Airline booking ploys

Last updated

Airline booking ploys are used by travelers in commercial aviation to lower the price of flying by circumventing airlines' rules about how tickets may be used. They are generally a breach of the contract of carriage between the passenger and the airline, which airlines may try to enforce in various ways.

Contents

Throwaway ticketing

Throwaway ticketing is purchasing a ticket with the intent to use only a portion of the included travel. This situation may arise when a passenger wants to travel only one way, but where the discounted round-trip excursion fare is cheaper than a one-way ticket. This can happen on mainline carriers where all one-way tickets are full price. For instance, a passenger only intending to fly from Los Angeles to New York may find the one-way ticket costs $800, but that the round-trip fare is $500. The passenger, therefore, purchases the round trip from Los Angeles to New York and back to Los Angeles, boards the flight to New York, but stays in New York and "throws away" the second half of the ticket by not showing up for the return flight. It is only possible to "throw away" the final segment(s) of a ticket, because throwing away a segment by not showing up for the outbound trip will often lead to the airline's canceling the entire reservation. [1]

Hidden-city ticketing

Hidden-city ticketing or skiplagging is a variant of throwaway ticketing. The passenger books a ticket to a destination that they have no plans on traveling to, with a connection at the intended destination (the "hidden" city), walks away at the connection node, and discards the remaining segment. Flight fares are subject to market forces, and therefore do not necessarily correlate to the distance flown. [2] [3] As a result, a flight between point A and point C, with a connection node at point B, might be cheaper than a flight between point A and point B. It is then possible to purchase an airline ticket from point A to point C, disembark at the connection node (B), and discard the remaining segment (B to C).

Using the hidden-city tactic is usually practical only for one-way trips, as the airlines will cancel the subsequent parts of the trip once a traveler has disembarked. Thus, round-trip itineraries need to be created by piecing two one-way flights together. This tactic also requires that the traveler have carry-on luggage only, as any checked baggage items will be unloaded only at the flight's ticketed final destination. [4] Exceptions to this requirement only occur when re-entering a country where luggage must be processed by customs agents, when changing airports, or when train travel is involved in the flight ticket. This allows a traveler to reclaim their luggage before checking in for their final destination, and simply leave the airport. [5] Hidden-city ticketing carries the risk of the initial flight being overbooked or cancelled, and the airline transferring the passenger to a different route that bypasses the connection node. [6]

Hidden-city ticketing violates most airlines' contract of carriage. [7] A notable exception is Southwest Airlines, whose fare rules do not specifically prohibit the practice. [4] Someone doing it infrequently is unlikely to be pursued by the airline, but some frequent fliers have reported either losing their frequent flier accounts or being threatened with such a loss.[ citation needed ] Experienced fliers recommend that if doing it more than very occasionally, passengers either not associate their frequent flier numbers with reservations using the hidden-city trick or instead crediting the miles to a partner airline. [8] In 2014, United Airlines and Orbitz filed a lawsuit against Skiplagged, a flight search website focused on finding hidden-city tickets, alleging damages from lost revenues. The lawsuit was dismissed. [9] [10]

Back-to-back ticketing

Back-to-back ticketing is a type of nested ticketing whereby a traveler tries to circumvent minimum stay requirements. For example, say a traveler wants to make two round trips midweek in two different weeks. At one time, airlines typically charged more for midweek round trips than for trips that involved a Saturday-night stay. The back-to-back ticketing ploy allows the traveler to book two round-trip tickets with Saturday stays even though the actual travel is all midweek. If a business traveler wanted to make two round trips from New York to Los Angeles in two consecutive weeks, instead of booking two round-trips in separate weeks in the following way:

The traveler could rearrange the itinerary, nesting a round-trip home within the round-trip to Los Angeles such that the outbound trips on both tickets are in the first week and the return trips are on second week.

In such case, the traveler appears to stay at the destination on the weekend for both tickets (staying at Los Angeles for ticket A, and at New York for ticket B), thus taking advantage of the Saturday-night requirement for both tickets.

Within North America, the usefulness of this strategy has diminished materially, as most airlines have abandoned the discount for a Saturday-night stay-over for these types of trips. However, many intercontinental round-trip tickets still have minimum length of stay requirements. Back-to-back ticketing is useful with tickets when there is a minimum length of stay on the discount (e.g., 7 days), and the traveler needs to stay only in the destination for a shorter period of time.

Airlines are strongly opposed to booking ploys for financial reasons. Other reasons cited by airlines include "public safety" concerns, but these are usually not explained. [11] Many airlines have established means of identifying and penalizing travelers who take advantage of such tactics, most notably through their frequent flier programs. [12]

Booking ploys are generally a breach of the contract of carriage between the passenger and the airline. Violating the contract is generally a civil matter. [4] When a traveler is shown to have practiced such methods, airlines may respond by confiscating tickets, canceling frequent flier status (and possible confiscation of mileage), and billing travel agents for the fare difference. Airlines may also try to claim reimbursement from passengers, or even ban the passenger from flying with them.

In one case, Lufthansa filed a lawsuit against a passenger for hidden-city ticketing. [13]

Related Research Articles

Frequent-flyer program

A frequent-flyer program (FFP) is a loyalty program offered by an airline.

Travel agency Retailer that provides tourism-related services

A travel agency is a private retailer or public service that provides travel and tourism-related services to the general public on behalf of accommodation or travel suppliers to offer different kinds of travelling packages for each destination. Travel agencies can provide outdoor recreation activities, airlines, car rentals, cruise lines, hotels, railways, travel insurance, package tours, insurance, guide books, VIP airport lounge access, arranging logistics for luggage and medical items delivery for travellers upon request, public transport timetables, car rentals, and bureau de change services. Travel agencies can also serve as general sales agents for airlines that do not have offices in a specific region. A travel agency's main function is to act as an agent, selling travel products and services on behalf of a supplier. They do not keep inventory in-hand unless they have pre-booked hotel rooms or cabins on a cruise ship for a group travel event such as a wedding, honeymoon, or other group event.

A passenger name record (PNR) is a record in the database of a computer reservation system (CRS) that contains the itinerary for a passenger or a group of passengers travelling together. The concept of a PNR was first introduced by airlines that needed to exchange reservation information in case passengers required flights of multiple airlines to reach their destination (“interlining”). For this purpose, IATA and ATA have defined standards for interline messaging of PNR and other data through the "ATA/IATA Reservations Interline Message Procedures - Passenger" (AIRIMP). There is no general industry standard for the layout and content of a PNR. In practice, each CRS or hosting system has its own proprietary standards, although common industry needs, including the need to map PNR data easily to AIRIMP messages, has resulted in many general similarities in data content and format between all of the major systems.

Round-the-world ticket

A round-the-world ticket is a product that enables travellers to fly around the world for a relatively low price. RTW tickets have existed for some time and in the past were generally offered through marketing agreements between airlines on several continents. Now, they are almost universally offered by airline alliances such as SkyTeam, Star Alliance and Oneworld, or else by specialist travel agencies that will spend time helping customize a trip to the consumer's needs. Prices vary but are generally in the range of 2,500–6,000 USD for an economy class ticket and 5,000–14,000 USD for business class. Sometimes, depending on airline and stops, it can be as low as 1171 GBP. An alternative for a round-the-world ticket is a continent pass.

Open-jaw ticket

An open-jaw ticket is an airline return ticket where the destination and/or the origin are not the same in both directions.

On most modern airlines, flying standby is when a passenger without a seat assignment waits at the gate to see if there is an extra seat after all scheduled passengers have boarded. There are several common circumstances in which passengers fly standby:

Airline ticket Entrance ticket used for air travel

An airline ticket is a document or electronic record, issued by an airline or a travel agency, that confirms that an individual is entitled to a seat on a flight on an aircraft. The airline ticket may be one of two types: a paper ticket, which comprises coupons or vouchers; and an electronic ticket.

Airline reservation systems (ARS) are part of the so-called passenger service systems (PSS), which are applications supporting the direct contact with the passenger.

Flyaow

Airlines of the Web (Flyaow) was the first index of airline sites on the web, and has been online since 1994. Airlines of the Web was created by University of British Columbia associate professor, Marc-David Seidel, while conducting research as a graduate student on the strategic development of the airline industry. It now includes a geographic index of airline websites, aircraft photographs, airport codes, Fractional Jets directory, city guides, and full travel booking functionality through its relationships with well established travel companies.

Saturday-night stay is a rule used by airlines to separate business and leisure travelers.

Buy on board

In commercial aviation, buy on board (BoB) is a system where in-flight food or beverages are not included in the ticket price, but are either purchased on board, or ordered in advance as an optional extra during or after booking process.

A fare basis code is an alphabetic or alpha-numeric code used by airlines to identify a fare type and allow airline staff and travel agents to find the rules applicable to that fare. Although airlines now set their own fare basis codes, there are some patterns that have evolved over the years and may still be in use.

A fare is the fee paid by a passenger for use of a public transport system: rail, bus, taxi, etc. In the case of air transport, the term airfare is often used. Fare structure is the system set up to determine how much is to be paid by various passengers using a transit vehicle at any given time. A linked trip is a trip from the origin to the destination on the transit system. Even if a passenger must make several transfers during a journey, the trip is counted as one linked trip on the system.

Bereavement flight

In the United States and Canada, a bereavement flight is a flight purchased when a close relative has died or is dying. Bereavement fares used to be offered by many airlines, but as of 2015, most have stopped providing them.

One-way travel is travel paid for by a fare purchased for a trip on an aircraft, a train, a bus, or some other mode of travel without a return trip. One way tickets may be purchased for a variety of reasons, such as if one is planning to permanently relocate to the destination, is uncertain of one's return plans, has alternate arrangements for the return, or if the traveler is planning to return, but there is no need to pay the fare in advance. For some modes of travel, often for buses, trams or metros, return tickets may not be available at all.

Tripcombi, founded in 2012 as Tripdelta, was a travel metasearch engine that enabled travelers to find airfares globally from different online travel agencies and airlines. It did this by using hidden flight routing and hidden city ticketing techniques. Tripdelta's tactics included combining two separate ticket bookings, searching airfares on low-cost carriers, and booking passengers in the airports close to their place of departure and their intended destination. In March 2015, Tripdelta took part in the third batch of the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator in Berlin. The company was based in Cologne, Germany and, in 2015, was voted as one of "Germany's Top 25 Hottest Young Companies" by Horizont.

Mystifly is an airfare distribution and payments settlement marketplace platform. It allows travel businesses to source airfares from global distribution systems (GDS), airlines and other airfare suppliers. Mystifly is headquartered in Singapore, with offices in USA, UK (Middlesex) and India (Bangalore).

Basic economy class Type of airfare offered by airlines

Basic economy class is a travel class offered by a number of airlines. The class has superseded economy class as the cheapest airfare option for passengers and generally comes with more restrictions when compared to standard economy fares. Restrictions vary between different airlines, but they generally include not allowing passengers to change or cancel tickets or select seats for free. They are seen as a strategy for market segmentation.

Skiplagged.com is an online travel agency and metasearch engine for booking flights and hotels. It popularized the tactic of hidden city ticketing.

An airfare is the fee paid by a passenger for air transport and is made up of the charge for a passenger to fly from an origin to destination and includes the conditions, rules and restrictions for travelling on the airfare.

References

  1. "FAQ: Air Traveler's Handbook 1/4 [Monthly posting]Section - [1-1a] Standard Tricks: Advance Booking Discounts". FAQ.org. Retrieved 7 January 2017.
  2. on, C. F. "Why Airlines Need Hidden City Ticketing to Be Possible but They Also Can't Let You Take Advantage of It". Cranky Flier. Retrieved 2016-09-25.
  3. "Airlines to public: please ignore this blog post". The Economist. ISSN   0013-0613 . Retrieved 2016-09-25.
  4. 1 2 3 Silver, Nate (4 May 2011). "How to Beat High Airfares". The New York Times Magazine.
  5. "View From The Wing - How to Use Hidden City and Throwaway Ticketing to Save Money on Airfare". USA Today. 7 January 2012.
  6. "Last-Minute Airfare Bargains". AirFareIQ. Retrieved 7 January 2017.
  7. "Last-Minute Airfare Bargains". AirFareIQ. Retrieved 7 January 2017.
  8. "The dangers of hidden city ticketing and should you be doing it?". airlinehotelcreditcards.com. Retrieved 7 January 2017.
  9. Gillespie, Patrick (2014-12-30). "Why is United Airlines suing a 22-year-old?". CNN Money. Archived from the original on 2014-12-30. Retrieved 2014-12-30.
  10. Gillespie, Patrick (2015-12-31). "How a 23-year-old beat United Airlines". CNN Money. Retrieved 2017-04-05.
  11. Harris, Andrew (November 18, 2014). "United, Orbitz sue over 'Hidden City' tickets". Bloomberg.
  12. Welt, Sarah (October 11, 1999). "Airlines: Get Out Of The Gray Area (Enhanced Systems Target Back-To-Back, Hidden Ticketing Practices)". Anolik Law Group. Archived from the original on August 30, 2004.
  13. Schmidt, By Tara John and Nadine. "Lufthansa sues passenger who skipped his flight". CNN.

Further reading