United Airlines and Orbitz have sued to prevent the travel website Skiplagged.com from helping travelers buy what the companies call improper “hidden city” plane tickets that undercut their sales.
The companies accused the website’s founder, Aktarer Zaman of New York, of “intentionally and maliciously” interfering with their airline industry business relationships “by promoting prohibited forms of travel,” in their complaint filed today in federal court in Chicago.
Skiplagged helps people find cheap airfares by enabling them to book passage on a flight with one or more stops and then get off the plane before the flight reaches its as-booked final destination.
“In its simplest form, a passenger purchases a ticket from city A to city B to city C but does not travel beyond city B,” according to the companies’ complaint. “‘Hidden City’ ticketing is strictly prohibited by most commercial airlines because of logistical and public-safety concerns.”
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Among those concerns, according to the complaint, is United’s resultant inability to estimate flight passenger counts which can cause departure delays and affect fuel load computations.
Orbitz, an online travel booking site, and United claim neither of them gave Zaman permission to engage in hidden-city ticketing. Claiming he is unfairly competing against them and creating false associations by linking customers to their websites, they’re seeking a court order halting the conduct.
Zaman, reached via LinkedIn.com email, declined to immediately comment on the suit.
(The case is United Airlines Inc. v. Zaman, 14-cv-9214, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois)