By Lindsey Li
Lindsey Li is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania and an associate editor of the Penn Undergraduate Law Journal.
With hundreds of students flying home for school breaks and the holidays over the next two months, the number of families looking for deals on airline ticket prices continues to grow, as do ticket prices Even discount airlines, such as Frontier, on which this author flew home from Philadelphia to Texas during our school’s Fall Break for only $101 round-trip, and Spirit have inflated prices almost four-fold for the upcoming weeks as students near highly-anticipated Thanksgiving and winter breaks.
Enter SkipLagged. The start-up, founded by Aktarer Zaman in 2013 after graduating with a major in computer science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, aims to “book cheaper flights by taking advantage of ‘hidden city’ fares.”  In other words, it utilizes connections so that the flier will never actually take the second leg of the trip.  Now, as most frequent fliers know, it is often cheaper to fly, for example, from San Francisco to Houston to New York than it is to take a direct flight from San Francisco to New York. However, what SkipLagged does is present the former option to the flier whose final destination is Houston, provided it is cheaper than a direct flight from San Francisco to Houston.
This creates a rather large dent in airline profits in the long-term. As a result, though generating massive consumer support at the time of its market emergence, SkipLagged was soon faced by multiple lawsuits from commercial airlines that claimed that the startup “intentionally and maliciously interfere[d] with [their] contracts and business relations in the airline industry”.  Granted, United Airlines does state in their Contract of Carriage that they prohibit “hidden cities ticketing” and doing so may result in invalidation of tickets and “restrict[ed] future travel”.  Even if SkipLagged is judged to have not been doing anything illegal, after being faced with self-protective lawsuits by United and Orbitz, legal proceedings can get often expensive enough to destroy fledging start-ups like SkipLagged.
However, as we have learned with political campaigns and charity organizations/events alike, the general public’s attitudes-turned-donations can wield large influence over the results of debated issues. Supporters have donated more than $75,000 on [Zaman’s] GoFundMe site to pay his legal fees. Though Orbitz settled with SkipLagged early on after SkipLagged agreed to stop redirecting traffic to Orbitz, United remained invested in its quest to destroy the fare-saving website, insisting that SkipLagged “openly encourage[s] customers to engage in deceptive behavior.” 
In May 2015, U.S. District Judge John Blakey ruled that Illinois wasn’t the appropriate place for Chicago-based United to bring its lawsuit, given that neither Zaman nor SkipLagged has “‘relevant, meaningful contacts’ in the state.” However, he explicitly stated that he did not prevent the plaintiff from pursuing charges in a different jurisdiction or “proper forum.”  Zaman’s attorneys stated after the decision that “New York is the only logical destination,” citing the headquarters of SkipLagged, and boast of the $79,000 that has been raised in surplus for Zaman’s legal fees. United has not yet commented on whether it intends to refile in another district. 
 Vara, Vauhini. “How an Airline Loophole Could Hurt Passengers.” The New Yorker. January 5, 2015. Accessed October 6, 2015.
 Simmons, Pattrik. “Did you know Friday is the best day to book holiday fares?” Local 10 News. October 9, 2015. Accessed October 6, 2015. http://www.local10.com/news/did-you-know-friday-is-the-best-day-to-book-holiday-fares/35751058
 Lardinois, Frederic. “United and Orbitz Sue “Hidden Cities” Flight Search Engine SkipLagged.” Tech Crunch. December 30, 2014. Accessed October 13, 2015. http://techcrunch.com/2014/12/30/united-and-orbitz-sue-hidden-cities-flight-search-engine-skiplagged/
 “What’s All the SkipLagged Fuss About Anyway?” Huffington Post Travel. May 5, 2015. Accessed October 13, 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/hoppercom/whats-all-the-skiplagged_b_7214450.html
 Gillespie, Patrick and Smith, Aaron. “Game is not over in United Airlines vs. 22-year-old.” CNN Money. February 13, 2015. Accessed October 13, 2015. http://money.cnn.com/2015/02/13/news/companies/united-airlines-orbitz-skiplagged/
 Bachman, Justin. “Judge Tosses United Airlines Lawsuit Over ‘Hidden City’ Tickets.” BloombergBusiness. May 1, 2015. Accessed October 14, 2015.
Photo Credit: Screenshot taken from Skiplagged.com
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