brandon, airlines have been cracking down on hidden city ticketing. In 2018, German carrier Lufthansa brought a lawsuit against a passenger but later dropped it. Brandon believes there is a bigger question that needs to be answered.
“Was it a security issue or was it a contract issue?” added Brandon. “Was he held against his will in that back room?”
When asked what he would have liked to see happen, Parsons told WJZY he wishes his son would have received “a stern warning,” but that “to put a minor in that situation was really the reason we have a concern.”
A spokesperson for the airlines 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.