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How can an airline love it and laugh when you’re forced to ditch an itinerary or buy a new one because it’s too expensive to change or cancel, but then with a straight face demand extra payment because you for any reason whatsoever missed the last flight?

A news story is beginning to go viral regarding Lufthansa suing travelers who skip or miss flights. The case was initially dismissed, but Lufthansa has decided to press on. It’s a news story which alienates enthusiasts while scaring casual travelers and it could be said, that’s exactly why Lufthansa is doing it. There’s no one more passionate on this topic than the one writing this today.

Flights are missed or skipped every day and there are so many reasons why it happens, and even more reasons why someone might actually want to. Attempting to dissect them all is fruitless, and really, it kind of makes airlines look bad. How do you even prove the difference between skipping a flight and missing a flight, and even if you can – at what point is it wrong?

Why People Skip Flights

Airline pricing is a game the airlines, and the airlines alone, created. While for the most part, buying an iPad or any other consumer goods is the same price in France as it is in Germany, buying an airline ticket is not.

To funnel travelers away from their competition and towards their planes, airlines often sell tickets at deep discount from markets outside their home base. In the case of Lufthansa, a Paris to Frankfurt to Hong Kong ticket may be €300 cheaper than just Frankfurt – Hong Kong. In fact, premium economy or business starting from Paris may be only marginally more expensive than economy from Frankfurt.

That’s great news for people living in Paris, but why should people in Frankfurt, or any other hub city, be punished for living closer to the airline? There’s no reason someone in Frankfurt can’t buy a €10 flight to Paris, just to take advantage of the much better prices and still save €290.

Obviously, on the way home, they’ll likely wish to hop off at home in Frankfurt rather than having to go back to Paris and back to Frankfurt again.

Was It Intentional?

Herein lies the issue: if you intentionally do this, you are deceiving the airline. You bought a ticket from Paris to Hong Kong – this is just an example, it works everywhere – and the airline wants to get you back to Paris too. If you always just wanted to return to Frankfurt, it would’ve been a different price when you booked, *if* that was always your intention. But what if plans change?

All airline tickets cancel as soon as you miss a segment, so travelers looking for savings must first go to Paris (or wherever) to start their journey, but if they don’t have checked luggage, on the way back it’s possible to “ditch” the segment. An airline will not “short check” your bags for you to Frankfurt in this instance, so unless you have an overnight connection, they’d carry on to Paris.

Lufthansa, here’s where you alienate people. I’m putting my hands above my head, waving the white flag to let the world know that I’ve intentionally missed countless flights. I did it. I’m not sorry. You, the airlines, set the price and I managed to travel just with a carry on to avoid my bag going to another country. It saved me lots of money in the process, which allowed me to see more of the world.

But then, did I? Or was that just a bluff?

There are millions of legitimate reasons why people miss the last flight, or any flight for that matter.

I’ve lost entire plane tickets because airline tickets are non refundable and change fees are so high that I’ve had to just eat my money and not travel at all, or managed to use half the ticket, but have to lose the rest when plans change, forced to buy a new more expensive one just to get home.

When that happens, airlines sit back in their glass office rocking chairs and high five and laugh at you. They won, you lost, they get paid for nothing.

Their restrictive policies earned money without flying, and I end up buying 1.5 airline tickets just to go to one place. I’ve never had an airline “help me” in this situation, with the absence of a death in my immediate family. They certainly never demanded “less money” to help with my troubles. So why should I give them more for the pricing game they created?

I’ve been in transit back to New York via Los Angeles when a big meeting has come up, or a family emergency, or a limited time cupcake sale has just appeared at my favorite bakery and OMG, if I miss it…

Spoiler alert: they’re all fair reasons.

Some of those are jokes, but they are all valid reasons. If I really “did not plan” to miss my last flight before check in, but an outstanding opportunity such as a limited time cookie sale came up, that could easily be legally allowable reasons not to get on that final flight.

There is nothing in any contract of carriage that prevents people from missing flights for legitimate reasons and it’s impossible to stipulate what “is” and what “isn’t” a legitimate last minute need. You just can’t intentionally deceive the airline. Prove me wrong, I dare you? Plus, when someone misses a flight, standby passengers get on the flight, or the plane requires less fuel if no one fills the space.

Win, win.

How can an airline love it and laugh when you’re forced to not use an itinerary or buy a new one because it’s too expensive to change or cancel, but then with a straight face demand extra payment because you for any reason whatsoever missed the last flight? They don’t demand extra payment if you miss the entire itinerary, so why this one? They just keep your money.

Find me the difference between my last minute, plan changing desire to enjoy a special limited edition cupcake before it sells out and my intention to deceive an airline, to the point where I should be liable to pay extra for the ticket I took, and not the portion I didn’t use and I’ll find you a great career where money falls into your hands.

Down the Rabbit Hole

That may be funny, but what if a partner or a loved one is in danger or falls ill. Are you really going to sue a person to try and recover damages from goods and services which the person didn’t receive, while they are grieving. And what if it’s one of your best fliers, like one with top tier elite status? Are you going to only pursue some passengers, but not others.

Even if it’s one passenger, and one passenger alone, Lufthansa is simply shedding light on policies which could be perceived by many regulators as predatory against consumers. In Spain, the courts ruled that you don’t even need to take your flight segments in order, though it may be a long time before anyone successfully does it.

If an airline turns its back on you and says “them’s the rules” when it works for them, they have no right to meddle into the million reasons why you didn’t make your last flight or any flight for that matter – that is – as long as you’re not dumb enough to tell them you planned to all along.

HT: Airliners DE.

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