Last month, United Airlines teamed up with Orbitz to file a civil lawsuit against Aktarer Zaman, the 22-year-old founder of Skiplagged.com. The young man created the website in question to help people find cheap flights using a strategy known as “hidden city” ticketing. From CNN Money:
The idea is that you buy an airline ticket that has a layover at your actual destination. Say you want to fly from New York to San Francisco — you actually book a flight from New York to Lake Tahoe with a layover in San Francisco and get off there, without bothering to take the last leg of the flight.
This travel strategy only works if you book a one-way flight with no checked bags (they would have landed in Lake Tahoe).
It’s not like these tickets are the cheapest all the time, but they often are.
United and Orbitz called Skiplagged “unfair competition” in the lawsuit, alleging that the website is promoting “strictly prohibited” travel. So obviously, they want $75,000 from the 22-year-old for lost revenue. While “hidden city” ticketing has been around for a while, consumers have not had much access to the strategy. Zaman knew a lawsuit was inevitable but firmly stands behind his website with the stance he is doing nothing illegal.
Indeed, “hidden city,” ticketing is no secret among frequent fliers, said Michael Boyd, President of Boyd Group International, an aviation consulting firm in Evergreen, Co. Boyd worked as an American Airline ()ticket agent 30 years ago, and says he was trained at the airline to help customers find “hidden city” fares.
“I don’t think it’s illegal what he’s doing,” Boyd said. But lawsuits are expensive and it could end up costing the young entrepreneur who has irked the two billion dollar corporations. (Via)
Orbitz and United are maintaining a firm stance to uphold airline fare rules but it looks like Zaman isn’t too phased. According to the Skiplagged Facebook Page, he has already raised over $27,000 on GoFundMe to help him afford the impending lawsuit.
If the site is indeed shut down, travel experts are speculating this may actually hurt the airlines as this strategy information is now out there and available. Whatever the case, all this attention has been nothing but great publicity for the Skiplagged and its creator.