They say it’s often not the event, but the reaction which determines history. Earlier this year, Lufthansa attempted to sue a passenger for intentionally using hidden city ticketing, more commonly known as “skiplagging” to save money on flights.
It was pretty much the only time an airline had ever actually taken legal acton, and for many, all it did was fuel the desire to try it, or to learn how they could one day give it a whirl, rather than dissuade people from it. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Lufthansa has now lost that court case, which means its open season for the best money saving airfare trick…
So what’s hidden city ticketing? It’s basically a trick which saves money on airfare by finding a cheap starting place or ending point, and not going all the way to the final destination. It can turn a $1,000 flight into a $300 flight, or a $10,000 flight into a $1000 flight, sometimes even for the same exact main flight, just with a leg added at the end which you won’t actually take.
It can mean flying business class for less than what you would’ve paid for economy, which is more than enough ammunition for travellers ears to perk up.
For the Lufthansa passenger in question, it was a matter of finding that tickets starting in Oslo were cheaper than elsewhere, so the passenger booked Oslo to Seattle via Frankfurt. The person lives in Berlin, but even so it was still cheaper to buy a separate flight to Oslo to start things off – once you skip a flight you lose out on all the rest – and then connect via Frankfurt. On the way home, he simply jumped off in Frankfurt, ditching the last leg back to Oslo – hence the term “hidden city”.
When Lufthansa sued the passenger in German courts, a lower court said there was no basis and effectively through the lawsuit out. That’s when Lufthansa filed for appeal, kicking off this whole mess and now the appeal has been dropped and Lufthansa has accepted their fate. Lufthansa is far from alone in hating it, in fact United began training employees on how to sniff out hidden city passengers.
In the clearest terms, it means that there is no legal ground for an airline to sue you if you do this, not in Germany at least. They could potentially take away your miles or freeze your loyalty account, but if you don’t state that it was your intention to do this, then there are a million or more valid reasons why you may have legitimately, accidentally missed your flight, and no action should be taken.
The ruling is not universal and any airline could attempt suit in another country, but after seeing how this played out for Lufthansa, I wouldn’t think too many would be weighing that option too favourably. If anything, perhaps airlines have learned that just like the people who actually do skiplagging, the most important rule of skiplagging is not to talk about it, or tell the airline you plan to.
Now that you know it’s all good news, and that it’s not our fault airlines make silly pricing structures, you may want to know more. After all, we’re just players, playing the game they created. Here’s a big breakdown of skiplagging, including the rules of things you absolutely cannot do if you plan to give it a whirl yourself. There’s so much to gain, and with this court ruling – less to lose than ever. Thanks, Lufthansa.