Airlines would rather that consumers not know too much about a legal strategy to get the cheapest tickets to some major U.S. destinations.
So much so that one of them, United Airlines, has filed a lawsuit against a tech-savvy blogger who is doing just that with his website, showing prospective travelers how to book flights using “hidden city ticketing.”
Aktarer Zaman founded the website Skiplagged.com in 2013. What’s “hidden city ticketing”?
It’s basically buying an airline ticket that has a layover at your actual destination. For example, you want to fly from New York to San Francisco — but you actually book a flight from New York to Lake Tahoe with a layover in San Francisco.
But you end up staying in San Francisco — not Lake Tahoe. By taking the layover flight, you can save a decent amount of money. In some cases, as much as 30 percent or higher.
It may not always be the cheapest way to travel, but Zaman discovered that in many cases, it is. Airlines often offer cut-price fares to attract fliers to regional airports — but they sometimes route these flights through major hubs.
But the problem for airlines is that too many people taking advantage of “hidden city” strategies could hurt business, which is why United and Orbitz want to shut down Zaman’s site.
The strategy works only for those booking a one-way flight, and for those traveling with carry-on luggage (checked-in luggage will automatically be sent to the final destination on the ticket).
“United Airlines and Orbitz recently filed a lawsuit that can force us to remove results only we find, getting in the way of saving you lots of money on airfare,” writes Zaman on his home page. He then asks visitors to support Skiplagged by donating to its legal fund.