Last month, I was planning an elaborate trip and had everything figured out except the last leg — Denver to New Orleans (I’ll say). Flights were expensive so I decided to give hidden city ticketing a try. For those who haven’t heard about the practice, you can find out more about it here and here.
I saved $200 (or around 70 percent) on the price of a plane ticket by doing something that’s legal but is certainly frowned upon by airlines. Some would call it “lying.”
Savvy travelers have used hidden city ticketing for years but I found out about it in classic American fashion. Two massive corporations (United Airlines and Orbitz) decided to sue a 22-year-old kid, Aktarer Zaman. Zaman had developed Skiplagged, a website that facilitates hidden city ticketing. In their push to shut down the website, the companies forgot that we live in the Internet age and that the news would go viral. So mainstreamers like me are reading about the cost-saving technique and planning trips using it.
I went on Skiplagged to book my trip and found the deal I was looking for. I could fly from Denver to Miami via New Orleans for only $182. While I couldn’t book the flight directly from Skiplagged, once I saw the itinerary, I went to American Airlines’ website and booked directly from there.
When the travel date arrived, I packed in a way that wouldn’t require me to check bags. I boarded and about four hours walked out of Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. When the American Airlines folks called me later that evening to notify me that it was last call to board the Miami flight, I thanked them for checking and told them I wasn’t boarding. At no point did I misstate my intentions to anyone (albeit I’ll admit to not having read the terms and conditions when I bought my ticket).
While I didn’t commit a fraud in the legal sense, is what I did morally wrong? I’m sure American Airlines would say that it is, but I’ll take “no” for $200, Alex.
I think about the technique used by United and Orbitz — suing just because they can. If Zaman can afford the legal representation, he is almost surely going to defend the suit successfully. The airlines’ goal in using the technique is to stem their losses. On the other hand, I used a legal (i.e., not illegal) booking technique that stemmed my losses.
Moreover, the pricing anomaly exists because certain airlines have monopolies for particular flights. As Nate Silver stated in his article about the practice, you can “proudly state that you’re doing your part to help the airlines understand the inefficiencies in their pricing structures, and that you’re bringing exorbitant fares more in line with the free market.”
The author requested that his or her name be withheld.