Is skiplagging illegal?

  • Posted on: 10 Jul 2024
    Is skiplagging illegal?

  • Is skip-lagging illegal?

    Skiplagging involves booking cheaper multistop airline tickets in order to get the desired route, even though some of the flights may not be needed. For instance, a passenger may choose a New York to Los Angeles flight with a connection in Chicago because the price of the ticket is cheaper than a direct ticket between New York and Los Angeles. However, by using this mode of transport, the traveler just disembarks in Chicago and omits the second part of the journey. This enables them to make a flight to the intended destination at a cheaper price. However, is this practice legal, or has it, in a way, violated ethical norms and guidelines? There are some observations regarding that.

    In its simplest form, skip-lagging seems to ignore most of the terms and conditions that passengers agree with airlines. These contracts provide for the conditions of carriage whereby passengers are required to travel on all the segments of a journey successively. Since travelers are not visiting all the sites on the places of interest list, I argue that they are violating the contract. All the significant airlines operating in the United States, including Delta, American, and United, have policies against hidden city ticketing and skiplagging written in their contracts of carriage. They provide the airlines with recourse, such as, if the passenger does not want to take a flight they have a booking for, the airline can cancel the remaining flight legs in that booking.

    However, there are a few critics who believe that it is not necessarily unlawful to punish the consumer for violating a corporate contract. In their defense, it is argued that skip-lagging operates in a legal ambiguity as it does not violate any law in the strict sense. To conclude, although airlines are within their rights to counteract customers, there are no laws against it. Other criticisms leveled at the airlines are that it is perfectly permissible for them to overbook a flight and make passenger bumps or schedule changes when it is convenient for the airlines. Thus, in a way, skiplagging provides the consumer with a means by which to game the airline fare construction system.

    The airline industry, worldwide, has vigorously condemned skiplagging as a method of deception. Airlines determine ticket prices depending on the demand for the routes and the desire of passengers to pay as per their ‘’true’’ O&D. Of course, when passengers purchase tickets with the intent of using a cheaper fare to book a flight they never plan on taking, it distorts the airline’s pricing mechanism. If more providers transitioned to a skip-lagging approach, the effect would likely be an increase in the average ticket price to cover the loss of profitability. This would prejudice genuine passengers who have not engaged in any scale or other fraudulent activity. In the same year, the trade group Airlines for America unsuccessfully campaigned for a federal law that prevents the practice. However, they were not able to translate that into political capital to push for law reforms.

    Another point that must be emphasized is that even if the activity, in theory, can be considered legal, it does not necessarily imply that it is moral. It is at least possible to argue that skip-lagging is somehow manipulative—to make hay out of a commercial service with an eye toward not paying the cost of the trip. While intending not to tell the truth when it comes to a certain trip in order to get a better price may be technically legal, it might be deemed ethical. Most cultures and religions that exist now prohibit cheating others with the aim of benefiting from the deceit. As it stands now, skiplagging is still somewhat in a legal toddler’s stool, so to speak, but to some people, it is wrong or dishonest.

    There can also be some dangers for the tourists to ponder, too. If an airline finds them skipping a portion of the planned route, the provider may refuse to continue providing travel tickets to other parts of the journey. This can leave them mid-journey without a ticket to where they are actually heading. Although that may not always occur, the airline could mark their account as suspicious or even report it to the police. This may result in further police action or the airline ceasing to sell tickets to them in the future. So skiplaggers ride the thin line and take chances with the probability of being caught.

    Concisely, skip-lagging is not absolutely prohibited at the federal level as yet, although it is a clear violation of most of the airlines’ regulations. As for the travelers, they do not find it unfair to employ these pricing model tricks on sometimes ruthless firms. But for airlines, it is a fraud that is considered to jeopardise their operations. It also has risks for consumers, even if it helps them save money in the long run, at least by applying such a practice. While it is not police that skiplaggers have to worry about today, the trend has a definite risk of being targeted in years to come. It goes as an open discussion between the consumer rights activists on one end and the airline carriers determined to shield their business ventures on the other.