In recent news, United Airlines and Orbitz have filed a civil lawsuit against a relatively new website called Skiplagged that assists people in finding cheaper flights to the destination of their choice.
How does Skiplagged do that and what is Skiplagged all about?
The website helps travelers find cheap flights by using a strategy called “hidden city” ticketing. Hidden city ticketing is a method where you purchase a ticket that has a layover in your destination city. For example, if you were searching for a one-way flight from LAX-JFK and the cheapest you could find was $300, Skiplagged will notify you of a flight that goes from LAX-JFK-Charlotte for $190. You fly on the LAX-JFK leg but skip the JFK-Charlotte leg. The key is that these only work for one-way flights and you cannot check any baggage.
I decided to search for a flight from Los Angeles to Chicago on December 31st and the cheapest direct flight available was for $468.
Now try a quick search on Skiplagged and you’ll find a flight from LAX-Chicago-Cleveland for $192! That’s essentially a direct flight from Los Angeles to Chicago at a greatly discounted price compared to what I found in a traditional search above!
Now I’ll just modify my original search from LAX-ORD to LAX-CLE and I’ll find that exact flight with a stopover in Chicago…how awesome is that?!
The airlines don’t like hidden city ticketing because it goes against their policy and they are very much against the idea of people abandoning the last leg of their journey. However, the founder of Skiplagged, a 22-year-old by the name of Aktarer Zaman, insists that there’s nothing illegal about his website. Hidden city ticketing is an age-old known “secret” by those involved in the travel industry and many people already take advantage of these cheaper fares.
According to 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. Airlines usually offer cheaper fares for some destinations that are not regional hubs, Boyd said. Many of these flights are routed through more popular destinations. But if a lot of people take advantage of that discrepancy it could hurt the airlines, which is why they want to shut him down.
What do you think about Skiplagged? Are you more likely to use it the next time you book a trip?