Southwest Is Now Suing Skiplagged Over Hidden City Ticketing

Things are getting messy between consumer airfare savings site Skiplagged and Southwest Airlines. After receiving threats from Southwest, Skiplagged filed suit in New York to get a ruling that they were acting legally. Now Southwest has sued Skiplagged, trying to get the case – which claims even companies who do not access their website are bound by its terms and conditions – heard in Texas courts.

Southwest Aggressively Threatens Anyone Displaying Its Information

Southwest Airlines has gone after people and websites that create tools for customers for years. Whether it’s a website for tracking frequent flyer miles, or for automatically checking in to get the best boarding position, Southwest’s lawyers aggressively go after anyone accessing their data.

In June Southwest sent a cease and desist letter to Skiplagged, the website that helps customers find ‘hidden city tickets’ to save money. Southwest complained,

  • That Skiplagged displayed their logo in violation of their trademark
  • And that Skiplagged was scraping data from their website in violation of the airline’s terms and conditions.

The Risks And Benefits Of Hidden City Ticketing

Hidden city ticketing involves buying a ticket through a connecting city (where you really want to fly) onward to a separate destination (that’s cheaper) and getting off in the connecting city. This doesn’t generally work checking bags (since those go to the ticketed destination) and can be risky in bad weather (because the airline may reroute you through a different city, though I’ve never had difficulty insisting on my preferred routing).

It is against airline rules, but it is not on its own illegal. If you do it repeatedly an airline might sue you for violating its terms, shut down your frequent flyer account, and ban you from flying the airline. But you can save money, you might credit miles to a partner program in some cases or not at all, and most people don’t do it often enough to attract that level of attention in any case.

Skiplagged Filed Suit In New York To Vindicate Itself

Skiplagged immediately took down the Southwest Airlines logo. And they weren’t actually scraping for flight schedules and prices. Southwest, though, still claims Skiplagged was violating their terms and breaking the law.

So Skiplagged filed suit in New York for declaratory judgment. It can make strategic sense to file suit pre-emptively in part to choose the venue.

Now Southwest Has Sued Skiplagged In Texas

Southwest Airlines has filed suit against Skiplagged in Texas. United and Orbitz previously filed suit against Skiplagged unsuccessfully in Illinois. With the live proceeding in New York – and attorneys in the audience with deep knowledge of jurisdiction can correct me – it seems like having the proceedings removed to New York may be possible for Skiplagged.

Southwest complains,

  • Skiplagged gets its data from, which it is currently suing for improperly accessing its data. And that Skiplagged shouldn’t be able to access from what they cannot access directly.

  • As a result of using data, sometimes Skiplagged shows non-current higher prices for Southwest itineraries, which disadvantages Southwest. Here they want to have it both ways – the only way to get real-time data is from Southwest, which Southwest won’t allow. Furthermore they claim it’s Skiplagged that’s acting against the interests of consumers by showing occasionally higher pricing rather than Southwest’s that is doing so by trying to block a tool that helps consumers save money.

How Powerful Are A Website’s Terms And Conditions – That You Never Even Agreed To?

This is an interesting and important case because Southwest wants to argue that its website terms and conditions apply to a company that does not access its website. And they want to argue that a company that does not sell Southwest Airlines tickets is bound by Southwest’s conditions regarding the display of schedules and fares.

Ironically Southwest Airlines was once the underdog, fighting the establishment, as incumbent airlines tried to sue it into the ground and prevent it from flying. Now they’re the largest carrier of domestic air passengers and use the same tactics in order to control factual information about where and when they fly and at what price.

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, 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. Southwest Airlines is run by a bunch of lying, cheating thieves and I hope that they lose “bigly.” I personally will never get on another southwest flight as long as I live and I’ll continue to share my story with those lying thieves to anyone who will listen.

    Several years ago when they launched LAX-PVR service, I reluctantly agreed to book the flight with some friends who were WN loyalists. Unfortunately, southwest cancelled the flight at the last minute because they failed to file proper paperwork with the Mexican government. They did not, however, proactively notify any of us, so a few hours before we were scheduled to leave (to where we had a prepaid villa with already-hired staff waiting for us, so cancelling or rescheduling the trip wasn’t really a good option. Since WN has no interline agreements, and their existing service through other airports was sold out for several days (likely with other folks they screwed), there were no options for us on WN. We scrambled and found last minute tickets on other airlines at a significantly higher price.

    I requested a refund, since they didn’t operate the flight and couldn’t accommodate us within a reasonable window. They refused and only offered “store credit.” I wasn’t interested in credit, as I had no intention of flying Air Greyhound again, and I had already laid out a princely sum to replace my ticket. I told them that if they didn’t refund my money, I’d do a chargeback with Chase. They refused and were nasty about it.

    I put in my chargeback, which WN vigorously fought. They even lied and told Chase that they operated the flight, causing Chase to deny my chargeback. I appealed, and in the process, was provided with the actual letter, on Southwest’s letterhead, where they lied and claimed that they operated the flight.

    I then spent quite a bit of time and money gathering a dossier of the various media reports about folks who had vacations, honeymoons, and destination weddings messed up because of the cancellations (which spanned 4 days until they got their paperwork in order), and ordered archived flight data to prove that the flight was not operated. Chase reversed its denial and ultimately honored my chargeback.

    I was pissed, to say the least, that the flight was cancelled due to WN’s incompetence, and I was even angrier that they wouldn’t accommodate us on another carrier (or one of their own flights). But the true nail in their coffin was when they blatantly lied about operating the flight, causing me even further expense and aggravation.

    I hope that Southwest goes bankrupt and disappears from the face of the earth. And I hope that all of their executives are indicted!

  2. Southwest the absoute worst. Nothing like they were in the 80s & 90s. I live in Houston (big hub for them) & still avoid at all costs…

  3. @Jorge – WN is the code for Southwest.

    Don’t fly them much but used to when I lived in Nashville. Wasn’t bad. Now in an AA fortress hub and lifetime elite on both AA and DL so rarely fly them.

    Today is the exception as I’m using a credit for the CLT-DAL non-stop. Except it to be typical WN which isn’t bad.

    Frankly it is all about expectations- when I fly international J I have a certain expectation and when I fly Frontier or Spirit (only due to very low price on specific routes) I have another. Retired and with lifetime elite I can fly who I want so don’t discriminate

  4. Tell us how you really feel Neal. 😀

    Seriously though, I’m fairly shocked that WN would deny a refund to the original form of payment for a canceled flight. I would think that would be an open and shut case. This is something every airline does as a matter of course (Air Canada during Covid notwithstanding) and if they made a habit of it, it would be grounds for DOT sanctions or even a class action lawsuit (although those are tough these days with all the defensive measures companies have put in place).

    I’d be curious to hear from any other commenters that were denied a cash refund for a canceled WN flight. I’m thinking your case was an unfortunate outlier, but maybe that’s not the case?

  5. Southwest didn’t learn from United trying to sue Skiplagged and losing. This is only going to get more press for Skiplagged so good for them.

  6. This is lose lose for Southwest. Skiplagged gets more press, and Southwest risks getting a judgement that settles this issue once and for all (that it is permitted).

    I would also guess that the amount of revenue lost here for Southwest is de minimus.

  7. WN sucks but AA sucks harder

    I should sue AA for sucking

    The seats suck

    The employees suck

    The hub cities suck

    America is a white supremacy country and so therefore the name AMERICAN is shameful

  8. @ Gary — In my world, Southwest and Marriott are in the same — DO NOT USE — category, albeit for completely different reasons. Southwest is a no go because they have no first class or pre-assigned seats. Marriott is a no go because they can’t keep basic promises to elite customers. I hope Skiplagged prevails.

  9. @ Gary — When are the out-of-control commenters going to be banned? The cursing and name-calling has gotten totally out of control. I know you do not like to censor, and I am very much agree with your stance on that subject, but some of the vile, rude, racist language really is beyond what should be tolerated.

  10. Skiplagged was “first to the courthouse”. Generally, that means its suit will proceed and Southwest’s action should be held in abeyance until the NY matter is resolved. Thereafter, if there are issues that the first action did not address, the court in the later filed action may take them up.

    It is a form of stay of proceedings, but the exact terms escapes me just now.

  11. And, Gary,

    You seem to have had the misfortune of picking up a crude gadfly in the past couple of weeks. I’d start pulling down his comments, none of which improve on the blog.

  12. JFHScott: please don’t feed the trolls. Ignoring them is their kryptonite. Luckily, he is the only commentor I have seen using profanity, LSD fever dream conspiracies and illogication on Gary’s blog. He is easily skipped over. He is nothing, a zero, a speck of lint.
    Just flick him away…..

  13. @ P. NESS , I love how AA consumes you and is controlling your every thought. Eventually you will go crazy over this and I will rejoice !!!

  14. Looks like we have a bunch of 4th graders commenting. There is a Vagina, Penis and a Dick lol…

  15. Southwest needs a judgement against them. Grow up and compete like the other airlines. Rate comparisons are good for customers. Why is Southwest still against this?

  16. I am a 70 year old lifetime flyer with Southwest BUT unfortunately that came to an end recently. I’m not sure why, and they NEVER give a reasonable explanation, but during and since covid they have canceled and changed a lot of flights out of Columbus, Ohio, my home port. It prevented me from using over $500 dollars in flight credits and now they are calling me a liar because of a letter I wrote them asking to extend my expiration date. I was contacted by a representative that assured me they would personally see to it that 7-10 days after my original expiration date, my funds would be restored and extended six months. Alas, that did not happen. They say they are looking into the matter but I hear SORRY FOOL, YOUR MONEY IS GONE. Looking for another airline.

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