American Airlines sues skiplagging website that helps travelers find cheap routes

A ticket from Pittsburgh to Los Angeles might cost you, say, $500. A ticket from Pittsburgh to Burbank , however, might cost you only $300–with a change of planes at Los Angeles. Buying that ticket and just going to Los Angeles is called skiplagging, and airlines hate it, even though it saves them the fuel cost of your weight on the second leg, because it slims the profit margins on busy routes. American Airlines is now suing a website that acts as a skiplagging travel agent, finding and selling on tickets.

In the lawsuit, American accused Skiplagged of tricking consumers into believing they can tap "some kind of secret 'loophole.'" American said the website poses as an ordinary consumer to buy tickets, and warns its customers not to tip off the airline about the arrangement.

Skiplagging is an inherent property of the ticketing labyrinth that airlines created. Airlines constantly and programatically manipulate and shift ticket prices to put the traveler at a disadvantage: you don't know how much a ticket is going to cost on any given day for any given route at any given time on any given ticketing website. But in doing so they inevitably create opportunities for savvy, flexible or simply lucky travelers to exploit: if one route is priced up, another will be relatively inexpensive, and if it's not a direct flight then the traveler can skiplag the route. Beyond tracking passengers to ban them from future flights (as they already do) airlines would have to have door-to-door boarding bridges between planes, or march them through the terminal at gunpoint, to stop them leaving. Banning travelers for using their legally-bought tickets cleverly is to be expected: it's like a casino kicking people out who win too much at Blackjack. Suing over it, though, is ominous and despicable.