American Airlines has filed a lawsuit against Skiplagged, a website that helps travelers find cheaper flights by exploiting a loophole in airline pricing. The lawsuit accuses Skiplagged of deception, unauthorized ticketing, and trademark infringement.
What is Skiplagged and how does it work?
Skiplagged is a website that claims to offer “the best flights you never knew existed”. It uses a technique called skiplagging or hidden-city ticketing, which involves booking a flight with at least one stop, but getting off at the layover city instead of continuing to the final destination. This way, travelers can save money by paying for a cheaper connecting flight rather than a more expensive direct flight.
For example, if someone wants to fly from New York to Chicago, they might find a cheaper flight that goes from New York to Los Angeles with a stop in Chicago. By booking this flight and skipping the second leg, they can pay less than if they booked a direct flight from New York to Chicago.
Skiplagged helps travelers find such flights by searching for the cheapest fares across different airlines and destinations. It also warns its users about the risks and limitations of skiplagging, such as not checking in any luggage, not using frequent flyer programs, and not skipping the first leg of a round-trip ticket.
Why is American Airlines suing Skiplagged?
American Airlines is not happy with Skiplagged’s business model, as it claims that the website is violating its policies and harming its revenue. The airline filed a lawsuit against Skiplagged in federal court in Fort Worth, Texas, this week, seeking an injunction to stop the website from selling its tickets and displaying its logo.
According to the lawsuit, Skiplagged “employs unauthorized and deceptive ticketing practices, entices consumers to participate in those deceptive practices by promising savings, and then doesn’t deliver”. The lawsuit also alleges that Skiplagged deceives customers into believing that it can issue valid tickets on behalf of American Airlines, when in fact it has no authority to do so. The lawsuit further accuses Skiplagged of infringing on American Airlines’ trademark by using its logo without permission.
The lawsuit also states that American Airlines will cancel every ticket sold by Skiplagged, and warns customers that they may face consequences if they use skiplagging. The lawsuit cites an example of a 17-year-old who was banned from flying with American Airlines for three years after he tried to skiplag from Gainesville, Florida, to Charlotte, North Carolina.
How has Skiplagged responded to the lawsuit?
Skiplagged has not issued an official statement on the lawsuit yet, but its founder and CEO Aktarer Zaman has defended his website in the past. Zaman started Skiplagged in 2014 when he was in his early 20s, and has faced legal challenges from other airlines before.
In 2015, United Airlines and Orbitz sued Zaman for promoting “prohibited forms of travel” and causing them to lose millions of dollars in revenue. Zaman settled with Orbitz, and the United lawsuit was dismissed. Zaman also launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for his legal fees, which received support from many travelers who appreciated his service.
Zaman has argued that Skiplagged is not doing anything illegal or unethical, but rather exposing a flaw in the airline industry’s pricing system. He has also claimed that Skiplagged is not selling tickets directly, but only providing information and links to other websites where customers can book their flights.
What are the implications of the lawsuit for travelers?
The lawsuit between American Airlines and Skiplagged is likely to have an impact on travelers who use skiplagging as a way to save money on flights. While skiplagging is generally not illegal, it is against the terms and conditions of most airlines, which can result in penalties such as cancellation of tickets, denial of boarding, loss of frequent flyer miles, or even legal action.
Travelers who use skiplagging also face other risks and inconveniences, such as missing their connecting flight due to delays or changes in itinerary, losing their luggage if they check it in, or being stranded at their layover city if they can’t find another flight. Moreover, skiplagging may not always be cheaper than booking a direct flight, especially if there are additional fees or taxes involved.
Therefore, travelers who are considering using skiplagging should weigh the pros and cons carefully before booking their flights. They should also be aware of the potential consequences if they are caught by the airlines or sued by them.