Berlin – Appealing an earlier court decision that dismissed its case, Lufthansa is continuing to pursue legal action against a customer who tried to game the system, skipping out on the last leg of his stopover flight in order to save a few Euros through a technique known as hidden-city ticketing.
NPR reported (https://n.pr/2X5G81o) that the unnamed traveler paid €657 for a business class ticket between Seattle and Oslo with a stopover in Frankfurt.
After flying to Oslo in May 2016, the passenger returned only as far as Frankfurt without completing the Seattle leg of the ticket he had booked, instead hopping on a different flight to Berlin.
Noting that a direct trip from Oslo to Frankfurt was a significantly more expensive flight than an Oslo to Seattle flight with a Frankfurt stopover, Lufthansa sued the passenger for the approximately $2,400 price differential plus interest, saying that the passenger had violated the terms and conditions of his ticket.
The case was dismissed in court but is being appealed by Lufthansa and brings to light questions about airline flight pricing structures as well as the many facets of hidden-city ticketing, the practice of purchasing multi-part flights that are never intended to be completed because they can offer significant financial savings.
A Lufthansa spokesperson said that they could not comment on the ongoing lawsuit, reported CNN (https://cnn.it/2X1b0jj). The airline’s contract of carriage, which appears on its website, advises passengers that they will be billed for any unused legs of their tickets, calculating the amount that would have been paid for the ticket on the day the reservation was placed, in the same passenger price group.
Delta frequent flier Billy Stocklin told CNN that Lufthansa’s claim is without merit.
“So if I don’t eat all my steak at Peter Luger’s, are they going to sue me now?” asked Stocklin. “It’s my ticket and my seat. I bought it. If I use it or not is none of your business.”
But travel guru Brian Kelly shared another view of the story on his blog, The Points Guy, warning that airlines have been known to cancel frequent flier accounts, invalidate accumulated miles and gone after passengers suspected of using hidden city ticketing to save money. In some cases, they have attempted to get passengers to repay the difference in flight costs, but punitive measures as in the Lufthansa case are rarely pursued, noted Kelly.
The Lufthansa lawsuit may be a precursor of things to come with airlines becoming even more aggressive as they continue cracking down on hidden city ticketers, ready to dole out serious punishment, observed Kelly.
“Hidden city ticketing saves money, but the savings might not outweigh the costs of any punitive action,” warned Kelly.