Last month I wrote about American Airlines confronting a man who was was engaging in throw-away ticketing and warning him to cease and desist or face consequences. He did not, and now has received a hefty bill from American Airlines for skipping flights.
American Airlines Sends Man Bill For Skipping Flights
“Hidden City” or “Throw-Away” ticketing is not illegal, but it is against an airline’s contract of carriage that you pledge to abide by when you book a ticket. The concept is simple. Airlines often charge more for direct flights so when booking, say, Los Angeles to New York, it may end up costing more for that flight alone than booking Los Angeles to New York to Orlando, even though the LA to NY flight is the same.
A man was “caught”in the act. He was traveling from Charleston to Washington National via Philadelphia to save a few bucks over just flying Charleston to Philadelphia nonstop. During check-in, he was advised his account had been flagged and he needed to take both flights or he would face further action from American Airlines.
He still (foolishly, in my mind) skipped the flight. Here’s what American Airlines sent the him several days later, per View from The Wing:
As an analyst with American Airlines, one of my responsibilities is investigating violations of the General AAdvantage Program Conditions. 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. The Terms and Conditions of the AAdvantage program further state that compliance with the Conditions of Carriage is compulsory for participation in the AAdvantage program. As such, AAdvantage account [Redacted], is restricted, pending the outcome of our investigation. You may review the terms and conditions of the AAdvantage program (several parts of the terms and conditions are noted below) by clicking the link below or by copying and pasting it into your browser.
The audit of your account [Redacted] was completed on [Date]. The following reservations were not issued in compliance with the AAdvantage Terms & Conditions, Conditions of Carriage or AA.com Site Usage policy:
[Spreadsheet of Hidden City Flights Booked And Prices Paid]
Not unlike other commodities, airline seats are market priced. A seat on a non-stop flight is a premium product and commands a higher price. Seats in connecting markets must be priced competitively and hence can be substantially cheaper. The ill-effects of point beyond ticketing are two-fold; the customer receives the flight for a price for which they aren’t entitled and a seat is spoiled on the separate connecting flight. An airline ticket constitutes a contract and the terms of that contract are stated explicitly in the Conditions of Carriage. Please see excerpts below.
[Name], these actions have resulted in clear and considerable losses to American Airlines. In addition to our loss for the travel provided, tickets booked through prohibited practices are considered fraudulent, and therefore not eligible to accrue mileage. In this case, our loss is further compounded through the Elite mileage accruals, benefits, and services used that were not otherwise available. Generally, violations of this nature subject the AAdvantage account to termination. However, we are willing to provide you with an opportunity to restore an equitable relationship through restitution for the loss on your identified travel.
You may respond to this message by [Date and Time] stating you would like to bring your account back to good standing. At that time, the segments will be re-priced based on your intended travel and we will send you the information so that you may make the appropriate reimbursement for the travel provided. Failure to return the account to good standing or to reply, will result in the termination of your AAdvantage membership and all its benefits, including all remaining AAdvantage miles in your account and any award tickets issued from it.
He received a bill for $1,000 to bring his account back into good standing. He’s a Platinum member with AAdvantage. Not sure how many points he has, but that’s a reasonable (albeit still hefty) bill. I’d pay it and stop skiplagging.
American Airlines is known as the most aggressive airline when it comes to cracking down on real or perceived ticketing irregularities by customers. My rule of thumb remains: don’t jeopardize your prized frequent flyer accounts by engaging in throw-away ticketing. In this case, I would pay the $1,000 and cease further throw-away ticketing.
(H/T: View from the Wing)