Last week The Washington Post published an article about Aktarer Zaman, an entrepreneur who is being sued for $75,000 by United Airlines and Orbitz for revealing a loophole in the ticketing software offering deals.
The workaround for better pricing advises passengers to purchase tickets to a different, cheaper destination with a layover in their desired city. Simply get off in the connecting city and don’t take the second flight.
This trick depends on purchasing two different one ways instead of a roundtrip. Your return trip will be cancelled if you don’t complete the outbound on most airlines. Additionally, you will not earn any loyalty points or miles without completing the itinerary. This approach will only work for passengers carrying on all of their luggage because checked bags will arrive at the ticketed destination.
Airline prices are based on demand between city pairs and not actual miles traveled or number of flights it takes to reach the destination. If that were the case, nonstop flights would always be cheaper. Zaman’s site Skiplagged helps you find a better deal for “hidden cities” by taking advantange of the airline hubs and connections through bigger metros.
While Skiplagged is asking customers to donate to their legal funds on their website, the site is missed within the travel blogging community.
We can easily plug our destination into Google and find travel hacks from all levels of experience and corners of the world. Should we hesitate to share how we scored a good deal due to the threat of legal consequences?
The travel world is packed with bloggers and everyday experts with a wealth of knowledge. Many living abroad make a living by sharing their know-how online. We’re even doing that here on Packsmith.
Zaman’s site found a pretty significant way for travelers to save and airlines to lose. Other bloggers have shared tricks too. The difference being that most are on a smaller scale.
For example, this MapHappy article explains how you can change the currency to get a better deal on airfare. Using a card with no foreign transaction fees and paying in pesos results in a cheaper ticket.
Here’s another from Gizmodo that explains how to book flights through your VPN. This discovery reveals some airline sites know what part of the country or world you are in and the price adjusts accordingly.
Travelers vs Big Business
Zaman’s ruling could set a precedent for future travel businesses, bloggers, and possibly forums. The most unique element of his approach is the platform. He built a website and a business to take advantage of an existing workaround, where other bloggers have shared how-to posts and travel hacks with smaller impacts to larger companies.
In the meantime, this puts bigger businesses, like the airlines and Orbitz, in a precarious position. Travelers are their source of revenue and making it an “us vs them” issue is risky. Not to mention, some passengers will lose trusting the airlines by finding that these secrets exist in the first place.
Perhaps it would have been in United and Orbitz’s best interest to find a solution to make sure passengers fly to their ticketed destinations instead of making this a public battle. Now that the hidden city trick is out in the open, it’s easier for people to get cheap tickets. Also, it’s great publicity for Skiplagged.
As much as sharing this insider travel info is allegedly hurting their profits, there is gain for them too in the network of online tips. Travel bloggers are quick to recommend the credit cards to earn miles, as well as promote places to stay and equipment.
As for the rest of the travel blogger world, I think we’re safe, although the results of this case might change my mind.
United Airlines and Orbitz are suing a business owner for exposing a work around for cheaper fares. By buying a ticket to a different city and getting off in the connection city, passengers can fly cheaper to some hub cities.
The travel bloggers of the world might see a shift in exposing industry secrets on profitable platforms.
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