Let’s say you’re looking for a one-way flight from Houston to Atlanta. The cheapest one you can find is $300.
However, you happen to stumble upon another flight, from Houston to Baltimore, that has a layover in Atlanta. The cost of this trip is only $250.
Since you’re not planning to check any luggage, you book the Baltimore ticket and simply skip the second leg of the trip, getting off at your real destination in Atlanta with an extra $50 in your pocket.
The strategy is referred to as “hidden city” ticketing, and it is the basic concept behind Skiplagged.com, a website founded last year by tech-savvy 22-year-old Aktarer Zaman.
But while travelers are certainly excited about the opportunity to save money on flights, Zaman’s creative service has been ruffling some feathers in the airline industry.
Recently, United Airlines and its ticket-selling partner Orbitz.com filed a lawsuit aimed at shutting Skiplagged down.
In the lawsuit, United and Orbitz argue that Skiplagged.com is “unfair competition”, and accuse the the site of promoting a “strictly prohibited” method of travel. They are seeking $75,000 in lost revenue from Zaman’s site.
Zaman says he knew a lawsuit would come sooner or later, and points out that there is nothing illegal about his website or the service it provides. He told CNN Money that he makes no money off of the site and is simply helping travelers get the best deals on flights by exposing “inefficiencies” in airlines’ ticketing practices.
“[Hidden city ticketing] have been around for a while, it just hasn’t been very accessible to consumers,”
Michael Boyd, president of the aviation consulting firm Boyd Group International, seems to agree with the Zaman. Boyd spent a number of years working as a ticketing agent with American Airlines before starting the Boyd Group, and says that the airline actually trained him to help customers find these “hidden city” tickets.
“I don’t think it’s illegal what he’s doing,”
But either way, a lawsuit can be extremely expensive. So whether or not United and Orbitz have legal grounds to stand on, fighting the lawsuit could end up costing more time and money than the young entrepreneur is willing to invest.
Zaman was born in Bangladesh but grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He got his bachelor’s in computer science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at the age of 20 and currently works for a tech startup in Manhattan.
According to Zaman, Skiplagged is just a “side-project”. And even if it gets shut down, similar sites are likely to start springing up to fill the gap.
“If [Skiplagged is] shut down, undoubtedly there will be other people to come along to scrape fares and make them available,”
says Robert Mann, president of the New York-based airline consulting firm R.W. Mann & Company.
Read the full story from CNN Money.
Feature photo courtesy of Aktarer Zaman.
Update: Aktarer has set up a GoFundMe page if you’d like to help with his legal fees.