I needed to travel to Cincinnati last spring. During a period in which my plans were tentative, round-trip fares were in the mid-$300 range or so, maybe close to $400. By the time I’d firmed them up, round-trip fares were around $900, and I was seething (along with trying to figure out why, if there was little demand and ample supply, the price would go up instead of down, but that’s another story). Although it was quite time consuming, I did manually what skiplagged has apparently now automated, i.e. found a “hidden city ticketing” opportunity that brought my round-trip price back down to under $400. The solution for me: I found a one-way, multi-city ticket that went NYC > Cincinnati > Chicago and sent an empty (but paid for) seat from Cincy to O’Hare. On the return, I found another one-way, multi-city ticket (different carrier) that went Cincy > NYC > Boston and sent an empty (but paid for) seat from NYC to Logan.
The airlines are, of course, apoplectic that someone has found a way to exploit and expose the inefficiencies and opacity of their ticketing schemes. So they’ve sued:
“Purchasing a ticket to a point beyond the actual destination and getting off the aircraft at the connecting point is unethical,” according to the letter by American, which isn’t party to the case.
Overbooking and bumping people, of course, is perfectly ethical. Also, I’m not sure if any airline official has yet commented on the ethicality of not lowering fares in the face of the price of oil – the airline industry’s single largest expense – being halved. Funny how prices aren’t sticky on the way up, but only on the way down. And before you shed a tear for the industry, read on:
The International Air Transport Association, an industry group based in Geneva, estimated that the industry’s profits would grow 26 percent next year, to reach a record $25 billion, not adjusted for inflation. The group expects $19.9 billion in collective profits in 2014. In 2013, the industry had nearly $11 billion in profits.
Airlines have been screwing passengers for decades – nickel and diming travelers with charges for bags, for peanuts, for earbuds, for blankets, for pillows and, of course, for a few extra inches of legroom. They are among the most reviled industries extant. Now Delta’s going to introduce a five-tiered seating plan. I’m sure that will work out well. Below is a leaked photo of what economy class will look like:
Technology has – and continues to – let multiple genies out of multiple bottles. And they aren’t going back in. Technology will continue to disrupt all manner of businesses and squeeze out inefficiencies, just as Uber, Netflix, Amazon, eBay, and countless other companies have done. There is no going back. If it’s not skiplagged who gives the airlines their comeuppance, it will be someone else. Either way, the jig is up.
If you want to contribute to skiplagged’s legal defense fund, you can do so here.
Finally, I went to Cincy to meet with Bonddad, who runs one of the most underrated blogs (on economics and markets) in the blogosphere. He should be in your bookmarks.