Lufthansa sues no-show passenger for skiplagging
Friday, February 15, 2019
Passengers can save a lot of money when buying round trips and even multi-flight bookings and intentionally missing flights. Nowadays however, Lufthansa is suing a passengers because they did not take their flight.
Airline ticket prices are a complex field. Some time ago, resourceful passengers found out that a trip with a stopover can be cheaper than a direct flight. An example: from a financial point of view it can be worthwhile to book a flight to the USA from Stuttgart via Frankfurt instead of starting directly in Frankfurt. However, if the passenger now lives near Frankfurt, it would make little sense to travel to Stuttgart beforehand, so many passengers simply did not show up for the first leg of their journey.
In order to put a stop to these practices, airlines have started to stipulate in their conditions of carriage that flights must be taken in the booked order. If this is not done, high extra fees will have to be paid at check-in. Otherwise, the passenger is not allowed on board! Until now, this has mainly affected passengers who have forfeited the first flight of a journey. Now Lufthansa, Germany's largest airline, has sued a passenger who did not board the last leg of the journey.
Lufthansa demands over 2,000 euros in compensation from no-show passenger
The airline’s claim, for more than EUR 2,100 in arrears, was dismissed by the Berlin-Mitte Local Court. Although Lufthansa is basically entitled to recoup the higher ticket fees for the actual route flown, the general terms and conditions are not transparent enough in this respect. It was not clear to the customer how much he would have to pay if he did not take a segment of his booking.
Lufthansa appealed against the ruling. Travel lawyers assume that such lawsuits against passengers who deliberately allow their flight to expire will increase in the future. This is to prevent other travellers from using this trick.
Consumer rights wish to defend passenger rights
The European consumer association BEUC, an association of independent consumer organisations in the EU, declared war on the airlines' no-show rules back in December. It was "simply unfair" to refuse to fly even though the ticket had been paid for. If unexpected changes occur or if the passenger finds a better way to get to one of the airports, they should not be penalised. They also criticised heavily the fact that these rules tend to be "hidden" in the general terms and conditions of most airlines.
National consumer protection organisations, including the ones in the Netherlands and Greece, brought actions against such rules. In Germany the consumer protection centre sees at the present time no reason to become active. Background: In Germany, the airlines are not allowed to forfeit the entire trip if a leg of the journey is not taken - but only charge an additional fee, which can easily be in the four-digit range.
In Spain, a court has already ruled that airlines cannot charge you if you’ve failed to take a flight regardless of the reason.
What is skiplagging and how does the trick work?
To put it simply, the trick consist of booking a cheaper itinerary with connecting flights to reach your intended destination (there’s a second or third flight after you’ve reached your intended destination that you won’t take) instead of a direct flight.
Let’s say that you want to travel from Manchester to Boston. You can book a direct flight with British Airways for 750 GBP. However, you’ve noticed that you can also book a flight to Kansas City with British with a stopover in Boston for 500 GBP. You then decide to purchase the second booking and intentionally miss your second flight (the one from Boston to Kansas City). There, you’ve saved 250 GBP.
The perils of skiplagging
These are the reasons why skiplagging is not recommended:
- Airlines may refuse to let you fly if you’ve booked a return flight (round-trip booking)
- One can only travel with carry-on luggage since hold baggage will probably make the full trip
- There’s a chance that the airline will sue you
- Very susceptible to schedule changes and other problems
If you want to read more on your rights you can always have a look at our your rights and how it works pages.