Contractual breach or a quest to squash the little guy?
United Airlines and the popular travel site Orbitz, joined mega corporation forces to sue a 22-year-old Brooklynite.
Aktarer Zaman created and runs the site Skiplagged.com. He claims he makes no money on the venture.
Skiplagged utilizes hidden city ticketing. While not always the cheapest way to fly, often times hidden city ticketing can produce a significantly cheaper flight. Suppose you want to fly to Denver. A direct flight might be pricey depending on where you’re coming from. But, if you were to book a flight to San Francisco that connects in Denver, and simply get off in Denver (hence, “hidden city”) ditching the last leg of your flight, you may find you are able to reach your desired destination with a little extra cash in your pocket.
Caveats do apply. For hidden city ticketing to work, flights must be booked one-way, and unless you want your bags to have their own vacation, checking a bag isn’t optional either.
Needless to say, airlines are not fans of the gimmick. All kinds of stipulations and contractual obligations listed in the fine print of plane tickets explain why.
Hidden city ticketing is an old trick, but Skiplagged succeeded in making the little known ‘discount’ readily available. So much so, air travel behemoths are out to crush the site.
CBS This Morning reports:
United and Orbitz claim Zaman is engaging in, “unfair competition” and “tortious interference with contract” and that he is “intentionally and maliciously interfering” with their contracts and course of business.
There’s also an issue of permission that at least on the outset, appears to be pretty cut and dry.
The complaint states:
Zaman has provided and continues to provide a search tool that enables consumers to locate “hidden city” flights on Skiplagged and then purchase tickets for those flights through Orbitz’s website (www.orbitz.com) and United’s website (www.united.com). Neither Orbitz nor United has granted Zaman permission to engage in this prohibited form of booking or to otherwise offer their services. To the contrary, Zaman expressly agreed not to engage in this conduct when he entered into an affiliate agreement with Orbitz, LLC in early 2013. Orbitz, LLC has since terminated that agreement. More recently, Zaman agreed to stop engaging in this prohibited form of booking, only to continue the conduct unabated. At the same time, Zaman has taken steps to try to hide from Orbitz and United his continued bad conduct and breach of his promises to stop.
Zaman hosted an “Ask Me Anything” question/answer session on Reddit where he explained his case and provoked a rather hilarious comment thread.
To help with the legal costs, Zaman launched a Go Fund Me page which implores consumers:
Skiplagged’s sole purpose has always been to help you become savvy travelers. We have been doing that by exposing pricing inefficiencies for air travel, among other things. Unfortunately, we have been doing too good of a job so United Airlines and Orbitz recently teamed up with a lawsuit to get in the way. Everything Skiplagged has done and continues to do is legal, but the only way to effectively prove this is with lawyers. Please show your support for Skiplagged by donating towards this campaign to help fund our legal team.
To date, Zaman has raised over $18K of the $25k he’s requesting.
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