A man is being sued by United Airlines and the travel booking website Orbitz for helping people save money on their air travel. The strategy is simple despite a lot of people not knowing about it. The man being sued, Aktarer Zaman, found that tickets can be cheaper when you buy one that has a layover at your actual destination. If a person wants to fly from Los Angeles to New York, you actually buy a ticket to Boston that has a layover in New York but get off the flight when you are in New York. This is known as “hidden city” ticketing and it often does save money, at least that’s what Igor Cornelsen told me after looking at the system.
The two companies are suing based on the claim that his website, skippedlag.com, is engaged in unfair competition. Orbitz is required to follow airline rules for booking tickets for their customers so they can’t recommend this trick to their customers. The concept is based on the fact that when someone wishes to actually fly from Los Angeles to Boston, most people would prefer to go straight to their destination without a layover. This makes sense as that saves the customer time. This is why the ticket that includes a layover can often cost less. This pricing, however, does leave airlines open to people following this “hidden city” ticketing strategy.
The big problem for United Airlines and Orbitz is that they want to shut down this website to keep this strategy from being discovered by more people. Good luck with that. This lawsuit is bringing tons of attention to this issue now, and in a day and age of Facebook and Twitter, trying to keep information bottled up is like trying to herd cats.