Save with Multi City Flights, If You Can Outwit the Airlines

Some airlines are trying to defeat travelers who use multi city flights to save money:

Heads up, travelers.

Major airlines including Delta, American Airlines and United quietly changed how they price certain airline tickets, which means you may have to search a couple different ways to find the actual lowest fares available.

The change affects travelers booking circle trips, or multi-city reservations that begin and end at the same airport. Multi-city searches allow travelers to book multiple one-way tickets grouped together under a single reservation. It can be cheaper than booking flights with connections, and generally more convenient when hopping around a continent.

But cheaper is no longer automatically the case at Delta, American Airlines or United. Last month, the three airlines changed their pricing policies in an effort to stop travelers who figured out that they could use the multi-city trip tool to get cheaper connecting flights by combining two individual one-way legs.

The catch is that customers may not be aware that the multi-city ticket pricing has changed — and they may not be shown the cheapest option when searching for flights. On Thursday, we searched Delta for a multi-city ticket from New York City to Chicago, then to Atlanta two days later, and back to New York City a few days after that. The ticket cost around $800.

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