United and Orbitz sue Skiplagged, a service you should totally use


#1

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#2

So all this guy is doing is aggregating information that anyone could get by searching United and Orbitz’s own websites, where they publish these fares in the first place? It would just take you longer to search by hand, and that’s what they’re suing about?

If he’s found liable for that, it sets an …interesting precedent for a lot of things on the internet. Spokeo and other “people search” services, for one thing.


#3

No I think they are suing because of the ‘free market’. You know that mythical thing that all business love until it affects them and then they need to be protected.


#4

speaking of this - why is it that airlines and trains (in the US) can’t survive in a free market? They’re constantly being bailed out.


#5

How can he say his site is entirely legal, when he admits he is “exposing an ‘inefficiency’ in airline prices”? Isn’t that every bit as bad as noticing security flaws in Windows, and not keeping your mouth shut?


#6

Thank you, Skiplagged! It’s annoying to try to optimize a flexible itinerary by factors other than point-to-point price on Kayak or Travelocity… often taking way too many searches and backtracking.

There’s always the risk of being forced to cabin-check a bag; in one case I booked the inexpensive SFO-EWR-BWI, intending to bail at Newark, but had to continue on and take the train back. Pre-9/11, in some cases you could check a bag to an intermediate destination, but that seems to have been tightened up.

Since pricing is based on load factors, hub routing, and demand, which is related to convenience and perceived value of the service of transportation, I’ve noticed that “way out of the way” connecting flights (like SEA-PHX-SFO) are often cheaper than a more-efficient nonstop or geographically-based routing.

If airlines were paying more for fuel, would this be any different? There’s still aggregate efficiency in hub routing.


#7

I don’t see it that way. I think he means inefficiency in terms of their costs vs. price charged. There is no way it’s cheaper for the airline to add on a leg to a flight than it is to simple go to the first stop. Sure it may offset some of the “cost” associated with the flight of the “leg”, but that doesn’t make fiscal sense in terms of the whole operation. This means the airline is basically hurting themselves to improve sales (or fill seats), kind of like the Amazon Prime issue that’s going on. Where as finding a security flaw in Windows doesn’t only affect Microsoft, it affects everyone directly.


#8

Next up - the kid gets charged with about forty years’ worth of felonies from CFAA violations. I’m sure the airlines have something buried in the terms of service on their web sites that could be used to get an eager prosecutor to bring the kid up.

Conviction, or even evidence, isn’t necessary. Stack enough charges and he’ll plead out.


#9

Yes but aren’t market inefficiencies trade secrets? Just like security flaws are. Also, the CEO’s cocaine problem.

What @kennykb said.


#10

After I read a bunch of Andrew Odlyzko’s online texts (recommended!) about the history of differential pricing in the 19th century train markets, I started to feel differently about the annoyance of plane ticket prices.

The point is to extract money from those who are able to pay it (basically, business travelers). If you ask “How much will you pay?” they lie. If you say “Will you pay more for the inconvenience of booking early, or of staying Saturday night?” and they’ll say yes.

The benefit is that, due to price competition between airlines (believe it – the net profit of the airline industry over its entire history is near zero), the cheaper tickets are actually cheaper than the cost of carrying those people. If they didn’t do things in this annoying way, lots of people couldn’t fly at all.

Another way to think of it is that there are multiple ways to pay: you can pay in $, or you can pay in inconvenience. (On the 19th century trains, you could pay by accepting cinders and ashes in your face. It’d’ve been cheap to put roofs on those cars, but then the rich people wouldn’t have paid a premium to not sit there.) If you make that impossible through “fair pricing” legislation, then people can only pay in $, which means some people can’t travel at all.

The problem with this system, of course, is that our monkey brains hate it. For some reason we don’t hate trading $ for privacy, though, another currency available to $-poor people.


#11

I wouldn’t be surprised if they throw in a DMCA violation as well. I’m sure those websites and pricelists are copyrighted. And the beauty of the DMCA is that it is a free, bonus attack; even if the claim is bogus, he must pay to defend himself and they walk away scot-free.


#12

What’s going on here is that the airlines charge more on less competitive routes. And one should not totally use this service–it’s called hidden city ticketing and it’s against the terms and conditions spelled out in your ticket.

First of all, you can’t do this on a round-trip ticket. When you fail to show for the second segment the rest of the ticket gets canceled.

Second, if you do this rarely nothing bad is going to happen. Do it frequently and they’ll take notice.


#13

Yeah; I noticed this right away. This approach is useless if you want to fly round trip…


#14

Nah, its just you don’t buy “Round trip” and its harder to plan.
You can always buy your return ticket for a trip that begins where you left off and goes past your return destination.


#15

These things have been known about for ages. My favourite one was the BA Lisbon Loop.


#16

Because there is no free market in transportation. Every form is subsidized.


#17

You have a very strange trolling strategy.


#18

Yea, sometimes I confuse even myself.


#19

“…aren’t market inefficiencies trade secrets?”

It depends on the market. In a market economy like the U.S. (notice I didn’t say free market economy), inefficiencies are the fuel that drives the engine. If you find a product or service that you believe you can provide more cheaply than a competitor, you have identified a market inefficiency and you exploit it. That’s what hedge funds do. Hedge funds find market inefficiencies and exploit them for profit. That’s all they do. None of that is illegal.

If this guy is publishing a technique, I wouldn’t think it illegal. If he’s publishing actual prices for city pairs from the website–that is much less clear.


#20

They are hurting themselves to keep transit to that last leg viable. If Skiplagged wins, and people squeeze the last pennies out of airlines, they will respond by simply not flying to those small airports any more.