After lawsuits over the years by United, Orbitz and Southwest, American Airlines has joined the fray and filed a federal lawsuit against “hidden city” flight provider Jumped upaccusing copyright infringement, deceptive practices and “other faults”.
In a lawsuit involving similar allegations, American also sued a Czech Republic-based online travel agency in July. Kiwi.com. He also sued the Dallas-based air travel consolidator. GTT Travelalleging fraud and mismanagement of contracted sub-agencies.
In the Skiplagged lawsuit, filed last week, American alleged that Skiplagged was selling its flights and using American’s intellectual property without permission, misleading travelers with deceptive offers and harming the airline’s operations by advising passengers on the best practices for surreptitiously disembarking at stopovers. to continue to their ticketed final destinations. (You can check out the embedded trial below.)
“Skiplagged’s improper actions have caused significant harm to Americans,” the complaint states. “When things go wrong with tickets booked through Skiplagged, American is blamed, even if those issues are the direct result of unnecessary complications caused by Skiplagged’s improper practices. Further, Skiplagged’s liberal and unauthorized use of American’s protected intellectual property falsely suggests that American is working with Skiplagged, licensing its business, and assisting its customers when Skiplagged’s practices harm them. American then loses more revenue when it tries to help solve customer problems created by Skiplagged.
Charge for violations of its Conditions of Carriage and Lanham Law, the Fort Worth-based airline is seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction against Skiplagged’s practices and “damages, including restitution of Skiplagged’s ill-gotten profits.”
Asked to comment on the lawsuit, Aktarer Zaman, Founder and CEO of the 8-year-old company, said: “Skiplagged will fight to the bitter end to protect consumers’ right to find the lowest airfares and we will take away. »
In 2015, in previous litigation, a Chicago judge dismissed United’s lawsuit against Skiplagged for lack of jurisdiction, and Orbitz and Skiplagged reached a settlement with Skiplagged agreeing not to link with Orbitz or show its brands. Southwest also entered into an undisclosed deal with Skiplagged earlier this year. Skiplagged no longer markets flights to the South West.
Bargains in Hidden Cities
While Skiplagged sells standard one-way and round-trip flights (read more below), where the passenger disembarks at the last stop for which the ticket was paid for, the company is known for offering hidden city flights, where passengers looking for a bargain get off the plane during a layover. .
American cites an example promoted by Skiplagged where a traveler wishing to disembark in Cincinnati was promised a savings of $7 – a $169 fare for a Charlotte-Cincinnati-Chicago flight versus a $176 airfare for a direct Charlotte flight. -Cincinnati on AA.com. But, according to the lawsuit, the traveler would end up paying $9 more on Skiplagged, or $185, due to a 10% service charge.
“The very basis on which Skiplagged touts its market disruption ends up being a complete lie,” American claims in the lawsuit.
In this example, travelers would have been ticketed to Chicago, but would have disembarked in Cincinnati to try to secure a lower fare.
Hidden City theft comes with a lot of potential problems. You cannot check in your baggage because you are not continuing to the final destination with the ticket. Skiplagged encourages travelers to only bring a backpack that could fit under the seat due to the risk that the airline may check your bag at the gate. You must also conceal your intention to disembark during the layover from the airline, and you risk having your return ticket canceled and being banned from the airline if discovered.
But hidden city flights can indeed offer great deals – contrary to American’s claim.
On Thursday, Skiplagged was offering a US flight Charlotte-JFK-DCA (the traveler would disembark in New York City instead of continuing to Reagan National in Washington, DC) in a main cabin seat for a total fare of $231. Skiplagged’s promise of “$127 off” was accurate. American offered the direct Charlotte-JFK flight for $358.
Many airline enthusiasts or frequent flyers have long been familiar with the hidden city proposition, but Skiplagged popularized the practice. Travelers may take advantage of a risky offer at their own risk.
Airlines like American hate hidden city tickets, which don’t break any laws, but violate the conditions of carriage.
“With respect to hidden city reservations, when a passenger skips the last leg of their flight, American may unnecessarily delay the flight to locate the passenger,” the lawsuit states. “If the passenger still does not show up, American must determine if she has checked her bags through to the final destination, as the bags would need to be removed from the aircraft for serious security reasons, which would cause the flight to be delayed. . In addition, when the passenger does not show up for the second leg of her flight, the rest of her itinerary is automatically canceled and she will not have a valid ticket on the way back.
Are jump rates a sham?
A recurring theme in American’s lawsuit against Skiplagged is that it “systematically ends up charging the customer more than they would pay on AA.com.”
Although our example above shows that this is not necessarily the case.
The lawsuit contains some alleged examples of higher rates on Skiplagged or its partner Kiwi than on AA.com. The lawsuit cites an American Airlines round trip to Ontario and Reno, Nevada, which Skiplagged originally listed as a $441 fare, a savings of $14 from the $455 cost on AA.com . But Skiplagged’s total price turned out to be $459.40 after service fees. The lawsuit says Skiplagged’s service fee ranges from $10 per flight to 10% of the advertised base fare.
In another example, the lawsuit says Skiplagged users are often charged a higher rate than on AA.com when they click a Book Now button on Skiplagged that takes them to Kiwi.com. The lawsuit stated that Skiplagged displayed an airfare of $751 for a one-way ticket from Washington, D.C. to Bellingham, Washington, but would turn out to be $826 if the user pressed the book now button and booked the flight on Kiwi.com. American sold the flight for a total price of $751 on AA.com.
American said Kiwi, like Skiplagged, is not authorized to sell American Airlines flights.
Among Skiplagged’s allegedly “deceptive and abusive” practices, according to American, is impersonating a consumer to purchase US tickets for Skiplagged’s customers. “Skiplagged knows that any ticket it issues risks being invalidated, and that the American could simply cancel the ticket if detected, so Skiplagged is hiding its activity,” the lawsuit alleges. “He also tells his clients to hide it from Americans. Skiplagged does this by purchasing tickets on the AA.com site while impersonating a consumer, in violation of AA.com’s Terms of Service.
Skiplagged must respond to the lawsuit no later than a few days after Labor Day, depending on when a subpoena was served notifying the company of the lawsuit.