There are few things in life that are better than a good flight deal, so imagine an entire website devoted to finding you great deals. Last year, a New York City man founded the website Skiplagged.com, which helps travelers find cheap flights by using the "hidden city" method. It's not a ticket-purchasing site — in fact, it doesn't sell anything. Skiplagged simply reveals the pricing strategies of airlines, so you can make a more informed decision on purchasing tickets. But some in the aviation industry are not happy with the service, and now United Airlines and Orbitz are suing Skiplagged, calling it "unfair competition."
Skiplagged was created by 22-year-old computer whiz Aktarer Zaman from Brooklyn, NY. He designed the site based on the "hidden city" strategy, which reveals flights with layovers at your desired destination that are cheaper than direct flights to said destination. So you'd buy a ticket for the layover flight and get off at the stop-over city, skipping the last leg of the trip. You wouldn't be able to buy round-trip tickets or check your bags, but the savings might be worth it to cram everything into a carry-on.
If I had discovered this site earlier, I could have flown back to New York City from Miami last week. I was with my mom, who was flying back to Pittsburgh with a layover in New York. We could have flown on the same flight, and I could have saved 50 percent on tickets.
But I might not have a chance to take advantage of this service because United Airlines and travel-booking site Orbitz have filed a civil lawsuit against Skiplagged. In the lawsuit, the companies called Skiplagged "unfair competition" and claim that it's encouraging people to fly illegally. They're suing Zaman for $75,000 in lost revenue.
In his defense, Zaman told CNNMoney that there was nothing illegal about Skiplagged. Firstly, he's not profiting off of the website, and secondly, all he's doing is disclosing an airlines' pricing strategies. He told the site:
[Hidden city ticketing] have been around for a while, it just hasn't been very accessible to consumers.
Hidden city fares are no secret to frequent fliers, however, and some airlines have even supported it. Michael Boyd, President of aviation consulting firm Boyd Group International, told CNNMoney that when he worked as an American Airlines ticketing agent 30 years ago, he was even trained to help travelers find the best hidden city fares.
Calling a service like Skiplagged "unfair" is pretty ironic, since airlines build their entire business models on arbitrary ticket prices and excessive fees for just about anything, not to mention there was that whole American Airlines-US Airways merger that anyone with common sense could see was a step toward monopolizing the industry. It all smacks of "unfair competition" to me.Images: Getty Images (2)