How Kayak Hacker Fares Work and What You Need to Know

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Last week, Kayak introduced Kayak Hacker Fares: a new tool that uses one-way flights to cut costs. This past year, competitors Hopper and Priceline have created Hopper Secret Fares and Priceline Express Deals. It was only a matter of time until Kayak introduced an approach to getting cheaper airfare.

Kayak has joined the battle for the cheapest flights, but with a slightly different approach. It’s not a new concept utilizing one-way airfare to offer cheaper price tags on your next flight.


How Kayak Hacker Fares Work

The concept here is that rather than booking a roundtrip fare on one airline, you can save money by booking two one-way flights, each way flying with a different airline. This isn’t a groundbreaking concept; anyone can search one-way fares to see if it’s cheaper to book two one-way flights rather than one roundtrip. Kayak is simply offering to do that work for you.

In Kayak’s press release on this new tool, they explain: “We do the work for you, showing you one-way flight combos right in your search results, only when and where it can actually save you time or money… Instead of making you book one round-trip ticket from a single airline, KAYAK plays airfare matchmaker by finding two one-way tickets that together make a round-trip flight.”

In light of the Lufthansa passenger getting sued for utilizing hidden city ticketing to save on airfare, interest in one-way fares and services like Skiplagged are at an all-time high. Kayak’s Hacker Fares aren’t risky and are a much better option than Skiplagged and hidden city ticketing. However, the tool has other limitations.


Kayak Hacker Fares Limitations

Kayak addresses the limitations of one-way fares in their press release, and they’re important to note if you’re going to use Hacker Fares.

For destinations that have more than one major airport, like Toronto, Dallas, or London for example, some Hacker Fares may have you coming into one airport and flying out of another. Be sure to double check the airport code you’re flying into and out of so you don’t try to catch a flight home at the wrong airport.

Another thing to keep an eye out for with Hacker Fares is baggage fees. Perhaps you’re flying one airline to your destination that includes a free carry-on bag, but the airline you’re flying back home does not. Make sure to note this when considering a Hacker Fare and see what both of the one-way tickets include. Don’t get stuck with a bag you can’t carry on and end up paying to bring home.


This hacker fare includes a carry on bag on the outbound flight but not the return


If you’re traveling for an extended time with a multi-city reservation, you may want to keep all your one-way flight itineraries on hand. Some countries’ border control will want to see that you have a flight home booked and aren’t skirting around visa fees.

It’s important to keep in mind that one-way fares aren’t always cheaper than roundtrip tickets. In fact, if you’re looking for an international flight, roundtrip is oftentimes much cheaper than two one-way flights. Generally speaking, using one-way flights through Kayak Hacker Fares will work best on domestic flights within the U.S. and intra-Europe flights. Hacker Fares may also work with budget carriers like Norwegian and LEVEL.

You’re likely not going to see the three legacy carriers — American, Delta, and United — with cheap international one-way flights. Roundtrip flights out of the U.S. are generally still cheaper.


Where Can I See Hacker Fares on Kayak?

After searching normally on Kayak, if there’s a cheaper option utilizing two one-way tickets to create an itinerary for the dates you’ve chosen, a Hacker Fare will show up. You’ll see “Hacker Fare” listed under the price. If non-Hacker Fares are even cheaper, this option won’t populate at the top of your search results.


kayak hacker

Photo Courtesy of Kayak


If you’re not seeing any Hacker Fares in your Kayak search results, open the Flight Quality filter on the lefthand side of the screen and make sure you’ve selected to “Show Hacker Fares”. If no Hacker Fares populate, that means there are no cheap Hacker Fare options for that route.


kayak hacker

Photo Courtesy of Kayak


Because you are booking two one-way tickets rather than one roundtrip ticket, you’ll want to double check that both one-way tickets are available at the price Kayak quoted you. Before booking, open each booking page for the two one-way flights in a new tab and be sure the flight is still available at that price. Then, proceed to book both the one-way flights.


When Do Hacker Fares Work Best?

Kayak Hacker Fares are likely most useful when you’re looking for a cheap domestic flight for your next trip within the U.S. However, one-way flights won’t always yield the cheapest results, even for domestic flights. I did a bit of searching for cheap domestic fares on Kayak, but couldn’t find any Hacker Fares that were cheaper than regular roundtrip fares from my departure airport at this time.


kayak hacker

Kayak Hacker Fares are not always the cheapest option.


I recommend always starting your search on Google Flights. In fact, you can simply check how cheap one-way fares are for your next trip on Google Flights and do your own “Hacker Fare” searching.

New to Google Flights? Check out our guide to Google Flights and start using one of our favorite tools to find cheap flights.

Generally, one-way flights and Kayak Hacker Fares likely won’t get you any cheaper international flights than a roundtrip fare. If you’re looking for the absolute cheapest flights to Europe, the Caribbean, Asia, and beyond, sign up for Thrifty Traveler Premium.

Our team is searching 24/7 to find mistake fares, unadvertised flash sales, and international flight deals that save you $250 – $500 or more on each flight. Learn more about how Thrifty Traveler Premium works.


Bottom Line

You should approach Kayak’s new Hacker Fares like you do Hopper’s Secret Fares and Priceline’s Express Deals. Treat this as one tool in your toolbox to find cheap flights. Diversify your cheap flight toolkit beyond just the Kayak Hacker Fares by adding Google Flights and Thrifty Traveler Premium to your arsenal.

Kayak Hacker Fares (and one-way flights in general) won’t always offer the cheapest prices available. However, for domestic travel, you may be able to save quite a bit. The next time you’re searching for cheap flights, search Kayak.com and see if a Hacker Fare can save you some cash.


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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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