In a short term win for travelers everywhere, a judge for the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, dismissed the United Airlines lawsuit against the “hidden city” airfare website Skiplagged.
A “hidden city” ticket refers to a ticket purchase whereby the layover is the intended destination, however, the full flight is actually lower in price. For example, if a traveler intends to end up in Detroit, a ticket to California with a layover in Detroit may be cheaper. The traveler in turn gets off the plane at the layover city and simply does not catch the last leg of the flight. As a catch, the traveler cannot check a bag and the act typically violates an airlines rewards points program. While finding these “hidden city” fairs used to be labor intensive, Skiplagged founder Aktar Zaman, has created a computer code making them easier to find.
United Airlines argues that the “hidden city” scheme violates fare rules. In addition to violating the airlines contract of carriage and potentially having traveler miles accounts confiscated and closed, the process also captures seats that end up unused.
On the other hand, Zaman argues that they simply exercise their first amendment right to publish public information and what people choose to do with that information is their decision.
Although the case was dismissed this is just the beginning for the airline and website battle, as the court stated the dismissal was based on procedural grounds rather than merits. Zaman, a resident of New York, argued that the case has no relevant and meaningful connection to Illinois and the judge agreed. United is free to refile against the “hidden city” website.