United’s Throwaway Ticketing Lawsuit Thrown Out of Court — So They’re Threatening Customers Instead

Regular readers may be familiar with the indispensable guide to saving money on airfare using hidden city and throwaway tickets.

In the guide I explain how to find extra flights for your ticket that allow you to save money, I outline the risks and how to make best use of the techniques.

A year and a half ago a new website called Skiplagged launched to help find those extra flights that save you money.

Back in the Fall Orbitz and United sued to shut down the site. Orbitz settled in February leaving United to pursue litigation alone.

Hidden city ticketing is not illegal (and the New York Times “Ethicist” endorses it), but it’s generally against airline rules, and there are some basic practices you need to follow to make sure you or your bags don’t wind up in the wrong city.

  • You’re buying a ticket from A to B to C, where A to C is cheaper than buying A to B, but getting off in B.
  • You can’t check bags or else they will go to C.
  • In the event of weather or cancellations, an airline may want to reroute you to C via a different connecting city (“D”).

Airlines see themselves as selling you a ticket from A to C, rather than a seat on a plane for A-B and also B-C where you have the right not to sit in the B-C seat.

United’s lawsuit against Skiplagged was all over the media at the end of December and that allowed the founder of the site to raise a legal defense fund.

It also raised consumer awareness about the practice of throwaway ticketing, so the lawsuit didn’t exactly help United.

Now two new developments in the case:

  1. United’s lawsuit against Skiplagged has been dismissed. Because Skiplagged has no presence in Chicago, United can’t sue them there. That won’t prevent them from re-filing, they’ll just have to travel to do it.

  2. United wants to bluster against someone. So this time, it’s their customers.

    We remain troubled that Mr. Zaman continues to openly encourage customers to violate our contract of carriage by purchasing hidden-city tickets, putting the validity of their ticket and MileagePlus status at risk.

Yes, they are warning customers that they’ll find you and shut down your mileage account.

And I’ve always warned that if you do this frequently and put in your mileage number, you do have risk. You may prefer to credit throwaway ticket flights to a partner mileage program instead.

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. Maybe United should be spending their time and money actually working on improving their service and FINALLY installing the wifi they advertise as being on their flights instead of going after their customers for trying to catch a break. I don’t see AA suing these people. If it’s not illegal shame on them for trying to intimidate people. For the relatively small amount of people doing this it’s really stupid to be generating so much ill will and bad publicity.

  2. I’m not quite sure why airlines don’t blacklist customers that consistently book mistake fares or break the ticketing rules. Maybe they figure the bad publicity isn’t worth the revenue gain. Or maybe they can’t deny travel due to common carrier status, Anyone?

  3. I have my United throw-away flights credited to their partner programs because their revenue-based program is crap for generating rewards, not because United is blowing hot air in my face about violating their terms of service .

  4. Honestly, you’d have to be an idiot to launch this website and think UA wouldn’t go after you.

    FWIW, I agree with the “ethicist” that it’s fine to use a hidden city ticket. But I also think it’s fine for UA to go after a guy who’s trying to make a buck off “tricking” the UA fare rules.

  5. What’s wrong with people – not only FLYING United but also CREDITING their miles to the United FFP? Double mistake.

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