It is increasingly common to see passengers make use of a practice known as hidden city flights , which consists of flying to destinations where it is cheaper to take advantage of the scale of the same than traveling to the destination directly, thus losing the last leg of the trip. In this way, astute travelers buy a ticket to a destination they do not want to travel to, but with a stopover in the city of their choice for a cheaper price.
Some passengers use this trick because there is more demand for direct flights than for non-stop flights, which leads to the former being more expensive than the latter. This practice is nothing new, but for years the airlines decided to turn a deaf ear and not impose any sanction or measure in this regard, since few people benefited and because the companies continued to fill the seats of the plane.
At the moment, the justice has not seen anything punishable to determine if this practice of flights with hidden city is illegal, no matter how much many airlines prohibit it in their transport contracts. From reclamador.es , an online legal services company, they explain that, in Spain, the passenger can stop their trip on the stopover and without having to allege any cause, since they would have fulfilled their main obligation: pay the price stipulated in the contract . Making use of this practice could mean a saving of around 100 euros per ticket.
One of the websites that help to find this type of flights is Skiplagged . This search engine, created by Aktarer Zaman, shows no shame and says the following on its page: “Find flights that airlines do not want you to see. We unmask the gaps in the prices of air tickets to save you money.” In addition, he boasts of his victory against the company: “Our flights are so cheap that United (Airlines) sued us … but we won.”
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Complaints from airlines
Skiplagged was already sued by companies such as United Airlines and Orbitz for “unfair competition” and “deceptive behavior” in 2014, which alleged that the site promoted “strictly prohibited” travel, apart from causing them $ 75,000 in lost revenue. “We remain concerned that Mr. Zaman continues to openly encourage customers to violate our contract of carriage by buying tickets for hidden cities,” said the spokeswoman for the US airline.
What was initially turning a blind eye has now become a way to hunt down travelers who profit by using the hidden city flight trick. All, of course, for the money, as happened in 2019 with the German airline Lufthansa, which brought to court a person who had carried out this practice for a while. On one of those trips, the passenger booked a trip from Seattle to Norway with a stopover in Germany and stayed in Germany. Despite this, the airline lost in court and ended up appealing.
Another case was that of American Airlines. The US airline warned a passenger who had used this practice by taking away his preferred status if he did not pay for his missed trips. According to Seth Kaplan, an airline expert, aside from the legal risk, there is a great possibility that the company will cancel frequently accumulated traveler points if it finds out that you have missed your connecting flight on purpose.