Everybody has their favorite travel hacks to get them through their trips (My personal favorite is how to jailbreak a hotel thermostat.) But just because a trick shows up in the media doesn’t make it a good one. Here are two that you hear about occasionally but could end up backfiring:
Using A Mileage Broker
Ever see one of those advertisements online or in the paper offering you huge discounts on first or business class tickets? They’ll tell you that they do huge volumes with the airlines, so the carriers are willing to offer them special rates. Here’s a hint: If someone is doing that much business with the airlines, they don’t need to be advertising in the classifieds.
Instead, you could very well be dealing with a mileage broker. These are folks who buy miles from one customer and sell them to another in the form of a ticket.* Somebody looking to monetize their miles could decide to sell them to a broker, while an unknowing customer could actually be buying them, thinking that they are getting a legitimate ticket.
The problem with this hack is that buying or selling miles is against the airlines’ terms and conditions. If the airline catches somebody selling miles, they will shut down the account of the seller and confiscate all of their miles. The carrier will also invalidate the ticket, meaning that you would lose out, even though you didn’t knowingly do anything wrong. The broker will change the name of their website and go looking for others. Airlines’ computer systems are set up to look for unusual transactions, so it’s not worth the risk.
How to avoid trouble: Use the same common sense that you would with any other transaction. If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Airline pricing is, to say the least, odd. It’s not at all uncommon for a ticket on a 500-mile flight to cost more than a ticket from New York to LA. So you could run into the following situation: A flight from Kansas City to Salt Lake City costs $300. A flight from Kansas City to Los Angeles costs $250, but that flight has a change of planes in Salt Lake? You might be tempted to buy the flight to LA and simply not take the connection, saving $50. That’s what’s known as “hidden-city” ticketing. Sounds great, right?
Nope. Again, you’ve violated the contract of carriage (Remember, I’m the messenger. Don’t shoot me.). You bought a ticket to Los Angeles, not Salt Lake City. But what can the airline do about it? They can’t make you get back on the plane in SLC, can they?
While you would likely get away with the ploy, you are taking a risk in case your flight is cancelled. Let’s say your plane has a mechanical issue. The airline, in its infinite generosity, puts you on American, which flies you from Kansas City to LA via Dallas instead of Salt Lake City. Oops. Now, you’re stuck.
How to avoid trouble: How much of a risk are you willing to take? For me, it’s not worth the savings to end up in the wrong city. But if you do decide to take a chance, remember not to check luggage.
*They’re not actually buying miles per se. Rather, the seller will give the broker access to their mileage account.
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