In its latest move to crack down on skiplagging passengers, American Airlines has issued a notice to travel agents advising that it will be monitoring bookings going forward. The airline has previously attempted to fine identified skiplaggers, but has not prevented the practice from happening fairly regularly.
AA gets travel agents involved in stopping skiplagging
Reports suggest that American Airlines is cracking down on skiplagging passengers, as a memo has been sent to travel agents warning of the practice. The airline flags undesirable booking practices, including hidden city, churning, and origin and destination manipulation, as issues it is keen to look into.
The memo further warns that it plans to begin monitoring these practices and that identification of such behaviors could result in ‘an unfavorable outcome.’ The memo is freely available on American Airlines’ SalesLink platform, and a screenshot of the entire message is below:
The practices referred to in the memo can largely be coined as ‘skiplagging.’ This practice allows passengers to travel cheaper by finding portions of connecting flight schedules that are priced lower than the entire itinerary.
For example, someone who wanted to fly from Tampa to Houston may well find a connecting itinerary Tampa – Houston – Albuquerque that is priced lower than the direct Tampa to Houston segment. They can simply deplane in Houston, scrap the remaining portion of the ticket and get where they want to go for less.
American Airlines, along with most other air carriers, uses some complex pricing algorithms to offer discounted fares on married segments. It’s all about demand management but leaves the system open to gaming by savvy travelers. There are even websites and apps that can help them do it.
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Why is AA cracking down now?
Skiplagging is not a new issue for airlines but has been a tough problem to crack. In Europe, Lufthansa attempted to sue passengers for skiplagging, while back in the US, United Airlines has even asked airport staff to help them spot people indulging in the practice. So far, nothing has been overly successful.
American Airlines, too, has previously attempted to take a hard line with skiplaggers. In August last year, the airline sent a passenger a bill for $2,500 in relation to the identification of 52 cases of skiplagging. The airline claimed that “Hidden city ticketing is explicitly defined in AA’s Conditions of Carriage as a violation of ticket validity” when requesting the payment.
Just weeks ago, American Airlines reportedly confronted a passenger at the airport regarding this issue. They caught the passenger ditching a portion of their itinerary and sent them a bill for $1,000. As shared by View From The Wing, the airline said,
An audit of your AAdvantage account, determined that you have engaged in the practice known as ‘Hidden City ticketing’; the purchase of a fare to a point beyond your actual destination. Hidden city ticketing is explicitly defined in AA’s Conditions of Carriage as a violation of ticket validity.
It’s clear American Airlines is keen to stop this practice from occurring. But while it is against the rules of the airline, it is not actually illegal, so there isn’t a whole lot of clout behind the airline’s actions. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see that AA is getting travel agents in on the action.
With everything that’s gone on in the past 12 months, it’s likely looking to save money wherever it can. However, you’d think a less stressful and resource-intensive solution would be to simply reform its pricing policies so skiplagging is no longer attractive.