Banned for hidden-city ticketing — reader mistake story

Apr 17, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Daniel, who got banned from the American Airlines AAdvantage program for repeatedly booking “hidden city” tickets:

Last week American Airlines sent me the “nasty” email informing me that I am being kicked out of their AAdvantage frequent flyer program for taking hidden-city flights. In fact their audit department included a list of 95 flights where I had not completed the final leg of a trip. In my case they confiscated approximately 50,000 points, though quite frankly I expected this to happen at some point.
They did offer to reinstate my points and my Platinum Pro status if I paid the difference, for all 95 flights. That’s probably going to cost me more than $10k, so it looks like I’ll be coming up with some other options. All in all there may be an inconvenience or two, but American is losing a loyal customer who has flown over 90 segments a year, the past three years.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

It’s tough to really call this a “mistake” because Daniel knew he was violating the rules of the AAdvantage program, and it seems that he was prepared for the eventual consequences in the form of a complete ban. For those who aren’t familiar with hidden-city ticketing, the practice (which is discouraged if not outright banned by every major airline) involves booking a ticket from point A to point C, with a connection in point B which is where you’re really trying to go.

As an example, let’s say I plan to fly from Washington, D.C. (DCA) to Chicago (ORD). Those are both AA hubs, so flights between them might be more expensive. Maybe I can find a cheaper routing, say from D.C. to Milwaukee (MKE) with a connection in Chicago. Booking this flight and simply getting off the plane in Chicago without taking the connection would be considered hidden-city ticketing.

In addition to the risk of getting banned from a frequent flyer program and losing all your miles, there are a lot of risks to this strategy. For starters, you can’t check a bag and reclaim it midway through the trip, and if your flight gets canceled due to weather or mechanical issues, you may find yourself getting rerouted through another hub (like Charlotte, New York or Dallas) en route to Milwaukee, when you really need to go to Chicago.

At the end of the day the big lesson here is that when something sounds too good to be true, it often is. A deal doesn’t need to be illegal in order to get you in a lot of trouble (and risk forfeiting your hard-earned miles). While you might be able to get away with something like this once or twice, airlines are actively auditing their members for behavior like this and you can be sure that they will catch up to you sooner or later. Daniel was a Platinum Pro elite with American Airlines, meaning he spent at least $9,000 a year with the airline (or earned $9,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars from partner flights or credit card activity), and that wasn’t enough to stop him from getting banned.

Related: What is American Airlines elite status worth?

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing us to post it online), I’m sending Daniel a gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. Due to the volume of submissions, we can’t respond to each story individually, but we’ll be in touch if yours is selected. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.