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Can one be denied boarding if the airline staff suspect that the person is skiplagging?

Reasons for suspicion can be:

  1. Only cabin baggage.

  2. Long layover.

  3. Visa for the stopover country.

  4. Stopover airport far away from the intended route of the beginning and final destination.

Please advise. Direct flights are 5x more expensive.

Update

Itinerary is: Mumbai (BOM) -> London Heathrow (LHR) -> Nairobi (NBO) -> Mahe Island (SEZ), on April 11th. It's still available to book on the Kenya Airways website:

enter image description here

Same flight costs $1,175 if booked direct:

enter image description here

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  • @jcaron mumbai to Seychelles on 11th April via London; Airline is air India Mar 30 at 17:33
  • Comments have been moved to chat; please do not continue the discussion here. Before posting a comment below this one, please review the purposes of comments. Comments that do not request clarification or suggest improvements usually belong as an answer, on Travel Meta, or in Travel Chat. Comments continuing discussion may be removed.
    – Willeke
    Mar 31 at 14:07
  • Gaurav, were you able to make this flight? If yes, we'll appreciate if you return and add an answer.
    – JonathanReez
    Apr 18 at 15:05
  • Hey, yes I was. Plenty of questions asked at Mumbai airport but I guess the UK visa helped and the hotel and return flight bookings from Seychelles Apr 19 at 16:47
  • It looked like an error fare as the airlines updated it later and on similar routes next week Apr 19 at 16:49

3 Answers 3

17

Like Hilmar, I don't think they can do anything before you actually skip a leg. So there could be consequences afterwards (the first one being that any further legs, like a return flight, on the same ticket will very likely be cancelled, but others could be bans, cancelling miles or your frequent flyer account, etc.), but I don't see how they could deny boarding for this reason.

Actually, in some places, like flights covered by EC261 and its copies, it would be illegal and you would be owed a refund and compensation in case of denied boarding if you meet the criteria.

However, the usual hidden city ticketing disclaimers apply:

  • You should of course have the proper documentation to enter the destination country on the ticket: either have visa-free or visa-on-arrival entry for your citizenship, or have a visa. Depending on the country and your citizenship, you may also need to show a return or onward flight from that country.
  • You should note that in some circumstances, carry-ons can be required to be put in the hold. This is a lot more likely for short haul flights on narrow bodies (where overhead bins will not have enough space), but it's probably not impossible on longer flights. When that happens, there are cases when they will give you back your carry-on at the gate (or directly at the plane) at the end of the flight, but there are cases when they you will get it at baggage claim, and in that case, it will sent to your final destination.
  • In case of disruption, the airline could reroute you via a completely different route which does not involve your original connecting airport: they have a duty to bring you to your final destination, not to that connecting airport.

Edit

Now that we know the itinerary (Mumbai-London-Nairobi-Mahe with Air India and Kenya Airways), a few additional comments:

  • The itinerary is indeed very far from being “natural”
  • It is not available on many of the search engines, but is available from a few of them, and from the Kenya Airways website
  • IMHO, this is an error from Kenya Airways: they probably wanted to include some combinations via Dubai, but ended up adding this routing.
  • There is a strong possibility that either airline could either cancel the ticket outright (if they even issue it in the first place), arguing not that you are attempting skip lagging, but that the ticket was issued in error, or, alternatively, that they reroute you to a more direct route. Since this would nearly certainly be quicker, it may be difficult to argue anything against the change, and now you end up with a ticket to Mahe which you can’t get a refund on and which doesn’t get you anywhere near London.
  • Even if nobody notices in advance, this is quite certain to raise quite a few eyebrows when you check-in. While I still don’t think they can refuse boarding, they still have the option of rerouting you at the last minute.

Altogether this seems like a risky plan to me, but it’s very difficult to guess how this will go.

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  • +1 on operational error - the route is super obviuosly over complicaed, in most cases you would not reasonably expect a carrier to offer a 16k+ km route - with 2 stopovers - on a 3250 km distance.
    – Mykola
    Apr 1 at 18:42
  • 1
    Itinerary is still up on the Kenya airways website, I've added a screenshot of this amazing deal to the question. Most likely it was found via Kiwi.
    – JonathanReez
    Apr 1 at 20:31
  • 3
    Did anyone point out to the OP that quite simply the return ticket will be cancelled. This is not an answer to the question, but just FYI for OP. And yes, as jcaron says of course it's a mistake or mashup that won't be honored.
    – Fattie
    Apr 1 at 23:41
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    @Fattie one-way on this fare is $246 for Apr 11th. A direct return from London to India a week later is $312. A regular direct round-trip ticket with no throwaway is $1300. Still an excellent deal. But yes, OP should make sure they get a separate return ticket.
    – JonathanReez
    Apr 2 at 13:59
14

Can one be denied boarding if the airline staff suspect that the person is skiplagging?

Highly unlikely. Even if they suspect it, they can't be sure. You are not skipping anything until you leave the airport at the connection point.

  1. Only cabin baggage.

Perfectly normal.

  1. Long layover.

Also perfectly normal. In fact it becomes more common these days since airlines often price long layovers lower, so many people go for it just to save money.

  1. Visa for the stopover country.

They have no reason to check that visa so they won't see it in the first place. However, they WILL check the visa for your final destination country.

  1. Stopover airport far away from the intended route of the beginning and final destination.

Doesn't matter. If they offer the route, it's a valid route. Most airlines route through hub airports anyway so a connection is rarely on a straight line. I've certainly had connections were the first leg was going in the exact opposite direction (say Boston to New York for a transatlantic flight).

However once you skip the second leg, the airline can take action. Any remainder of the itinerary will be canceled and you might get banned or status/miles may be revoked.

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  • 3
    Additionally, having a visa for the stopover country is also perfectly normal, especially if you have a very long layover. There’s nothing to prevent you from going into London and exploring during a 15-hour layover, and that requires a visa. Mar 31 at 9:54
  • With most airlines you don't accrue miles for skiplagged flights. Mar 31 at 18:17
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    @NathanCahill: unless you consistently fly with the same airline using high $$ tickets mileage accrual is pretty much worthless these days.
    – Hilmar
    Mar 31 at 19:52
  • You can't do this while booking online, but it is perfectly valid to create a single ticket with a layover of more than 24 hours, taking the onward flight a day later. It's also usually possible on such a ticket to check in your luggage to the final destination, as many airports start accepting luggage on the day before the flight to allow passengers to come to the airport by public transport with only hand luggage on the day of the flight. Apr 1 at 8:28
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It's the airline's prerogative to deny boarding to any passenger, so, yes, one can be denied boarding.

This may sound completely academic, and will certainly be unusual and unlikely, but one such case did make it into the press, last year.

Here, a passenger was interrogated on suspicion of skiplagging, and eventually banned from the airline for a period of three years.

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  • 4
    Yep, if questioned you should never admit to doing this to the airline. That guy was just too honest.
    – JonathanReez
    Mar 31 at 14:42
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    @JonathanReez or, at 17, uninformed about the fare conditions. His father said he "didn't know he was doing anything wrong."
    – phoog
    Apr 1 at 14:53
  • A great and "actual answer" to the question. So, YES.
    – Fattie
    Apr 1 at 23:39

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