Use a “Fake” Location to Get Cheaper Plane Tickets

14 Mar

I tried it with a flight from CGO (Zhengzhou) to SEL (Seoul). The flights in CNY were $5 cheaper, which isn’t much in USA terms, but since I get paid in RMB that’s basically a $30 savings! **DB

“Use a “Fake” Location to Get Cheaper Plane Tickets”

by Erica Ho via “MapHappy


I can’t explain airline pricing but I do know some plane tickets can be cheaper depending on where you buy them or, even better, where you appear to buy them from. This is all about leveraging foreign currencies and points-of-sale to your advantage.

For reasons I never quite understood, every time I tried to book a domestic flight in another country, the prices were always exorbitant. But, say, once I was in Bangkok, that same flight that was once $300 would fall to $30 almost inexplicably. This phenomenon is because a ticket’s point-of-sale—the place where a retail transaction is completed—can affect the price of any flight with an international component.

Most people don’t know there is a simple trick for “changing” this to get a cheaper flight on an airline’s website; it’s how I managed to pay $371 for a flight from New York to Colombia instead of $500+. Though it can be used for normal international flights, it often works best when you’re buying domestic flights in another country. (Point in case: A Chilean friend once told me Easter Island flights were much cheaper to buy in Santiago instead of abroad.)

To demonstrate how this scheme works, we ran a one-way search from Cartagena to Bogotá—two cities in Colombia—for June 17 on Google ITA, Kayak and Skyscanner. To keep things simple, I’ll ignore a VivaColombia flight that Skyscanner found because Google ITA and Kayak do not include smaller airlines in their searches. Instead, we’ll be comparing two large airlines that fly this route, LAN Airlines and Avianca.

Unsurprisingly, Kayak takes a U.S.-centric approach. Going the path of least resistance, a Kayak search shows that the cheapest flight on LAN is $116 and the cheapest flight on Avianca is $137. If we run this exact search in Google ITA with New York City as the point-of-sale, we see those exact numbers. Skyscanner returns similar results: the cheapest flight on LAN is $114 and on Avianca it is $136.

Where to change point-of-sale in Google ITA.

Though Skyscanner actually has the best prices, let’s not stop there. Instead of using an American city as the point-of-sale, let’s use Colombia as the point-of-sale, something that can only be searched for in Google ITA. You actually don’t have to tweak a thing because the departure city is usually set as the default for this option — that said, it’s possible to change this to any place in the world you want. The main difference is we’ll get the price in Colombian pesos and that’s *exactly* what we want.

Prices shown in Colombian pesos.

In this new search, the cheapest flight on Avianca is 116,280 COP and the cheapest flight on LAN is 173,820 COP. That of course means a lot of mumbo jumbo to most people, so let’s convert that over to U.S. dollars. The same Avianca flight now approximates to $61.59 while the LAN flight is $91.96. In short, you’d be saving $22.04 on the LAN flight and $74.41 on the Avianca flight by simply paying in a different currency. The price difference between the cheapest flight in both the U.S. and Colombia search is $54.41. That’s how much you’ll end up saving just by comparing the flights in different currencies. . . . .


3 Responses to “Use a “Fake” Location to Get Cheaper Plane Tickets”

  1. Harold Delk March 14, 2016 at 2:49 pm #

    Interesting, but the comparisons are a bit misleading because they leave out the additional cost of currency conversion. Where would the tickets be delivered? All of this works fine by doing the comparisons online, however the airlines can certainly track where you really are by IP address used for the transaction as opposed to where you claim to be. VPN might work. They will find a way to not complete the transaction or may refuse to honor the ticket. Years ago it was possible to buy a ticket to a cheaper, longer distance city and deplane in the stopover city … airlines caught on to that trick rather quickly and upcharged you if you did not complete the entire route. They based their “decision” on the fact that they could have sold that seat for the short-hop and it reduced their income by leaving an unsold seat. Has anyone actually successfully used the method described in the post? The theory is good, but does it work in practice? It could be fun to try … especially at immigration points. “The airline shows you are already in the country; your passport records show otherwise. sorry, entrance denied because you are already here.” To quote the Firesign Theater; “How can you be in two places at once when you’re really no place at all.”

    • deceptivelyblonde March 14, 2016 at 7:35 pm #

      To be honest, I’m more worried about the language problems. Usually, when you change the currency, it updates your website to the language of the currency. I can only do RMB because I’ve learned enough Chinese to struggle my way through. I could probably do a Spanish website as well. But the tickets you buy are legitimate, and I don’t think they can take them back. They offered them up for sale, as long as you do the whole trip and don’t cancel a flight, it’s your choice. Legally, you’d have a pretty strong argument if they tried taking the tickets back. You just have to figure out how to read them in a foreign language. And besides, for all they know you just flew back from the foreign country on a different airline and are now heading out again.

      • Harold March 14, 2016 at 8:58 pm #

        Perhaps they could argue that you falsified your information and therefore the contract in null and void. I could also contend that the transaction cannot be litigated in a US court as is governed by IATTA if it crosses national borders.

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