Germans can feel safer taking advantage of hidden city ticketing after Lufthansa withdrew its pending appeal, signaling an important legal victory for consumers.
One German man noticed that he could save over $2,000 by booking Oslo – Frankfurt – Seattle – Frankfurt – Oslo instead of Berlin – Frankfurt – Seattle – Frankfurt – Oslo. So he booked it, paying ~$716 instead of ~$3000. On the way back, he simply skipped the Frankfurt to Oslo flight and bought a flight home to Berlin. This practice is commonly known as hidden-city ticketing or throw-away ticketing.
Lufthansa sent him a bill for the difference then sued him when he refused to pay. Lufthansa technically lost the first round in court because it failed to clearly clarify how it arrived at its final demand of €2,112, which it said included the difference in fare plus interest. But it likely did not matter, as the Berlin district court expressed skepticism that Lufthansa had any legal basis to charge a consumer for a service already paid for if not fully consumed.
After appealing its first-round loss, Lufthansa has withdrawn is appeal, making the lower court ruling binding.
Dr. Matthias Böse, the attorney for the sued passenger, explained the importance of the legal victory:
Lufthansa has realized that the version of its conditions of carriage used is incompatible with German law. Withdrawal of the appeal now provides legal certainty for passengers without having to hear the case before the Federal Court of Justice.
The move is neither binding on Germany nor other EU, though the decision will likely be cited by other European jurisdictions should other airlines have the foolish temerity to sue passengers over skipping segments.
Importantly, unlike in Italy, the ruling does not give German consumers the right to fly segments out of order or avoid cancellation of remaining segments when one is skipped.
I Told You So, Lufthansa…
All Lufthansa did by pursuing this lawsuit was make more people aware of the practice of hidden city or throw away ticketing.
See my previous post if you want to dive into the pros and cons of hidden city ticketing, but Lufthansa still has many ways to discourage customers from engaging in this practice without suing them or running afoul of the law.
In German, skipplaggers are called Schnäppchenjäger (literally, bargain hunters). I am thrilled that Lufthansa has abandoned its foolish lawsuit and that German consumers, knowing the advantages and disadvantages of hidden city ticketing, will no longer have to fear legal reprisals for beating airlines at their own game.
What are your thoughts on hidden city ticketing now protected by German law?