What's Next in the United vs. Skiplagged Case?
United Airlines lost round one in its lawsuit against Skiplagged.com when a federal judge in Chicago last week dismissed the case, saying the state of Illinois was not the proper venue to hear the suit.
But that was just a procedural ruling – United filed the suit there since Chicago is its headquarters, while Skiplagged is based in New York – and the judge left open the opportunity for United to refile the suit somewhere else.
United and the online travel agency Orbitz.com sued Skiplagged.com and its 22-year old founder, Aktarer Zaman, last November, claiming “malicious” intent to bypass the rules in its respective contracts.
Skiplagged is a website that advises passengers on "hidden city ticketing," a heretofore little-known practice among savvy fliers that allowed them to save money. It works by using a multiple-stop ticket and then getting off the plane at the destination you want before the flight is complete.
For example, let’s say you wanted to fly United from New York to Denver and the cost of a trip was $425. But the cost of a fare from New York to Los Angeles, with a layover in Denver, was $300. The traveler would then book the cheaper fare and simply get off the plane in Denver. As TravelPulse previously noted, the sun, moon and stars have to align for such trips. The ticket must be one-way, or the airline would cancel your return for missing part of the original flight, and you can’t check any baggage because obviously it would be headed to the flight’s final destination.
Every airline pooh-poohs the practice, with virtually all having it written into their contract of carriage. Ostensibly, airlines not only lose money when the cheaper fare is purchased, but also for the unused portion of the second leg of the flight as well as any time wasted in waiting for a passenger who gets off the plane at the layover city and is not coming back for remainder of the flight.
Orbitz recently settled its portion of the lawsuit with Zaman. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the online travel agency had asked that Skiplagged not link such fares to Orbitz, lest the airlines think Orbitz is also participating in the scheme.
A United spokeswoman did not say whether the airline planned to refile the lawsuit, presumably in New York, but it sounded as much.
“We remain troubled that Mr. Zaman continues to openly encourage customers to violate our contract of carriage by purchasing hidden-city tickets, putting the validity of their ticket and MileagePlus status at risk,” United said in a statement.
More by Rich Thomaselli
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