American Airlines Has Just Issued A Warning To Travel Agents About ‘Hidden City’ Tickets

Serial airline leaker JonNYC flags that a memo has gone out from American Airlines to travel agents, available on its SalesLink platform, warning them that the carrier is cracking down on a variety of ticketing techniques, including hidden city ticketing and ‘churning’.

Over the summer I wrote about American directly investigating customers for ticketing practices that violate the airline’s rules, and more recently confronting customers at the airport and demanding passengers pay up for their past sins against the airline.

Now they’re warning travel agents. Here’s the memo:

Issued:  January 26, 2021American Airlines will begin monitoring common booking practices which may result in an unfavorable outcome.

These practices are identified as:

  • Churning
  • Hidden City
  • Inactive Segments
  • Marriage Segment
  • Origin and Destination (O&D) Manipulation

Further detail on these offenses can be found on our addendum to the Governing Travel Agency Agreement (GTAA) for ARC accredited agencies and the IATA Passenger Sales Agency Agreement for international agencies. It is important that you familiarize yourself with these unfavorable practices as it will help prevent the issuance of future debit memos.

Additionally, please be aware that automation will be rolling out in phases to help us identify these types of occurrences and detailed remarks will be entered in the SSR OTHS Field.  Our first phase will identify excessive churning, and messaging will be placed in the booking as follows:

SSR OTHS YY  RIPA/EXCESSIVE CHURNING

Future phase messaging:

SSR OTHS YY  RIPA/HIDDEN CITY PARTIALLY USED ITINERARY

SSR OTHS YY  RIPA/MARRIED SEGMENT VIOLATION

SSR OTHS YY  RIPA/ORIG DEST VIOLATION CLASS NO AVAILABLE

SSR OTHS YY  RIPA/INACTIVE SEG REMOVED FOR CHECK IN

We understand these unfavorable practices may occur due to confusion or misunderstanding of American’s policy. We hope this advanced notification will be helpful with your future bookings.

As always, we appreciate your attention to this matter and thank you for your business.

American Airlines will sell tickets – and even award travel – on the basis of ‘married segments’. They’ll make a discount fare available, for instance, Oklahoma City – Dallas – London that won’t be available on the non-stop. Pricing the lower price (in miles or money) and then dropping the Oklahoma City – Dallas segment is against American’s rules.

So is buying a ticket from Miami to Dallas to Oklahoma City and just getting off in Dallas, skipping the Oklahoma City flight, because Miami – Oklahoma City via Dallas is cheaper than buying the non-stop.

Here churning refers to cancelling and rebooking the same itinerary, for instance to circumvent ticketing time limits or hold inventory without buying it.

There’s not a lot of revenue in airline tickets. With the government doling out cash for the airline to keep everyone on payroll staff need something to do! However the complexity of the ticketing system turns customers into enemies which suggests to me something is wrong in the underlying way that airlines sell seats.

No one yet has really disrupted that in a big way, however. And as long as government airports lease out prime gates to incumbent players and exclude new entrants, and as long as slots at congested airports are gifted to incumbents and keep out new competitors, it’s likely to be a long time before someone does.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] Gary Leff at View from the Wing reports on an American Airlines memo shared by Twitter account JonNYC that indicates that American Airlines is expanding upon their mission to discourage customers from getting the best possible deal for themselves by warning travel agents not to issue “hidden city” tickets or those that they otherwise perceive to be against their terms and conditions. On the one hand, a pandemic that has more or less wrecked the air travel business seems like poor timing for American to dig its feet in the sand in positioning the airline’s customers as adversaries, but this stance isn’t particularly surprising for anyone who has followed along with AA news over the past year or two. […]

Comments

  1. So what these airlines are really doing is creating a business model that mostly works for them, but is inherently flawed in that it doesn’t always work in the free market due to irrational pricing in certain markets. They are trying to penalize customers for exploiting those flaws that the company itself created.

    As for the guy that posted well above here about using a false address for a 7-11, if that’s your plan, at least have some fun and use 1060 W. Addison, Chicago IL (Wrigley Field). That way you can pay homage to the Blues Brothers!

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