Some airlines have a unique knack for shooting themselves in the foot. Just when you think United is the poster child, American tends to come in and quickly make their own case. Like when one of their executives flew to London, broke 14 day quarantine, and then went on Linkedin to tell others how they can as well, and now, during a pandemic, when the airline is using some much needed downtime to harass frequent flyers.
Skiplagging In The News Again
Skiplagging is the “art” of booking a cheaper ticket, by booking a journey which you won’t fully complete, by hopping off at the connection. This is because airlines employ a very strange pricing system, where it can be cheaper to take 6 flights, than just one.
The reasons for skiplagging are simple. Adding a flight beyond your final destination can drop the price tremendously, and people like to save. Some might say, don’t hate the player, hate the game, and yes – airlines created this game.
A simple example would be a flight from Los Angeles to New York, which is a premium route. If you find a flight from LA to Puerto Rico, via a connection in New York, chances are it’ll be cheaper. Without bags, you could hop off in New York. Airlines specifically say this isn’t allowed, but it’s borderline impossible to prove, which creates interesting showdowns.
Now, American Airlines is the latest to take on the issue, after largely unsuccessful attempts from United, and Lufthansa. Fun story: Lufthansa lost their lawsuit against a passenger for “skiplagging”.
People miss things all the time for legitimate reasons, such as being unwell or changing business meetings, and short of saying that you planned to skip a flight, an airline would find it difficult to prove intent. Without it, there’s nothing they can really do.
Making matters further complicated, airlines like American don’t go after their most profitable customers, no matter how many times plans change and they miss or skip a flight. They typically stick to the ones they think they’re not earning enough margin off of, who they arbitrarily decide miss more flights than others.
Of course, if you simply buy a ticket and no show for the entire thing, they have no issue with that, whatsoever.
American Airlines Takes On Customer
Flyertalk, a popular forum for frequent flyers, is rife with consternation, after a loyal American Airlines flyer received a letter from American Airlines Corporate Security, stating that the flyers account had been frozen, pending outcome of an investigation, and the only way to reinstate the account would likely be to make financial restitution for the price of what flights would’ve been, without skipping segments.
The flyer has over 400,000 miles and is an Executive Platinum (semi top tier) member of the program, so there are meaningful perks and potential future trips at play.
This, aside from the other factors to know before skiplagging, is one of the primary risks. If an airline wants to shut you down, it’s a very unilateral conversation, though it’s really only happened over a handful of times in decades, across all airlines. Still, these sort of cases are enough to give *some* travellers pause.
Now Is The Time To Alienate People
The airline industry has arguably never faced a greater challenge than the present. Even with bailout funds, demand is down, confidence is shaken and it may be many years before it returns in a way meaningful to airlines. Naturally, American Airlines sees this as the perfect time to harass people who’ve spent large sums of money for years.
American Airlines is once again in the news, and once again it’s not for world class new seats, safety measures or maintaining connectivity between cities. It’s for attacking a passenger who may plausibly have rapidly changing travel plans, who they think owes them money.
The theatre production may keep a few people from using hidden city ticketing, better known as skiplagging, but it also may just push customers away from bothering with the airline at all.