Lawsuit accuses website of deception as it allows travelers to book typically cheaper connecting flight and get off after first leg
Aug 19 (Guardian) - American Airlines has filed a lawsuit against Skiplagged, a travel website for cheap flights that shows “hidden-city” ticketing trips.
The lawsuit, which American filed this week in federal court in Fort Worth, Texas, accuses Skiplagged of deception, as the website allows travelers to book a connecting flight that is typically cheaper than a non-stop flight and not flying to the route’s final destination.
According to American, Skiplagged “employs unauthorized and deceptive ticketing practices, entices consumers to participate in those deceptive practices by promising savings, and then doesn’t deliver”.
“Instead, Skiplagged often charges consumers more than if they had booked a ticket directly with American or through an authorized agent of American,” the lawsuit said.
It went on to accuse Skiplagged of deceiving the public into believing that “even though it has no authority to form and issue a contract on American’s behalf, somehow it can still issue a completely valid ticket”.
The lawsuit also alleges that Skiplagged deceives customers into believing that the American fares it displays “will give the consumer access to some kind of secret ‘loophole’.” However, many of the fares shown on Skiplagged are actually higher than what customers would pay if they purchased a ticket directly from American’s website or through an official authorized American agent, it said.
American went on to threaten to cancel every ticket sold by Skiplagged, saying: “Every ‘ticket’ used by Skiplagged is at risk of being invalidated.”
In addition to the lawsuit seeking a permanent injunction requiring Skiplagged to comply with the airline restrictions, it seeks an accounting of all sales of American flights made by Skiplagged, an accounting of all sales of American flights made by Skiplagged through any other travel agencies, statutory damages, as well as all actual damages that American has incurred as a result of Skiplagged’s actions.
Although the practice of “skiplagging” is generally not illegal, multiple airlines have cracked down on the loophole as they argue that the practice violates their policies.
Moreover, there are certain restrictions that passengers may face when they skiplag. For instance, the process will not work if the traveler chooses to check in luggage, as the luggage is typically tagged to the passenger’s final destination.
Moreover, the practice works only for one-way tickets since if one portion of the flight is skipped, then the rest of the flight reservation gets canceled, as various travel websites warn. For passengers seeking to embark on round trips, two separate one-way tickets would be required.
Last month, American banned a 17-year-old from flying on its aircraft for three years after he planned to disembark in Charlotte, North Carolina, after flying from Gainesville, Florida, despite having New York City listed as his ticket’s final destination.
“His ticket was canceled and he was banned from AA for three years but never actually did anything wrong. He never even got his boarding pass,” the teenage boy’s father, Hunter Parsons, told Insider last month.
“He was left to fend for himself 500 miles from home. He never violated any policy or broke any contract. He simply went to a counter to get his boarding pass,” he added.
In January 2021, American issued a notice to travel agents that it will start monitoring “skiplag” bookings.
American’s lawsuit against Skiplagged follows an earlier lawsuit filed by United Airlines and travel agency Orbitz against the company in 2014. The lawsuit which was filed against the Skiplagged founder, Aktarer Zaman, accused him of “intentionally and maliciously” interfering with their operations and advertising “prohibited forms of travel”.
This article originally appeared on The Guardian