What is the 'hidden city' system and why is an airline suing because of it?

2019-02-14 15:00 - Gabi Zietsman
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It's human to always be on the lookout for good deals and ways to save money - although some methods are more extreme than others.

But if you've been tempted by - or have already used - the 'hidden city' method booking flights, be warned that airlines are in on the joke and they're not laughing.

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Lufthansa is taking one of their passengers to court for purposely missing the last leg of a trip that they booked with the airline. According to CNN, the man booked a flight from Oslo to Seattle, with a layover in Frankfurt. He flew to Seattle like a good boy, but on the way back never completed his last leg from Frankfurt to Oslo, and instead hopped onto a separate Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Berlin.

The airline claims this is a violation of their terms and conditions, and is suing the passenger for €2 112 (about R33 610 at R15,91/€). The lawsuit had already been dismissed in a Berlin court in December, but the company is getting ready to appeal.

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How does 'hidden city' ticketing work?

When booking flights, flying more directly to a certain destination can be more expensive than flying through that destination as a layover towards a less popular place.

Someone looking to save some cash will then book the cheaper flight with a layover in their actual endpoint, but just skip the last leg of their journey.

Airlines are, rightly so, quite opposed to this system as they end up with empty seats that could have been sold to someone else and while it's normally stipulated in their terms of agreement when buying a ticket, it's rarely enforced.

In 2014 however, two airlines filed a suit against Aktarer Zaman, the man who created the website Skiplagged.com - a site that specifically looks for flight deals that use the 'hidden city' system. The case however was thrown out due to a jurisdiction technicality.

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The one catch though is that you'll only have carry-on luggage, as your checked-in luggage will automatically be sent on to your next leg, and you could lose your air miles or loyalty membership altogether. Also make sure it's on your return leg - if you miss your last leg your return flight will also be cancelled.

Also maybe don't book a different flight with the same airline you are finessing.

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