United Airlines threatens Skiplagged clients with Collections

Back in 2015, United Airlines decided to go to court. This court battle was a little bit different than most their court battles in that they were suing a 22 year old computer programer for allegedly trying to defraud the airline out of $75,000 in lost revenue.

United Airlines lost as the case was thrown out of court, and the 22 year old defendant, Aktarer Zaman, got to keep his website and continue to save fliers hundreds and thousands of dollars on their flights. The site, Skiplagged.com, takes advantage of a little known feature known as hidden city ticketing, allowing travelers to exploit a loophole to save money on their flights.

United may have lost that battle, but they have not lost the war. They’re taking to threatening individual travelers, some of them Gold, Platinum, and even 1k members, with collections and banishment from United, if they don’t pony up all the cash they believe they are owed.

Fare Sale

United Dreamliner via YouTube and Kris Trexler

What is Hidden City Ticketing?

Lets say that you want to fly to Seattle from Minneapolis. You can fly that route on either Alaska or Delta as they service it non stop. Because it is a non stop flight (and non stop is in demand) you’ll see, perhaps, a slightly higher price. Seattle to Dallas, on the other hand, is not serviced by Delta directly. It is, however, served by both Alaska and American, and in order for Delta to be competitive on that route, they’re going to have to route you probably through Minneapolis. 

No one in their right mind would proactively fly to Minneapolis before heading to Texas, so they’re going to heavily discount that flight in order to garner your business.

Since you really only want to get to Minneapolis and not to Dallas, you just get off the plan in Minneapolis (since you’re connecting through) and you’re on your way.

This does provide its own unique set of challenges however, foremost among them is luggage. You can’t bring any luggage with you because your luggage will end up in Texas and you will be in … well … Minneapolis.

Airlines hate this. They hate it because you’re skirting the system in order to get cheap flights and screw with their byzantine and complicated pricing structure.

At least you’re not being dragged off of a plane or being sued by clients, right?

And while it’s not illegal (you’re not breaking a law) it does violate certain parts of the airline’s rules, or Contract of Carriage. For that reason alone I have never skip lagged nor do I intend to do so. I enjoy flying on the airlines thank you very much and don’t want any lifetime bans.

Dr Dao United Airlines

Oops

United Airlines Cracks Down

A good friend shared a letter that his husband received a couple of months ago. It’s pretty telling in what it says about the lengths that United Airlines will go to try and claim their money back from passengers who milk the system.

Date
 
Mr. Skiplagged Customer
 
RE: Notice of Claim Pertaining to Point Beyond Ticketing and Demand for Reimbursement
 
Dear Mr. Customer,
 
It has come to United Airlines’ attention that on multiple occasions you have violated the “Prohibited Practices” outlined in Rule 6 of United’s Contract of Carriage.
 
United identified 38 instances since January of 2016 where you engaged in “Point Beyond Ticketing,” which is the unauthorized purchase of a ticket to a destination more distant than your actual destination. As shown below, the last segment of each ticket was not used. By including the additional segment, you were able to purchase your ticket at a lower fare. Please note that no irregular operations were involved in these itineraries to prevent you from making the connecting flight.
 
(editing my own… at this point the letter goes on to list every flight and every destination, it also goes on to list, in United’s opinion, the amount of money they’re out for each flight ranging from $11 to $460)
 
Total
$3,236.76
 
Such conduct constitutes fraud and a violation of Rule 6 of United’s Contract of Carriage. Accordingly, United demands that you cease and desist these unauthorized practices immediately and that you reimburse United in the amount of $3,236.76 which represents the difference between the cost of the tickets that you purchased and the cost of the travel taken, within 10 business day of receipt of this letter.
 
Please remit payment directly to me via credit card or a check made out to “United Airlines, Inc.” and send to:
 
United Airlines, Inc.
233 S. Wacker 28th floor
Chicago, IL 60606
 
If you do not make the requested payment, United Airlines reserves its right to take further action, including submitting United’s claim to an outside collection agency, terminating your MileagePlus membership and/or refusing to transport you on future flights in accordance with Rule 21 of the Contract of Carriage. If you have questions regarding this letter, feel free to contact me via MPCompliance@united.com
 
Sincerely,
Corporate Security
United Airlines
MPCompliance@united.com 

Wow. Well then. So United’s brought out the big dogs and all the leagalese to try and stop this. 

My take from United’s point of view

United does have very clear rules in their contract of carriage that prohibit this, and they do have the right to deny boarding because of this breach of their contract. They have a published price from A-B and you’re circumventing that fare by going from A-B-C and not actually going to C. 

You’re cheating, and you should be punished.

My take from the passenger’s point of view

It doesn’t make any sense for you to charge me $400 more to take the same flight just because you’re getting me to point C. It’s the same fuel, the same plane, and the same work to get me there. I’m simply finding a discount (much like using a discount code on a website or a promo code) and gaming the system. The court threw out your case, so you don’t have a legal leg to stand on. Go ahead and send me to collections. It won’t go anywhere.

You’re cheating, and you should be punished.

So, what happened?

My friend (obviously) decided not to pay. I mean, he didn’t want to pay before, so why would he pay now? It’s been 5 months and United hasn’t sent the dogs after him. Perhaps he’s in the clear? Only time will tell.

I do find it a very unique step for United Airlines to come in and offer him the chance to make it right. In my mind, what’s stopping United from accepting the almost $3,300 and then decided to not allow him to fly anyway? I suppose if they did, then that would leave them liable for damages, considering they seem to say “pay us and you’re good.”

Curious to know your opinion

What do you think about this whole scenario? Is United in the right by asking him to pay “or else?” Is he also right in saying that United has no leg to stand on to demand the past payment?

Have you used skip lagged, and what would you do if United came after you? Share in the comments thread below.

Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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115 Comments

  1. Love it! If you do this once in a while, fine. But this is clearly the customer frauding the company.

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    • Skiplagging once in a while, much like complaining about inflight services for a credit is fine, but abusing the system is well..abusing the system and becomes fraud. This guy has clearly abused the system.

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      • BS. The airline is defrauding thousands of customers and this is possible only in us of a.

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      • I think United has to rethink their plans regards these routes and find ways to be profitable, as going the legal route is expensive. But it is a privilege to live in a democratic country and using loopholes to save money is inexcusable. Find different routes, as you are committing fraud.

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    • The company is rotting the customer when the flights are no more than $400 at the highest point but because of a storm is coming such as a hurricane then they quadruple the price or raise the ticket up 10 times the price that they normally would have sold that ticket for and any other given time.

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      • Great non-answer. So, defrauding a company to spite them is legal?

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        • Yep, I paid the price for the ticket as charged.

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    • Fraud is fraud, period!

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        • United, AMERICAN and Delta executives should be thrown in jail for sacrificing the health of their customers to make their shareholders money. All shareholders of US Airlines should be requured to return any profits they made on the back of airline customers or risk jail time.

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          • Site please….

      • Yes, fraud is fraud, but the courts have ruled that this practice is not fraud. It is merely travelers taking advantage of loopholes in the (ridiculously complex) fare structures created by the airlines. The case does have similarities with the case of the doctor who was dragged off a United flight some months ago. In both cases, the airline was within their rights, but also in both cases, the amount of money involved is trivial compared with the negative publicity they get out of it.

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        • Here’s another analogy; Many restaurants have an ala carte menu, with each item separately priced, and a fixed price menu, for specific combinations of courses. The fixed price menu is always less than the some of the parts, and sometimes less than the sum of just the appetizer and entre. I have never heard of a restaurant that would refuse a fixed price order if you don’t eat all of the courses available. If you decline the desert, the restaurant saves money, just like the airline saves money in fuel and cabin services if you are not on board.for the final leg.

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          • I order McDonalds cheeseburgers ‘Hold the Cheese’ because it’s often $.30 less than ordering a hamburger. That said, McDs doesn’t have complicated pricing structures and they don’t make me sign a contract to eat there. I’m not a lawyer so I can’t really speak to how enforceable their contracts of carriage provisions are as it relates to hidden city.

        • If you mean that United was within its rights to contact the airport police to intervene in the Chicago instance, that is debatable. The rationale given by United was not factually correct (he was not being removed for another actual revenue passenger but as a convenience for an employee who really had no standing to demand a seat) and was not defensible
          If you mean that the airport police had the right to commit a battery on the passenger, I think not.

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        • No, United was not in its rights to have Dr. Dao dragged off of the plane. United’s own customer service policy was that once a ticketed passenger was seated, they couldn’t be removed, period. Oscar testified (was grilled) about this in front of Congress and it was in their public D.O.T. filings pre-Dr. Dao. The D.O.T. filings in particular were exceptionally problematic for United since they essentially (almost) take on the quality of law; they’re what they told the US Government and the flying public what they were going to do in situations like these, and were therefore required to do so. In other words, they broke their own internal policies and were therefore NOT within their rights to order anyone off of that plane.

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    • But when the airline strands me in Chicago because my connecting flight was late because of the airline and I missed the last connection home (but the jet was still connected to the jet bridge and they refused to let 10 of us board) it is quicker for me to rent a car and drive home rather than wait until the next morning. And they won’t pony up for the hotel room? They can’t have it both ways. Either guarantee that I’m going to get to my destination or pay for the hotel room when they miss the connection I paid for. Can’t have it both ways. And I travel carry-on only just to manage with this BS of getting stranded at connection hubs. As a business traveller who is on the road with only a short 32 hours at home on the weekends I have had enough of the airline nonsense. They want to gouge us but then their contract of carriage is meaningless to me especially when they don’t make any effort to actually get me home anywhere near the time I was supposed to originally arrive. And driving home late at night for 2-3 hours is no fun either especially after a long day at work or a long flight from overseas.

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      • Alex is spot on. They don’t live up to their contract when pushed to the edge and it would cost them to help out their stranded passengers. Their job should be to close the loophole by technological means, or better yet, introduce a fair pricing structure for their customers. If they cooperated with us instead of colluded with the competition, something tells me it would be a win for all.

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        • Alex and Avi have it right. Any legal issues aside, airlines could use technology to close the loopholes. Fare rules could easily say that if a passenger is flying SEA-MSP-DFW and is a no-show on the MSP-DFW portion that passenger is charged the price of what a same day ticket would cost from MSP to DFW plus a $150 fee. That may be too harsh, but the point is airlines could easily create a fee (call it a no-show segment fee) that deters this behavior. Airlines could create a rule for legitimate cases like what Alex described where if the plane is late, the passenger misses a connection, and there no reasonable alternatives (ex. next flight isn’t for seven hour or the following morning), then you won’t be charged the fee. There’s precedent for fare rule flexibility with airlines waiving change fees ahead of severe weather regardless of the ticket’s restrictiveness.

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          • You expect these companies that cant even follow their own complicated agreements to work out if skip lagged or missed through no fault of your own good luck

      • You are 100% correct

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      • agree, we put up with a lot of the Airline’s bullying, it is a two way street. They can cancel flights when ever they want and mess up months of planning (to get a better dea) and don’t even apologize (American just did this to me). I don’t call this fraud, it is traveller savvy, it is the public getting back for bags being charged extra for how many years now? For often little regard to the inconvenince they cause travellers if it is not within their duty to compensate. If they offer the lower price to compete, that is their choice and it might just be my choice to get off before the flight is at it’s final destination.

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    • First, I have never done this. I also believe company’s have the right to set their own rules and if I want to use their services then I should follow their rules. However, I find something seems wrong here. What loss did the airline suffer? As mentioned they flew the same route with the same amount of fares they expected. If they were smart, they would let passengers decide up front ( with no chance in agreed upon fare) so the airline could sell the empty seat. I bet two halves would be more income than the whole. Also, no one mentioned how the customer pays a price for the lower fare in term of extra time to get from point A to B. To me it’s unfair in the first place and the airlines have just been getting away with gouging the customer. You wouldn’t get on a commuter train and pay for the furthest destination ticket and be expected to have to stay on the train to the end would you? I can get off at whatever stop I want along the way, I just can’t expect a refund.

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      • I agree with this reply and I have done this once many years ago. I think it is wrong that Airlines are allowed to charge more for a connection through a city than a direct flight to the same city. They are gouging or defrauding the customers. Certainly I understand why they hate to be called for it and, equally, understand why the Skip-lagging customers hate being gouged or defrauded by airlines.

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        • Exactly – can someone please explain to me why a flight from Haneda, Japan to Minneapolis is more expensive than a flight from Haneda, Japan to Salt Lake City, with a change of planes in Minneapolis?

          Things like that are why people hate the airlines and their idiotic pricing structures.

          If airlines would have reasonable, common sense pricing – people wouldn’t resort to this.

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      • I think you could argue that they actually save on fuel. Weight contributes to fuel burn…. no passenger less weight. (-:

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      • no one has mentioned the outrage or airlines DOUBLE-booking the same seat! then (worstcase scenario) dragging a passenger off because they sold they seat he already purchased and occupied – we have seen this, haven’t we? so if a passenger doesn’t show up for that last leg…. well, they’ve already sold the seat a second time, and there’s always stand-by’s ready to fly!

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      • I second this. This is logic. Never skip whatever, ever, but you are right when you said they took your money for the flight and what if a friend lives in the city stopover and you decide to deplane? I have never heard of this policy of the airlines that gives them a right (where? why? to alienate the entire planet?) to have them pay – well, pay for what really when they were already paid, and paid to actually occupy a seat to a further destination ! If they wanted to, it would make more sense if a passenger deplanes early just to tell the airlines so they can grab someone wanting to go to Dallas, and have them pay a reduced fare.

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    • What is really ironic is that (many) years ago when I was working as a ticket agent for UAL (at LGA), we were trained to use hidden city fares if it benefited one of our passengers. However, that was also when joint fares (between two carriers to one destination) were also the norm and tariffed.

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      • Seriously? Now that I find interesting…

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      • This was also probably in the days that you could be booked on an award ticket and if that flight should be seriously delayed or cancelled, you’d be booked on another carrier’s flight without any drama. Now your answer would be more like, our next flight is 6 hours from now. Here’s your new boarding pass. What? you want a meal voucher and lounge pass? What for? We already rebooked you on the next flight.

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    • United is missing the opportunity to sell a seat b-c and just because Their ticketing system is so limited a customer aware of their shortcoming ought be applauded for bring to their attention.

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    • 20 years ago, my travel age taught me that trick and I used it fairly often to get to JFK from the west coast using Boston as the final destination. But as soon as I learned it was not really kosher, I stopped because like you, I love flying and it wasn’t worth it.

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    • It just the passenger realizing that the airline is stopping over in a place he likes, and not finishing the rest of the trip. If United was so concerned why do they even bother to have sop overs/layovers in the first place. Make every flight non-stop. Layovers/Stopovers are generally for the convenience of the Airline; so why can’t it work both ways.

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  2. There is no debt so they cannot send it to collections. And the consumer has rights. He can complain to the DOT and he can also sue. And also why did United wait so long to say anything to him about skiplagging? I actually love this because it makes United look bad and they’ll definitely chase customers away.

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    • Instead, then, I think they should claw back miles earned from the entire trip where someone pulled skiplagging.

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  3. That’s why you always check out as a guest and don’t enter your FFN. It sucks to file a retroactive mileage request but it keeps you under the radar.

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  4. “Great, kick me out of MP”.

    Done.

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  5. Are you seriously suggested United MUST sell someone tickets if the purchaser wants to violate the CoC?

    This guy is an idiot. Leave your MP details off the ticket, idiot. Protip: if you want to rip an airline off 68 times in 2 years, they probably are going to find you.

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    • It was 38 times not 68. A better company would look at this and realize this guy is flying with them more than once a month and is a valuable customer. It would be more understandable if they mailed him a letter and reminded him that this is against their rules and the possible consequences. But to demand money and threaten a collection agency is ludicrous.

      Seeing idiotic steps like this from the airline really reinforces the idea for me that taking advantage of mistake fares is the moral way to go. You are legally following their rules and simply booking a trip that they offered for sale.

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  6. 38 times, what an idiot.

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  7. the best UA can do it deny him. UA might be able to terminate the mileage account depending on legality of these two entities but the claim that UA lost money is a joke because the customer flew less than what he bought. My take on this is to ban airlines charging more than a certain percent than the direct flight. Incentivizing and making people connect through a hub and travel more by offering a cheaper price for longer flights with connections is a classic example of negative externality, which justifies the government intervention. Airlines only care about their profit, thus make people connect more and buy their ticket but still pollute the air unnecessarily by offering too many seats. While many economics disagree with different types of market failures, negative externality is something most economists these days agree on. It is the most classic example of market failure and always used in EC001 textbooks. Pollution from factories got regulated but not the unnecessarily excessive pollution from airlines? I still do not understand this part, maybe the government hasn’t picked it up? Maybe airlines have a very strong lobbying effort.

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    • Tough darts. UA changes the rules whenever it makes them more money. Maybe they should call airport police and have these folks dragged back on to the plane and force feed them UA’s meals.

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    • The thing is is that they’re only getting take off and landing fees at the connection point which could total maybe $11. So that’s all they’re losing.

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    • They could ban his FF#, his SS#, his Passport#, his Drivers License#, and all Frequent Traveler #s.

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  8. I’m not sure that a collections agency would even accept this since it’s “debt” United made up out of thin air. This is a pure reach for revenue. If they don’t want him flying with them anymore, then send him a letter banning him.

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    • Oh there is some bottom feeder out there that will take it. you can bank on it.

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  9. Done it three times thus far (not via Skiplagged), and always under an Alliance FF#, never United’s. I am generally judicious about it, never more than once in a year. Most popular routes I have done it on are to/from China (via SFO to a open jaw in Canada).

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  10. The airlines should set up a StubHub deal where you can list a leg, they get additional revenue and you get the full mileage points.

    The extra leg gets bid on at the airline website (revenue and page views!) – they keep all the “new” revenue, have passenger info for TSA and the “seller” gets the mileage points … (the leg buyer gets no points and non refundable and gets the smallest seat by the bathroom 🙂 ).

    Always – OPPORTUNITY not a PROBLEM.

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    • That’s actually an amazing idea! Minus that smallest seat lol

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  11. There is no debt. They are a paper tiger. I’d send them a check for 1 dollar and tell them not to spend it all on one settlement.

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    • And write “settlement in full” in the memo line. Oh and also do it with a money order in case they get any ideas about doing a future debit on that checking account.

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  12. Chicago’s a mob town, United is just representing!!!

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  13. I’d say forcing someone to continue traveling when they don’t want to is kidnapping. What if someone gets ill or fatigued and doesn’t feel like continuing? What if they get ill a lot? United’s jumped the shark on this issue.

    Maybe the guys who beat up the doc can drag these people back on the plabe and make them continue. .

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  14. When you order a dinner at a restaurant you are under no obligation to clean your plate. But a ticket, fly all or part of it. Legally there is no leg to stand on with collections. They can only punish via their own program rules (FF plan), etc. even if they put those rules in the contract of carriage it would not stand in court. Nice try united.

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    • I disagree with United having a right to collect but the counter to your point: if you go to all you can eat sushi, you usually agree to pay extra for any food you don’t finish from your plate — failing to pay that would be a violation of your agreement (similar to failing to continue to the last city in United’s ToS).

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  15. Although they may have lost revenue on a flight from destination A to B assuming that the flight was not completely booked, as they often are, United in no way lost revenue from X to Y to Z with someone getting off at Y. The customer paid for the entire trip at the price that flight was booked at. By not having that seat filled but paid for still led to the same revenue if that seat and been filled to the final destination.

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    • And likely additional revenue for the standby passenger that was now able to get a seat

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    • Isn’t it true that if a seat is not filled by 10 minutes before departure, United puts a standby person in that seat and does not let it fly empty?

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  16. I would bill United for the snacks I saved them by not travelling onwards…

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    • A .03 bag of pretzels, lol

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    • Makes ya wonder if they realized they don’t have a case

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    • FYI, “Sexy_kitten7….LMAO 😀 Case dismissed = they DID lose!!! At least the battle, and they DID choose no to refile, so actually they did lose THIS war….SAME OUTCOME!! UA lost consumer won!!

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      • Obviously you are not a lawyer – without prejudice means they can refile and the case can be retried/refiled. The only way they could consider it a win would be either on summary judgment or other procedural motion.

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  17. can you at least show a redacted image of that letter ? between all the editing, commenting, bolding, and selective excluding using phrases like “in United’s opinion” etc, even assuming this letter is real at all, i really can’t tell if you or your friend has utilized “editorial discretion” to remove any potential language that would show far worse behavior on the part of your friend.

    and seriously, you significantly weaken your case by (pun intended) dragging out that convicted felon in the picture, because you’ve shown that you have an axe to grind before you even made the case (assuming your case is real instead of some sensational hoax)

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    • Yea I’m not gonna post that letter. This isn’t the CIA not Congress. Dr Dao wasn’t removed for being a felon. Don’t equate the two.

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  18. So… this just a hoax?

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    • Yes.

      “Please remit payment directly to me”

      What company would say ‘me’.

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      • It did include the person’s name I just omitted it from the letter.

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    • It’s crazy how many people post “Yeah; stick it to ’em, United!” comments, as if UA is the little guy just trying to feed his family. Psychosis.

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  19. Why do you use a Delta example for a United article? Why not use one of the thirty-eight examples?

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    • I’m a delta fan :). What can I say.

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  20. I have two issues with using skiplagged.
    For the legalists among us, it violates the contract. You broke the deal you agreed to. You don’t get to just abide by the parts of the contract you like or think are fair.
    Second, you are implicitly saying that you are flying to the thru destination when you have no intention of doing so. (Yes, that really is what you’re implying.) So, you are lying to get your better deal. Is your character really worth saving some money?

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    • LOL. You are questioning someone’s character who does this? What about the character of a company that gouges anyone who needs to travel a shorter distance? If their pricing was more transparent and logical, no one would be forced to do this.

      I can’t count the number of times I’ve been stranded overnight in a city because United couldn’t manage to schedule a crew. Or mechanical issues and they couldn’t find a plane. Or the number of times I’ve needed to change a ticket and the change fee was almost equal to the original fare. The compensation is little to none.

      Yes my character is really worth saving some money.

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  21. I will never fly United again. That all I can do or say.

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  22. If the airlines fixed their pricing problems, all these problems would go away.
    The passenger is using the fees set by the airline.
    And who is to say that something didn’t happen in my life causing me to miss the flight.
    I have only skip flight once.
    I was on my way home and decided to drive the last leg with a friend.
    So now I’m a horrible bad person? I think not.

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    • I think that’s OK Roxie. You’re allowed to make changes. It’s when it becomes a systemic problem that someone is going to step in.

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  23. I might take the airline’s side IF I didn’t know that they filled that empty seat from point B-C with a passenger who was either in over-booked status or stand-by. IF they took this to court I would demand copies of ALL manifests to see if, indeed, the seat ended up empty (pretty unlikely). I’ve never done this since I generally fly on points anyway but I can see why people do it. Maybe if the airlines weren’t so stupid, requiring a passenger getting on in Syracuse, NY to fly to MN to get to Halifax, NS (true story) or from PBI to JAX by flying through NEWARK (again, true story) then people wouldn’t work so hard to get around it.

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  24. An occasional instance could be written off as an operations error- the gate scanner opened the gate arm to allow admittance but the information got lost between the scanner and the main res system. Check-in a box of newspaper or used clothes all the way through as I am sure one element they check before they accuse is if you checked baggage to the final destination.

    Transfer your miles to a star alliance partner, and let them terminate you if you think they will actually do that.

    Here’s your offer and compromise after you transfer the miles out, leaving enough for this->: Offer to give them back the miles of those 38 non-flown segments.

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  25. They cannot charge you for flights you already paid for. If they want to stop this from happening, then they need to correct their business practices and charge by the leg regardless of routing. In the end they will actually make more money.

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  26. I am not a United Customer and this letter is a great example of why I’ll never be a united customer. I don’t blame United for not being happy, but the first letter to a customer should be explaining why it’s wrong to skiplag and asking him not to do it again. Sending him a bill for a fake debt is overly aggressive and silly.

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    • Thank you. One less Facebook Live poster to worry about.

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  27. You can be fired for doing this at my former company that is one of the biggest spenders on travel in the world. So they clearly think it’s wrong even though it would save them a lot of money.

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  28. Many years ago when I used a travel agency one of their “features” was to exploit hidden cities for all their customers. The agency would write the ticket, then go into the airline system and cancel the extra leg, both directions. This ensured the airline wouldn’t cancel the return itinerary after you missed the hidden city flight. Then one day the agency got a letter from Delta stating they were aware of what they were doing and that Delta would no longer allow them to write tickets on their stock if they didn’t stop. Since writing Delta tickets was 90% of their business, it was a no-brainer. My ticket prices rose considerably after that.

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  29. Bough a non stop ticket from NYC to SC. For a sunday night flight. Flight was cancelled. Flew out on Monday to Detroit , then to Atlanta and finally SC. An all day flight. I asked the Airlines to compensate me for the non stop to the 2 stop flight, which was about $100 cheaper, there were 2 if us. Thier responses was you paud for a Ticket from NY to SC and thats whst we gave you. Whst a rip off

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  30. Why is the fare to a further out designation cheaper to begin with? That’s what’s wrong with the airfare pricing model !!!

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  31. The airlines’ ticket pricing policies are a practice of systematic fraud to begin with, so circumventing it should never be illegal or subject to lawsuits or collections. They deliver a service A –> B –> C that costs them more to deliver than A –> B, and yet they charge LESS for it? Is this really something they want in the news each day as lawsuits and collections proceed?

    Major airlines are the most customer-hostile companies on the face of the Earth . . . other than Comcast.

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  32. In fact, if ALL the airlines stopped these deceptive and fraudulent billing practices, it would work out in the end. They only offer these ridiculous discounts to compete for destinations they are less equipped to service than other airlines. If they ALL simply charged by the leg, they would lose on some destinations but win on others, and at least this form of unfair pricing would go away. But of course someone would cheat . . . probably United . . . and then they’d all go back to the old practice. I am a 1-million-mile flyer on United, and I have hated them for every single mile. Because of where I live and because of the companies I have worked for, I have generally had little choice 🙁

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  33. I think it’s great when you see the crooks at United (and elsewhere) getting beat at their own game!

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  34. I have skipped. Did not know I was breaking any rules… just saving some change. I stopped flying United as a 1K about 18 years ago when I came to the realization that the entire UNITED organization viewed the customer as the ENEMY. I am not surprised they still do…. I have flown United only once (from a hub city) in that time when there was NO OTHER OPTION besides driving. Glad to hear I can continue avoiding United…. When I do have to fly United I use my other Star Alliance FFN.

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  35. I did this once, years ago. I didn’t realize it was “illegal,” just thought I was smart for figuring it out! Was marooned in the Northeast following a hurricane. I had a train ticket back to “B,” but trains didn’t run for many days following the storm. I had to arrange getting back to my car which was parked at “B.” Flight from “A” to “B” was $500. “A” to “B” to “C” was $149. I was already broke, after spending 4 unexpected days in a place where I had planned to only overnight. For me, it was a no-brainer. Didn’t feel like I was manipulating any system, just doing smart shopping. As others have said, I didn’t cost the airline anything extra. I don’t feel guilty.

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  36. And this is why I like Southwest. They don’t charge more for direct flights. They don’t penalize you for taking one-way flights. I was looking to book something on United where I wanted to take United one direction, but another airline the other direction due better times on the other airline. The one way ticket was around 90% of the cost of the RT ticket. That is crazy.

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  37. I don’t get all of these United apologist and fan boys defending the airline on this legal and sporadically used practice, Yeah this person may have gamed the system (applause please), but everytime United and the other airlines add or increase ancillary fees, they are themselves gaming the same system because they know they can get away with it. They are just running a very lucrative legal racket. Ancillary services don’t cost the airlines much but they mark them up at exorborant rates. Does it really cost the airline $150 to cancellation/change a ticket when I can do it online. And since they are cramming more and more people onto planes and are increasingly overselling flights, this revenue dilusion explanation that they use as a justification for the cancellation fee is more of an urban legend. If it cost Southwest little or anything to cancel a ticket why does United and the other major airlines have to charge a fee, because it is major source of profit. And Skiplagging is counter-productive to their profit maximization business model but somehow the airlines want to paint it as if the real impact is to the level of customer service they can provide. How much does this skiplagging practice really cost the airlines. Ahhh nothing (last time I checked its not a free ride). How much do they make in unregulated and artificial ancillary fees: billions. What more do they want, free gas!

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    • United is correct in this instance. All fares have their rules.
      That being said, United owes me about $4,000 which I know I’ll never see.
      So the end result I have banned United from my fly list. There are options, much better options.

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  38. I do not like the practice, but I have to admit that sometimes it is kind of unavoidable … Here is my very real example. I need to fly a multi-city itinerary next year. My airline of choice is Delta/skyteam, where I have status and where I have a great choice of flights. The itinerary I need is: FCO to BOS (mid Feb) and BOS to CDG (end of April). If I go to the Delta web site, choose the multi-city option for the chosen dates, searching for a Main Cabin ticket results ONLY in a business class option for E7624, a fare that I cannot afford. If I resort to look for two separate one way tickets, the lowest fare from FCO to BOS is E1985 (Main cabin) and the lowest fare from BOS to CDG is $3170 (Main cabin). This is still a very unaffordable situation. Now, if I decide for a RT itinerary, from FCO to BOS and back, going through CDG on the flight back from BOS to FCO, a main cabin ticket is not only available but also at a reasonable price: Less than E800! So, to go where I need to go, I just have to book this decently priced ticket, and stop in Paris, without flying the last leg from Paris to Rome …

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    • Welcome to the crazy world of one-way pricing

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  39. I Am Going To Send A Message To Trump And See What He THinks, Lets Tweet At Him Together And He WIll Respond

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  40. This dispute has been going on for years. I used to skiplag frequently on NWA. I was eventually “caught” and told me my future reservations would be flagged and if it happened again I would be banned. I wrote a nasty letter to FAA. A few month later I was contacted by a large NY law firm who had obtained the complain letters from aggrieved passengers and told me they were commencing a class action lawsuit and asked if I would be a named plaintiff. I declined. I don’t recall whether the lawsuit was filed or it’s disposition.

    Subsequently I and a group of associates were flying from DFW to DTW on American; our original flt was from DTW to Austin and returning from Austin to DTW. We exited in DFW on the way down and tried to board in DFW for the return trip. American denied us boarding until we paid $2200, the difference between the RT fare we paid DTW to Austin and the fare we should have paid RT DTW /DFW. We paid the upcharge in order to get home. American told us it had just developed new computer programs to catch people like us.

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  41. The passenger is hardly committing a fraud, he is taking advantage of a system set up by the airlines and under which:

    1) The terms of contract with United that United relies on are not negotiable and, given the disparity in bargaining power, the contract is almost certainly a contract of adhesion therefore the term would not be enforceable;

    2) What are the damages suffered by United? Not the difference between what the man paid and what he would have paid had he booked non-stop to city B because United has a duty to mitigate damages from the breach. In other words, United would have to show that it attempted to sell the second leg of the flight and could not sell it to get any damages at all. (a) If the seat were sold, that amount gets deducted from the damages; (b) if no legitimate attempt were made to sell the B-C seat, United cannot get damages for that flight; (c) United might even have to show that it tried but could not get a discounted fare to fill the seat to get damages for a particular flight.

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  42. What’s really cool is when the connecting flight you do not want to take is overbooked and you walk away with $600 extra.
    Use a partner frequent flyer when skiplagging or forgo the points to deter Jaba the Hut United.

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  43. DId this traveling domestically about 25 years ago when there were no systems to keep track of what was happening. The problem as mentioned somewhere in all these comments is for UA to bring a person to court and see what happens. I think it is unlikely that UAL will want the publicity but in these days, who knows ? The problem is the pricing system with as few as 4 for Business and 10+ for economy and a short trip within the US is higher priced than a trip from the US to Asia or Europe.

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  44. Violating UAL’s rules of Carriage does NOT constitute fraud. Its rules are rules, not law. The Court already determined that. UAL can take away Frequent Flyer membership, because it is a perk. They could ban you from flying.. I’d sue for discrimination and likely win. Legally, they cannot refuse to sell you a ticket except for Federal Security issues. But claiming they have been defrauded, Nope. As a previous writer pointed out, UAL can change your flight stops if they want ( Equip issues, etc.) and that’s not fraud, so getting off the plane early is not a violation of law. UAL is following the typical IRS, etc example of making a huge claim and seeing if the victim will fight it. UAL continues to sink into a 5th rate carrier.

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  45. I asked my fraud class professor back in MBA school something like this before. He told its totally legal for a lot of things we do for churning. However, is it moral hes not so sure. Moreover, it’s united’s Job to have a tighter internal control on their IT system than letting people find these deals easy. I don’t believe united has any ground to hold any customers responsible for the own problem. I do believe they have the right to refuse to carry you if they believe you are abusing the system.

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  46. Article should say, fly FROM Seattle TO Minneapolis. Then the rest of the scenario works.

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  47. This highlight two possible problems on the airlines part, both of which are illegal:
    1) the airline is selling flights at way more than the cost of operating the flights plus reasonable profit- this is predatory price gouging. (Remember, flying is necessary and important world infrastructure. It is so important and regular that commercial air travel continues regularly in war zones and between countries at war. Taking advantage of monopoly of owned routes to charge exorbitant prices is illegal monopoly behavior. On the rare occasions that it falls under the technical definition of price gouging, it is just that too!)
    2) Airlines are selling flights below cost that connect through a middle city to remain competitive on a particular route. This is also illegal anti-competitive behavior.

    So however you cut in, the extreme example are illegal anti-competitive behavior.

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  48. Fine. If United agrees to never let themselves be bailed out by the US taxpayer ever again, and not be allowed to seek bankruptcy protection, then I’m fine with this behavior. Oh, United you want to have it both ways, well then NO, sit down!

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  49. its a strong arm scare tactic. You buy a ticket from point A to point B to point C. You have not done anything wrong by exiting early. The letter is nonsense. Of course the airline has the right to deny selling you a ticket in the future.

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    • What I’d like to know is were most of the tickets the guy bought round trip? And if they were, wouldn’t United automatically cancel the return flight after the second leg was skipped? If so, this would probably make the whole endeavor uneconomic for the traveler. If they United didn’t cancel the return segment – why did they not?

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  50. Fraud is illegal. This is not. Not fraud. Not illegal. Fair game. Change your exorbitant price structure and make this unnecessary.

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