American Airlines is suing Skiplagged, a travel company, claiming that they’re deceiving customers with a “bait and switch” tactic on ticket pricing.
American Airlines is suing travel company Skiplagged for selling unauthorized airfare tickets and advertising them as cheaper and more affordable, according to Irving Mejia-Hilario of the Dallas Morning News who first reported on the story.
“Skiplagging” or “hidden-city ticketing” is actually a practice where travelers book flights with multiple stops and end their trip at a layover stop rather than the final destination or the booked trip, according to the definition on their website. The company is able to show its users lower prices, because flights with layovers are generally cheaper.
The lawsuit, which was filed on Thursday, alleges that the company is deceptive and has no authority to sell tickets.
“Every ‘ticket’ issued by Skiplagged is at risk of being invalidated. Skiplagged also deceives the public into believing that the American fares it displays will give the consumer access to some kind of secret ‘loophole.’ But many of the fares displayed on Skiplagged’s website are higher than what the consumer would pay if they simply booked a ticket on America’s website or through an actual authorized agent of American,” American Airlines attorneys said in court documents obtained by the Dallas Morning News.
“It is the classic bait and switch: draw consumers in with the promise of secret fares, and instead sell the consumer a ticket at a higher price.”
According to Associated Press reporter David Koenig, skiplagging isn’t necessarily illegal, however, many airlines have policies against it, and it’s only a possible option because of how competitive airline pricing is.
American Airlines has, in the past, emphasized that they’re firmly against skiplagging. One month ago the airline issued a three-year flight ban to a 17-year-old who was trying to travel from Florida to North Carolina using a ticket that listed New York City as the final destination.
“If a customer knowingly or unknowingly purchases a ticket and doesn’t fly all of the segments in their itinerary, it can lead to operational issues with checked bags and prevent other customers from booking a seat when they may have an urgent need to travel,” an American Airlines representative said in an email to the Dallas Morning News. Skiplagged’s website has also warned its customers that they shouldn’t overuse the method.
“Do not fly hidden-city on the same route with the same airline dozens of times within a short time frame. You might upset the airline, so don’t do this often.”
The lawsuit also claims that the company encourages its customers to mislead American Airlines employees specifically:
“Skiplagged knows any ticket issued is at risk for invalidation, and that American could simply cancel the ticket if detected, so Skiplagged hides its activity. It also tells its customers to hide it from Americans,” according to the court document.
In 2014, Skiplagged was involved in another legal battle after United Airlines and Orbitz, the travel site, sued the then-22-year-old CEO Aktarer Zaman shortly after Skiplagged was launched. The airline and Orbitz claimed Zaman was allegedly promoting “strictly prohibited” travel and claimed it was “deceptive and unfair competition.
In a 2014 interview with CNN, Zaman defended his company, stating that he did not profit from the website and he was simply exposing the inefficiency in airline pricing to help more travelers.
“Hidden city ticketing has been around for a while, it just hasn’t been very accessible to consumers,” Zaman stated.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.