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In early April I'm going to Toronto to Beijing. I live in Windsor Ontario, which is only 20 minute drive from Detroit international airport. I bought the ticket from Toronto, since for some reason its about 250 Canadian cheaper to fly from Toronto rather than Detroit on that date

My flight goes from Toronto -> Detroit (layover) -> Beijing

and returns: Beijing -> Detroit ( layover) -> Toronto

Is it possible on the way back that I just leave the Detroit airport and just drive back to Windsor, instead of going to Toronto then drive back to Windsor? I'm a 3.5 hour drive from Toronto so it would save me some hassle although I do have a place to stay there.

  • If you have checked luggage, where do you think it will end up on the return leg? – Peter M Jan 5 at 5:15
  • @PeterM He could just not drop it back off after clearing customs. – Michael Hampton Jan 5 at 6:24
  • Look up “hidden city ticketing”. In your specific case it should work out, but in case of operational issues you may be rerouted somewhere else entirely, if your luggage somehow gets delayed it’ll end up in Toronto, not Detroit, and the airline won’t like it. – jcaron Jan 5 at 10:39
  • @MichaelHampton, so if I have checked luggage I can get it to Detroit correct? It wont go straight to Toronto? If thats the case I will probably just leave the detroit airport – bob Jan 5 at 14:19
  • @MichaelHampton For some reason I forgot about how special the US is – Peter M Jan 5 at 14:21
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Can I leave on my returning layover flight?

Yes and no.

This technique is called "hidden city ticketing" and I recommend reading up on this either on stack exchange or googling it.

In a nut-shell: the airlines artificially inflate prices on non-stop routes where they have a monopoly and try to protect this pricing by enforcing bizarre rules. Passengers try to get around it and the airlines don't like it.

It's not illegal and nobody will physically prevent you from doing it. However it violates the terms and conditions of the airline carrier that you accepted when you bought the ticket. In some cases the airline will try to inflict some punishment on you. This can range from wiping out your status or rewards miles to actually dragging you to court. The latter though is extremely rare and so far no airline has actually achieved a conviction.

Other points to consider: If you try to skip a leg on the outgoing flight, the airline will cancel your remaining ticket. You also need to be able to access your checked luggage (if you have any). In your specific case, that's not a problem since you need to clear US customs in Detroit anyway.

Overall: if you don't care about future relationship with this particular airline, you can do this. If you are planning to use them in the occasionally or regularly, I wouldn't.

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  • I probably will have checked luggage, since im going for like two weeks. Will I be able to grab it in Detroit? Also, no I dont really care about my relationship with the airline, but if I tell them beforehand I want to leave at Detroit would that be better? – bob Jan 5 at 14:18
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    @bob it could lead to them denying you check in, or increase the chance that they go after you. If you're going to violate TOS, it's probably better not to let them know beforehand that you're doing it intentionally... – vidarlo Jan 5 at 14:25
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    @bob The US doesn't have sterile areas for international transfers. So on arrival in Detroit you will have to pass through immigration and customs and collect your luggage. I'm not familiar with Detroit but at LAX immediately on exiting customs you hand your bags off to be sent to your next flight. However there is nothing stopping you walking straight out the door with them as you are already in the US (with whatever legal status you have at that point) – Peter M Jan 5 at 16:57
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    @bob: Do NOT tell them beforehand. Do NOT tell them anything at all. People miss flights all the time for all sorts of reasons and the airline has no reason to believe that you are doing something undesirable (for them) unless you tell them. It's kind of stupid, since the airline could potentially re-sell the seat if you don't need it. However they have determined hat price gauging non-stop routes where they have a monopoly is more lucrative than using open seats that people don't want to actually use. – Hilmar Jan 5 at 18:19
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    "The latter though is extremely rare and so far no airline has actually achieved a conviction" - this makes it sound better for airlines than the reality - IMHO it is worth pointing out that Lufthansa tried this and failed. See australianfrequentflyer.com.au/lufthansa-loses-case-hidden-city - and even chopping off your FF miles is a questionable option, as such airline might face a court case which would set a binding precedent. – George Y. Jan 6 at 3:55
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Congratulations. You have invented "hidden city ticketing" :)

Airlines hate it. For marketing reasons, going A-B-C is often priced lower than A-B. Sometimes the low fare is due to a subsidy by City C.

Here are the usual gotchas, but you happen to be in a sweet-spot where it's going to work.

  • If you miss any segment, airlines will cancel the rest of your travel segments. You'd be dropping the very last leg of your trip.
  • Your checked baggage may go on to your ticketed destination (C). All your baggage will be in your hands because of the need to clear US Customs.
  • They can reroute you via a different B city and leave you really up the creek. Your "C" destination of Toronto is workable for you. Worst case, go downtown and hop a VIA train to Windsor.
  • They can wipe out your frequent flyer miles. (don't link an account)
  • They can ban you (don't do it a lot)

You could pivot this. I'd wait til the flight leaves, then ask at the ticket counter "Did I miss it? Oh noes! What is my option?" Hopefully it's ridiculous. If not, find a pretense why it won't work for you, "11:00!? I could drive there in that time!" and storm off angry. Now it's a customer service problem, not a hidden city cheat.

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  • It’s not for marketing reasons, it’s operational - if too many people use hidden city ticketing, then the costs become too much to bear for airlines and they will simply split the flights from one to three (A-B, A-C, B-C) and up the prices. Then everyone loses. – Moo Jan 9 at 0:44
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As long as you do not have checked luggage yes you can, I would still inform the airline though out of courtesy that you wont be using the last leg of the trip to save other travelers the hustle.

If you have checked luggage it gets a bit involved and you can probably still do it but you need the airline to help you so just ask them

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    He's flying into an US airport. That means he'll have to pick up luggage and clear immigration. Informing the airline could lead to threats of extra payment... If you don't check your luggage and simply don't show up, it should not hold up the next departure. – vidarlo Jan 5 at 9:44
  • @vidarlo US to Toronto is not domestic he has to take luggge? – Matt Douhan Jan 5 at 9:51
  • US airports doesn't separate domestic and international departures, so probably yes. – vidarlo Jan 5 at 10:32
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    @bob you should be able to grab it in Detroid, since you have to go trough immigration. For most other countries in the world, this would not be the case. – vidarlo Jan 5 at 14:23
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    @bob You will be able to do this. Because the US requires you to go through US Immigration and Customs (regardless of further destination) at your airport of first US arrival, you'll deplane in Detroit, go through US Immigration, pick up your checked bags, then go through US Customs. After passing through US Customs, you'll be in the US. The airline will expect you to return the bags to them, and board the Detroit > Toronto flight. As has been noted, however, you're in the US then, and may just leave the airport directly and make your way home. – DavidSupportsMonica Jan 5 at 17:30

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