American Airlines has launched a lawsuit against Skiplagged Inc., a New York-based travel website, accusing the company of employing a ticketing tactic that exploits the airlines’ pricing model, leading to potential revenue losses.
What is Skiplagging?
- Definition: Skiplagging, also known as hidden-city ticketing, is a strategy wherein travelers book a flight itinerary with an additional leg, but intentionally leave during a layover, their actual intended destination.
- Impact: This results in the aircraft traveling with an empty seat for the remaining part of the journey, causing airlines to lose potential revenue.
Why is Skiplagging Controversial?
Although skip-lagging is generally not illegal, it has long been a point of contention between airlines and passengers:
- Airlines’ Perspective: Airlines see this practice as a violation of their policies, arguing that it’s not just about lost revenue. A no-show passenger can create operational disruptions, potentially delaying flights as staff may need to locate and remove the passenger’s luggage from the cargo hold for security reasons.
- Passengers’ Perspective: For travelers, skip-lagging can offer a cheaper route to their destination. Given the different pricing strategies airlines use, sometimes a longer route with an additional stop can be more affordable than a direct flight.
Details of the Lawsuit
- Claims by American Airlines:
- Skiplagged tricks consumers into believing they’ve discovered a secret “loophole.”
- The travel website, without proper authorization, poses as an ordinary consumer to purchase tickets and then resells them, even urging its customers to keep the airline in the dark about such purchases.
- Skiplagged is allegedly misusing American trademarks, falsely suggesting association or endorsement.
- The company misleads customers by advertising ‘secret fares’ when in reality, some of the fares listed on Skiplagged can be higher than those found directly on American Airlines’ official website or through authorized agents.
2. Repercussions for Skiplagged:
- American Airlines has emphasized that it has the right to invalidate or cancel any tickets sold via Skiplagged. The airline seeks to prohibit Skiplagged from accessing its website for commercial purposes, selling or reselling its flight tickets, and misusing its trademarks and copyrights.
Past Legal Encounters for Skiplagged
This isn’t Skiplagged’s first brush with the law. In previous lawsuits, United Airlines and Orbitz accused Skiplagged’s founder, Aktarer Zaman, of promoting “prohibited forms of travel.” Skiplagged also faced legal actions from other airlines, including United and Southwest.
Wider Industry Implications
Airlines globally have had varying reactions and legal successes against skip-lagging. Lufthansa and United lost lawsuits against skip-laggers, indicating that some courts view the practice as legal. Interestingly, certain national laws, like those in Italy and Spain, allow passengers to skip segments of their itinerary or have ruled skip-lagging as legal.
The battle between airlines and travel agencies over skip-lagging highlights the complexities of airline pricing strategies and consumer rights. It remains to be seen how this latest lawsuit will play out and whether it will lead to any significant changes in the industry. For those keen on diving deeper into the nuances of airline pricing and regulations, Simple Flying offers extensive coverage on the matter.