Airfare pricing can often seem like a mystifying affair. In recent years, Skiplagged has put one key airline pricing strategy on blast—hidden city fares.
Skiplagged is now doing something else we have never seen before: fare referral compensation for everyone. Flights are now bookable directly through the Skiplagged platform, and every fare deal that gets shared and booked directly through Skiplagged is eligible to earn travel credit.
Essentially, this turns everyone in to their own online travel affiliate agency. Search for a flight, select a flight, and share it. For each person that books, you’ll get up to $25 in credit towards your next booking.
Back Up, What’s Hidden City Ticketing?
Skiplagged became highly-publicized when it made a practice known as hidden city ticketing available to the masses. The basic concept is this: instead of flying from A to B and connecting onwards to C, Skiplagged taught savvy flyers to disembark at B. Why? Often times, airlines price A-B-C cheaper than the direct A-B flight.
Unsurprisingly, airlines hated Skiplagged, and United sued the company back in 2014. At the time, there was so much support for Skiplagged that then 22-year old founder Aktarer Zaman managed to crowdsource $80,000 to pay legal fees. In case you were wondering, that case got thrown out of court.
While airlines still despise hidden city ticketing, there is no legal recourse they can actually take. However, it is strictly against airlines’ conditions of carriage and fliers who make it a habit may run the risk of threatening letters. But let’s save that particular discussion for another day.
Skiplagged’s New, OTA-Like Features
Back in the day, Skiplagged did not have the functionality to book tickets through its website. Instead, it would provide detailed instructions (normally where checkout is) on how to purchase the flight directly through an airline’s website. Within the last couple of years, that has changed and bookings (both hidden city and regular tickets) can be made on Skiplagged itself.
Hotel bookings also became available through the site to entice users to complete their travel purchases on Skiplagged.
All of these features were pretty run-of-the-mill, but did make Skiplagged more of a legitimate online travel agency. However, it’s most recent feature is the most intriguing since the original hidden city concept—a new rewards program unlike any other out there.
How Skiplagged Rewards Works
Skiplagged quietly released its rewards program in recent weeks. Here’s how the program works in a nutshell:
- Create an account with Skiplagged through a social media login or email.
- For each qualifying booking that you make directly on the site, you’ll receive up to $25 in travel credit.
This is what really sets Skiplagged’s rewards apart:
- Create your own Skiplagged custom link, and for anyone that books with it, you’ll receive up to $25 in travel credit.
- For each flight search result link you share and is subsequently booked, you’ll also receive up to $25 in travel credit.
On paper, this is pretty awesome. First, there’s the option to get credit for any flight that is booked with your custom-generated link. Or if you prefer, you can get incredibly granular by sharing a specific flight search result. Mix and match your links freely.
It’s incredibly straightforward to do too. After you sign up, you’re given an optional prompt to create your own custom link. (P.S. This is my link if you’re interested in booking or registering 🤗)
While logged in, search for a flight as you normally would. Click on a result, and you’re given the opportunity to share a specific origin link. Keep in mind that while the link is static, the actual price may change since as we know, airline pricing is a fickle beast. I’m impressed that this is even technically feasible.
Whoa, Skiplagged Has A Rewards Dashboard Too
Track the progress of your travel rewards in a beautifully designed and user-friendly dashboard. I love how transparent Skiplagged is with this information and includes the referring source, clicks, and total earnings you’ve received. This is probably the most level of detail I’ve ever seen on a customer-facing program of this nature. It really is impressive to see an OTA take affiliate and rewards marketing to the next level.
Downsides to Skiplagged’s Rewards Program
This is all great, but how about when it comes down to booking a flight with the credits you’ve earned? And how much do you exactly earn? This is the part where I was a bit let down. In order to redeem your credits, there are three stipulations:
- You can only redeem your credits if the amount is equal to or greater than the flight or hotel you’re looking to purchase.
- You will have to earn at least $20 in travel credits to start redeeming.
- Your last seven days of earnings are locked for fraud prevention.
That second point is entirely moot since you must have enough credits to book the full cost of the flight or hotel. I don’t know what world Skiplagged is in where a flight or hotel is less than $20. Also, it’s annoying you have to wait seven days upon receiving the credit to actually use it.
Another downside is that, unless I’m missing something, there is no clear indication of how much credit you’d earn for each flight booked or link shared. I’m giving Skiplagged the benefit of the doubt here to iron out the kinks with a new program. If they don’t plan to be more clear about earning amounts (“up to $25”), this program loses its usefulness.
Finally, my biggest issue with Skiplagged is that there are service fees when you book through its portal. The major OTAs no longer institute service fees so this a major thumbs down in my book. Service fees look to be about $5 to $15 of the total flight. Of course, if you’re saving a considerable amount of money with a hidden city fare, this fee might not matter as much. YMMV.
Skiplagged has an interesting little program on their hands. On paper, the rewards and affiliate initiative is a smart and unique move to spread awareness about its product. The dashboard is very compelling as well.
However, the overall execution needs some work. I’m hoping that Skiplagged figures out a way to be more upfront about earning amounts and makes it easier to redeem. As the company diversifies beyond just hidden city ticketing fares, it makes sense to appeal to a wider net of travelers everywhere.
What do you think about Skiplagged’s new rewards program?