American Airlines sues skiplagging website that helps travelers find cheap routes

Originally published at: American Airlines sues skiplagging website that helps travelers find cheap routes | Boing Boing


Why does American Airlines hate capitalism?


Airlines HATE this one weird trick!


I’ve skiplagged a few times and if it lines up with your plans it can save you a ton of money. Not much airlines can do to stop it other than threaten your frequent flyer account. I’ve heard some of them have cracked down on abusers by wiping out their mileage accounts.

It doesn’t work with round trip tickets and don’t try it unless the city you skip is the last leg of your itinerary. Most airlines now will cancel your entire ticket if you skip a segment.

Good luck trying to sue people for exploiting the fare rules you come up with though.


Differential pricing – i.e. charging different people different prices for the same thing (in this case the flight to LA) – is something people intrinsically hate whenever they notice it, but it’s really a very progressive thing when you think about it for a while. The airline business is cutthroat, with margins near zero, with the effect that a lot of travel happens below cost (subsidized by the business travelers in first class).

In the current system you can pay money, or discomfort (less legroom), or inconvenience (have to book long in advance, or stay Saturday night). If these latter two currencies were banned, then the business travelers wouldn’t be induced to spend more of the first one, and the cheapest travel options would disappear.


I see an opportunity here for the airlines. If selling a ticket for $300 going from point A to Point C with a stop over at point B. Sell a ticket as a “Skiplag” ticket so people pay $300 but get off at point B. The airlines can sell tickets from point B to point C at half the price say $150. The airlines get the full price of $300 from the skiplag passenger PLUS an extra $150 for the passenger flying from point B to C. If they document their skiplag seats they can resell these seats for the second part of the flight. If they don’t resell these seats they still make the fuel savings for the plane. How is this NOT a thing???


I would imagine that not having any checked baggage is critical as well, right? Airlines would be justifiably pissed off if someone’s checked bag had to be removed from a plane because of that whole security rule requiring that passengers stay with their luggage.


That’s right. Checked luggage will be sent to the final destination regardless. They won’t pull your bag at the layover stop. If you’re going to skiplag you should not check a bag.

Positive bag match rules only applies for international itineraries now. Domestic flights no longer require that your bag stays on the same flight as the owner.


If they priced the tickets logically, no one would buy one to skiplag, because it would be cheaper to just buy a ticket to where you want than one with an extra leg.

They probably already do something like that when overbook their flights, but also complain when everyone shows up and there are not enough seats.
Maybe people could do a skiplag on steroids, waiting to see if the plane is overbooked and then voluntarily accepting some kickback to stay behind.


It’s the old short-size Starbucks trick- how to get people who can afford to pay more to pay more, while having a lower price available for those who can’t.


Most recent information I have is that American’s spent 12 billion dollars on stock buybacks so I think they will be ok. U.S. Airlines Spent 96% of Free Cash Flow on Buybacks: Chart - Bloomberg


How can profit margins be so slim when they can afford to pay millions to the CEOs?


Price discrimination, charging different people different prices for (nearly) the same thing, is quite an old thing too. It works because the value provided by essentially the same product to different people is actually different. See also coupons, and many trade-in deals. People often don’t like it, but they only get really upset when it’s implemented in obviously ridiculous way, like taking a piece of hardware and disabling half of it before selling it, or software disabling features on things you’ve bought. It’s rarely a direct subsidy to the ones getting it cheaper, but it may sometimes make a business feasible or a product available to more where it wouldn’t be without it.

But this is slightly different – it’s paradoxical form of economic “bundling”. You get a flight from A to B and a flight from B to C for cheaper than just the flight from A to B. The motive is not to charge different people different amounts for the same thing. It’s to preserve the ability to sell different things (the flight from A to B, and the flight from A to C) at the highest possible price-point, and at all. In order to get customers from A to C they need to be competitive with others flights from A to C, so can’t charge more for the bundle. But when few others fly from A to B, they really want to jack the price up there too.


It’s really not. Their pricing has nothing to do with how much money the customer has, but is based on how much time and energy the customer dedicates to price hunting. There is nothing progressive about advantaging people who have more flexible schedules and more energy to dedicate to playing the game.

A progressive thing would be investing public funds to build cost effective transport with fixed, transparent pricing. If we limit our options to which type of unregulated pricing plans will profit private companies with complete disregard to customer’s convenience, then anything actually progressive is far off the table


… wait, people are flying around in airplanes to get from one part of L.A. County to another? :confused:


It takes over an hour to drive that distance, so it’s basically like having a layover in Baltimore on your way to Reagan International Airport in D.C.


(Or over two hours using public transportation.)

I’m guessing that maybe the point of the question was why there are planes flying between LAX and Burbank at all, but there are usually little connecting flights between major airports in any given metro area, and they aren’t necessarily intended for people whose only travel plans are that single short leg.


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Right, at those prices it’s pretty clear that they aren’t selling many tickets to people who are only flying between those two airports. That route’s main function is as a connector.

Edit: ok, I see now that the flights you listed are not direct, based on the flight times. But I’ll bet that connecting flights do exist sometimes. Or maybe not? I dunno.


You could book a direct flight just to get from one part of the county to another, yes. Why wouldn’t they let you if they’re flying connecting flights anyway? But again, you could do the same from Baltimore to D.C.

I could also hire a taxi to drive me to the end of the block. Doesn’t mean I’m likely to.

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