Six months ago the story went ’round about the Chinese man who ate free for a year. He bought a fully flexible ticket, changed his travel date each day, used the airport lounge for food and drink and then refunded his ticket at the end of a year.
Lots of folks thought this was a brilliant hack. Although it certainly wasn’t new.
Ever since September 11th and the requirement that you actually be flying same-day to go past security, there are people that have found it convenient to buy a refundable ticket, meet friends at their gate, and then refund the ticket rather than get a gate pass.
And if doing that, you might as well buy an international first class ticket, to take advantage of any available first class lounge while waiting.
Back when you didn’t need a ticket to go through security there were plenty of folks who lived or worked near the airport who would exercise their club memberships for evening cocktails (at those lounges which offered free drinks). There’s a reason Qantas’ lounge was nicknamed the ‘Qantas Pub’.
This may be feasible when you do it once or twice. And in the U.S. But don’t try it day after day, month after month, in Germany.
As I warned when writing about the Chinese case,
[M]any world carriers do have rules in their ticketing contracts forbidding the practice of purchasing tickets that you have no intention to fly — presumably changing the ticket 300 times and then refunding would be sufficiently indicative of that intention.
…this works just fine with refundable tickets, but doing it 300 times in a year likely isn’t replicable without negative consequences.
It turns out that precisely this has come to pass, as Wandering Aramean passes along.
[A] man in Germany bought a fully flexible business class ticket from Munich to Zurich for 745 euro but never actually intended to fly the ticket. Instead he just wanted to use Lufthansa’s Business Lounges in Munich. And so he did, 36 times over the course of a year. When the year came to a close he refunded the ticket and took his money back.
…[Lufthansa] invoiced the man for his 36 visits at a rate of 55 euro per visit. That’s a nearly 2000 euro bill.
A Court ruled in favor of Lufthansa, the passenger had a (very German) duty to actually fly.
It’s a good thing this individual wasn’t using the First Class Terminal or the bill would have been much higher!
Sadly, Lufthansa’s business lounges aren’t conceivably worth 55 euros in my view. But then US lounges frequently ask US$50 for guest passes and generally offer even less!