One of the most common questions I receive at Award Expert is can I just skip that segment? The answer is no, unless it is the last segment of the ticket.
The question is innately reasonable. Most people assume their flights are like individual commodities and can be used (or not used) as desired. And such logic make sense, on the surface. After all, if I pay for Chicago to New York to London, why does it matter if I want to skip the Chicago to New York segment and start in New York? That’s actually costing the airline less because I am taking one less flight, right?
But that is not the way airline pricing works. The distance (or number of segments) of the trip is not correlated to the price. A Pittsburgh to Los Angeles flight (2,136 miles) will often be much cheaper than a Pittsburgh to New York flight (340 miles). It’s all about supply and demand between origin and destination. In the opaque world of airline pricing, they sell you tickets between two points, not to the stops in between.
Thus, airlines have a vested interest in ensuring that you do not take advantage of more attractive fares to skip segments. The result: if you skip a segment in the middle of a trip, the remaining segments will be cancelled.
Don’t fight it. It is the way this it. Just accept it.
Of course there are exceptions. Let’s say you’re flying from Indianapolis to Chicago to Brussels and your Indianapolis to Chicago flight is delayed. If you decide to drive and let the airline know what you are doing, they will make a note on your reservation not to cancel further segments.
Some low-cost-carirers, like Ryanair, will not penalize you if you skip a flight as part of a larger itinerary. One loyalty programs, Lufthansa Miles & More, will let you fly segments out of order for a fee.
The Segment You Can Skip
Remember the rule: if you skip a segment in the middle of a trip, the remaining segments will be cancelled. But what if you just want to skip the last segment? That’s no problem, because there will be no further segments to cancel.
Be careful, though. If you have a round-trip ticket booked you cannot skip the last segment of your outbound unless you are willing to accept your return also being canceled.
When done strategically to save money, this practice is called “Hidden City Ticketing” or “Throw Away ticketing”. While I personally do not engage in these practices for fear of my United MileagePlus account being shut down, I’ve never heard of anyone actually being shut down or sent a bill for engaging in these practices. They are not illegal, just prohibited by the fare rules. The general consensus is that as long as you don’t make a habit of skipping last segments, you’ll never have a problem.
While very clear to many, the number of times I’ve been asked recently about skipping segments indicates this is a point of confusion. Remember, once you skip a segment the rest of your trip will be canceled.