BY: THE PLAID ZEBRA
In the ultimate David and Goliath battle, Aktarer Zaman stood before the lawyers of some of the biggest players in the travel industry for uncovering a dirty little secret that could save consumers up to 80% on airfare.
As the founder of Skiplagged.com, Zaman is the Robin Hood of the travel industry, who invented a way to democratize travel by exposing airline pricing inefficiencies and allowing consumers to take advantage of them using a simple trick.
He discovered a concept called “Hidden City,” which takes advantage of a standard airline sales tactic. Say you wanted to fly from New York City to Topeka, Kansas, for example; we’ll say a non-stop flight would run about $500. Typically though, flights with stopovers are cheaper. So instead of buying a non-stop flight, you would purchase a flight from New York City to Los Angeles that has a stopover in Topeka for $300. Once you got to Topeka, you would say screw Los Angeles and disembark the plane.
In a Reddit AMA, Zaman explains why longer flights are often cheaper.
“This has to do with market competition. Airlines want to offer City A to City C, but can only do that with stopovers. Consumers are less inclined towards multiple flights unless it offers them savings.”
Airlines want to offer City A to City C, but can only do that with stopovers, and consumers are less inclined towards multiple flights unless it offers them savings. In response he invented Skiplagged.com, a streamlined service that exposes airline pricing inefficiencies and allows consumers to take advantage of them.
There are a few catches. One, you can only take a carry-on, lest your luggage end up in City C while you’re in City B and the process only works for a one-way tickets. Also, you do run the risk of the flight being delayed or rerouted and ending up in an entirely different city. Obviously, these small requirements haven’t stopped price-savvy travellers, and airlines have been losing money.
In response, United Airlines Inc. and Orbitz Worldwide LLC hit Skiplagged.com with a lawsuit for $75,000 for undercutting their sales. Both companies say that he is implying to consumers that he is connected to their companies.
They allege that it violates their Contract of Carriage and other measures taken for passenger safety like head counting.
Zaman says it’s all perfectly legal and isn’t backing down on being able to save consumers money.
In response, United Airlines Inc. and Orbitz Worldwide LLC hit Skiplagged.com with a lawsuit for $75,000 for undercutting their sales.
Photo by: Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia
He started a crowdfunding campaign to support the costs of a legal team and raised $79,000, from just under 4,000 backers.
Last week, The U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois dismissed the lawsuit on a technicality. While this is good news for Zaman, it doesn’t stop United Airlines from trying again.
In a Bloomberg article, Harris and Sasso make a good point; “People who seek out hidden-city tickets often liken forgoing the second half of a trip to not eating the bottom half of a bag of chips. The thinking: They paid for the chips, so why are they required to eat the whole bag?”
Photo by Paul Beaty