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.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

Join the Conversation

27 Comments

  1. I think you miss the point here;
    1) The price difference exists because the product is different, not as a punishment. A direct flight costs more than an indirect flight because it is a superior product and the increase more pronounced in premium cabins as it’s a more valuable difference to business passengers. It’s price descimination much like a student discount. This allows pricing to match what people are prepared to pay.
    2) People are only being sued who have been unable to give a reason for dropping the final leg. Any reason along the lines of the examples you have given demonstrates you booked in good faith and is not being pursued further provided some evidence can be provided.
    3) Dropping the leg with no reason other than to access the cheaper fare is simply fraud and as such the carrier is due recompense.

    You could remove the requirement but if so pricing would increase for indirect flights and supply would drop.

    1. I agree with some sentiment, but your final statement isn’t accurate. This is a free market economy. Where someone can cut a way in with a discount they always will. When they do, others will be forced to respond.

      The point is: any reason is a valid reason, and Lufthansa *should* have better things to do than play travel police and demand or track down reasons from anyone and everyone who ever misses a flight. Anyone who offers any reason at all and doesn’t wave their intention to skip in the face of authorities should not even be bothered.

      Surely that time and legal resource could be better spent developing better products and services.

      1. Assuming it’s a free market economy, carriers are currently maximising profits with the price descriminatiom they operate. If regulations remove this option the profits available will reduce. The market response will be reducing capacity and the direct fares will no longer be able to subsidise the cheap deals to the same extent they currently do.

        On the second point it’s still doesn’t change the fact that it’s fraud by false representation and if there is no deterrent it’ll become more prevalent hence the need to act.

        I love the blog and, combined with HFP, it’s made travelling immeasurably better but do feel uneasy about this article.

    2. Your point 1) is not correct either. I live close to Geneva airport and once I was planning a trip to Mexico. I could travel with Lufthansa from Geneva to Frankfurt, and then continue on to Mexico City, and this particular route cost, at the time, around 900€. However, less than 2 hours away from Geneva by car, there is the Lyon airport in France. On the same dates, Lufthansa was charging almost 400€ less, so I managed to buy the ticket at around 500€, still flying to Frankfurt and then on to Mexico City, same number of layovers, same Lufthansa hub airport. It was not about the quality of the product at all… Is it just a coincidence that the prices were higher in Switzerland where the main carrier (Swiss) is part of the Lufthansa group, while in France the main carrier (Air France) is a direct competitor of Lufthansa for this route?… It’s almost a 50% difference!

  2. I struggle with this issue (probably because I work in corporate ethical compliance). My default position is that both sides in a contract (which is what a ticket is) should be genuine in terms of their intent and expectations; essentially, do what you say you are going to do. On the other hand, if I have paid for 4 segments of travel, then I feel that my obligation to the airline has been met. If I choose (or am unable) to fly 0 of 4 segments, why is that different than flying 3 out of 4 segments? Obviously, they are trying to demonstrate intent at the time of the sale vs, the day of travel. But as you point out, intent is damn hard to prove. Essentially, when I bought the ticket, I agreed to PAY for the segments of travel – not necessarily to FLY the segments (unless the Contract of Carriage states something different)- my obligation to the airline is over. Now, if an airline wanted to place a person on their internal “persona non grata” list for a year, I would probably be okay with that because they have no duty to sell me their product if they FEEL I am misusing their services. But legally, I’m not sure i see a strong argument.

  3. good post. i feel that this is the case in most industries – when the consumer is affected, the company doesn’t care. when they want to set some silly precedence, then their entire force will be set upon you. where will an average traveller be able to afford millions of dollars in money to fight this rubbish. its just arm twisting. I know its the way of the world, but hey, not for this!
    I usually use these deals but I take ‘long stops’ and use them as EU holidays or other holidays and sandwich in other trips for the return segments etc. As my holidays are planned, its easy for me to do this.

  4. So when they over sell a flight and now give your seat to someone else because you missed, they have no loss. You know that will be an issue any lawyer will bring up to disprove their case.

  5. This is the same Lufthansa that laughed at me after they closed the gate on MY connecting flight and forced me to miss the last leg and spend a lovely evening in Munich. Compensation? No – it was weather related of course.

  6. Pingu, you’re crazy. It’s not fraud in the legal sense (at least not in USA). They can drop your status of they want, they can even choose to no longer allow you to book with them, but they can’t win a monetary judgement against you. First of all, the contract of carriage would have to explicitly detail this, but I’ve ever seen it done that way. Secondly, it’s impossible to prove intent. Even if I “waved it in their face” by bragging on social media, I could, in court, claim that I only said that because I felt dumb for missing my fight so I lied about it online to save face. Oh, and lastly, you just don’t sue a customer for breaking your rules… You simply deny them service in the future.

    The fact is, the airlines *do* make money on these passengers. They fill the missed legs with standby and everyone is fine. They need to prove actual damages to prevail in court.

    You sound like someone who defends their oppressors.

  7. BA call centre actively encouraged us to book a flight like this and encouraged us to miss the last leg. So we flew LCY-AMS-LHR-BKK-LHR. And at BKK they checked luggage through to LHR no probs…

  8. There are so many solutions to this, eg finalise the charge on the credit card once the final route of the customer has been established. Customers could be made aware pre-purchase of the cost difference for skipping a segment.

    Or segments could be individually priced, some could be priced negatively. Skipped segments would trigger an automatic refund / charge for the given segment.

    Lots of options to explore, but airlines continue to moan at a problem entirely created by themselves.

  9. If this bizarre “logic” gets any traction, it would be interesting to see how often it was attempted by other businesses. A local restaurant program comes to mind: Souplantation is a buffet-style soup and salad restaurant. Dinner is essentially $12, plus $2.50 for a drink. If you don’t die before you reach 60 years old, you can get dinner and a drink for $9. Under Lufthansa’s rationale, if I took advantage of the senior deal, but didn’t drink anything, the restaurant could come after me for the other $3.

  10. From a legal standpoint.
    Conditions of carraige are not points of law as such you can refuse ornopt out at any time (one reason airlines prefer to settle out of court)

    Next you can also refuse to fly as you feel unfit to do so.

    Another thing to think of, you could email a purchase order for your ticket, stating your terms. I should point out that many airlines dont seem to monitor certain email inboxes.

    No airline has succesfully prosecuted such a case and if you were to counter claim, i think they would drop the case like a hot potato.

    As an aside i frequently do select flights based on price with the intent of missing the connecting. And absolutly welcome the airlines to litigate with me, i can think of endless hours of fun my office would have, not to mention the nice payday…….🤣

    The only airl8ne ff i have is BA gold because they do not seem to mind. Othervairlines like one world……nhave at it children, just dont complain when you loose your butts.

  11. Fraud?? Well then I am really in trouble, because this was a bad week for me:
    I bought a 2 liter bottle of coke because in my supermarket it was marked down/on sale for less than the 1 liter bottle. But I never had any intention of drinking more than 1 liter of soda. should I be concerned that Coke is going to sue me?

    I also bought a monthly bus pass, because it was cheaper than buying individual tickets, even though I only need the bus for one week this month. Should I be concerned that my mayor is going to come after me?

    Good luck Lufthansa. And godspeed.

  12. Is this not similar to the rail fares in the UK that consumers have been using to avoid some of the nonsensical prices for “direct” tickets? Incidentally the Controlling bodies have recognised this and are working towards simplifying options in order that the cheapest options per class are immediately available without having to jump through hoops.

  13. I cannot agree more with GSTP. As a FF with 4mil+ lifetime, airlines have taken advantage of me for the last 20+ years. When am able to, I give it right back… Be a missing segment or even a return trip, once I pay for it, it’s my problem/choice. Airlines will fill the aircraft 99.99% of time. And if by some miracle they don’t, well I paid for it anyways???
    Cheers to all

  14. I understand the issue and I have done it too. But your premise seems flawed. Why does my intent matter? You seem to believe that if you have a legitimate reason to skip the last leg, you are ok, but if you never intended to fly the last leg, then you are defrauding the airline. I don’t agree. What is the basis for that position?

    I bought a Ridgid tool combo set and there is a tool in there I never intended to use. Yet, the bundle was cheaper than the individual tools I actually wanted. Did I cheat Ridgid (or Home Depot)? No, I bought what they offered. How i use it is up to me.
    I don’t see this as breaking the law. Now, LH is certainly allowed to refuse me as a future customer. But that is very different from suing a pax over skipping a leg.

  15. Wasn’t there a recent ruling by a Spanish court that said that there was no obligation to fly all segments of a ticket? I seem to recall some speculation that this would apply to the entire EU.

    1. EU do not have single jurisdiction. And never will.
      There are member states with their own law.
      And it does not mater absolutely anything in Germany what did the Spanish court decide.
      There will be enough member states of EU, who will be against for any such over-ruling of some member state court.
      It is not United States of Europe, it is European Union, what should be ONLY economical union from the very beginning 😉

  16. Pingu, so what your “more money for a premium product” sounds like, is that if during any flight I find the solution to a Nobel prize conundrum, or if I, say, have an orgasm during that flight, I should pay more because I got more out of it than intended.
    Actually, in the above mentioned situations I would, but not if I missed a bloody segment for whichever reason.

  17. All IATA carriers and do called national flagships have the same problem… catatonic nostalgy paired with skyhigh unwillingness to do any proper work. In the good old days Lufthansa and the rest of the pack were like tiger sharks rolling in the blood of the customers… charging more for domestic fares the a transatlantic ticket, the dreadfull APEX marketing instrument for everyone who was forced to buy a ticket on a short notice – the embodiment of this endless greed. Unfortunatelly as tiger sharks they were so busy with their insatable gread and obscene management salaries that like tiger sharks they didn’t notice when they start eating their entrails…Now they are like wounded beasts snaping after everything that remotely resambles a profit… There is only one real preamble: as less change as possible. Low cost carriers have proved that the business work without the tedious BSP and usrless IATA rules but as IATA clings to the sinking ships so the sinking ships keep on cartirng the dead weight… for more read NQRTR

  18. I am an agent who has just been fined over $9000 this week by BA because an employee of a corporate client did not fly the return portion of their flight.

    According to BA in their justification of the fine they state;

    “It is the issuing agents responsibility to ensure their clients are aware the fare charged is only valid if all the coupons are used. If all the coupons are not used, irrespective of the reason given by the agent or traveller an ADM will be issued”.

    You have covered the intent of passengers, so where a ticket was issued by an agent, is it the agent’s responsibility to assess the intent and timekeeping of their passenger, and be held accountable for what they do, or do not do, after we have issued a ticket?

  19. @Ken: Did you pay the fine or are you going to court over this? What if the client had a good reason to skip the last leg, i.e. sickness or whatnot?

  20. On this case I am on site of Lufthansa.
    Correct way will be (as it is already today for some Gulf airlines), that on moment pax purchase ticket there will be information on screen, that IF pax will not fly full route, airline will debit pax credit card for xxxx EUR more. Will be clear and absolutely fair!
    Plus recommendation to purchase travel insurance.

    To using such fairs for other market and skipping last leg is just elementary violating of contract. Because contract was for full route ONLY.

  21. If anything the airlines should be prosecuted for for encouraging the destruction of the planet. I have seen economy London to Australia over £700 more expensive than Dublin to Australia with BA if you catch a partner airline flight (Aer Lingus) to London to catch the same BA London flight.

    GB flights to USA can be twice the price of Dublin to USA flights that fly from Dublin to London to catch the same plane thats twice the price.

    Several hundred pounds can be saved if you catch a third party flight to Dublin to catch their partners flight to London. On a return flight thats an extra four flights that are not required in order to save several hundred pounds.

    Wasted time, wasted fuel, wasted ozone layer— Then they have the cheek to ask if you want to offset your carbon footprint ffs.

    If drivers are being fined for leaving their engine running at the kerbside then why are airlines not being taken to task for creating all this waste and pollution?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.