Southwest Sues Skiplagged Over Hidden City Ticketing
Hidden city ticketing or skiplagging is a trick that let you book cheaper flights. A passenger books a ticket to a destination that they have no plans on traveling to, but with a connection at the intended destination. Since airfare prices don’t always reflect the distance flown, this could end up being much cheaper than just booking direct to your intended destination.
But airlines don’t like hidden city tickets. United Airlines for example wants its agents to be on the lookout for cases of hidden-city ticketing. American Airlines sent a letter to one customer who used the trick at least 52 times. Lufthansa went a step further, suing a passenger who used hidden city tickets multiple times. Now Southwest is also trying to put a stop to it. But instead of going after passengers, the low cost airline is suing Skiplagged.
Southwest Airlines filed a federal lawsuit against the New York-based company, and alleged that it works “in concert” with Czech-based online travel agency Kiwi.com to deceive the public and illegally use the airline’s fare information. Skiplagged is a company that helps people find cheaper itineraries that involve a two-step flight, or hidden city tickets, with the intention at getting off at the connection.
Southwest doesn’t let online travel agencies from scraping its website and selling its flights without authorization. In the lawsuit referenced it five successful lawsuits barring online travel agencies from doing so since 2004, Skift reports. Those defendants ranged from FareChase in 2004 to Roundpipe in 2019. Southwest has sued Kiwi.com as well on similar grounds, and is trying to consolidate both lawsuits into one.
The lawsuit alleges that Skiplagged has partnered with Kiwi to illegally obtain Southwest flight information. It also claims that Skiplagged earns commissions when it promotes Southwest flights and refers flyers to Kiwi.com to book them.
“‘Hidden city’ travel violates the Contract of Carriage that a passenger enters with Southwest and, more specifically, Section 2(a)(2) of Southwest’s Contract of Carriage prohibits ‘purchasing a Ticket without intending to fly all flights to gain lower fares (hidden cities),’ the lawsuit says. “By identifying and promoting prohibited forms of travel (such as “hidden city” tickets), Skiplagged has induced the breach of the Southwest Terms & Conditions and Contract of Carriage.”
Southwest’s lawsuit also says that both Skiplagged and Kiwi deceive the public because the Southwest fares they offer at times come with added fees, and are costlier than if the traveler purchased them directly on Southwest.com.
The airline seeks to recover all of Skiplagged’s profits from selling Southwest flights and to obtain compensatory damages. Southwest also seeks to bar Skiplagged from using any of its trademarks or obtaining any of its flight information while the lawsuit is pending, and eventually stop it completely.
You can see the full text of the lawsuit here.