Skiplagged, a company that helps travelers find hidden cities and creates airline wrath over time, filed a lawsuit to have a judge declare it not subject to Southwest Airlines terms.
Hidden city tickets allow flyers to book flights from New York to Los Angeles via Chicago and then deplane in Chicago. This allows them to save money as one-stop flights are often cheaper than direct flights. These schemes are legal but airlines don't like them because they cause revenue loss and leave empty seats.
Skiplagged claimed that Southwest had sent it threatening messages in June, alleging that Skiplagged had violated federal law. This complaint for a declaratory judgement was filed in the Southern District Court of New York on Friday.
According to Skiplagged, a New York-based eight-year-old business, Southwest argued that Skiplagged must comply with Southwest.com's terms and conditions. It is web-scraping Southwest.com, publishing Southwest's flight schedules and fare information, as well as using Southwests heart logo.
Skiplagged stated in the court filing that it does not obtain Southwest flight information from Southwest.com and is therefore not subject to the airline's terms and conditions. Skiplagged didn't specify where it got Southwest fare information.
Skiplagged informed Southwest by writing on June 21, 2021 that Skiplagged had not scraped any data from Southwest.com, or obtained data from Southwest's application programming interface. They also stated that they had stopped using the Southwest heart logo and didn't sell hidden-city Southwest flights.
Skiplagged even lists hidden cities itineraries, including Southwest flights. Users can then go to Kiwi.com to make reservations.
The Skiplagged complaint requests that the court declare that Skiplagged isn't bound by Southwest terms and conditions, hasn't interfered with the airlines contractual relations, or hasn't encouraged others to do the same.
Skiplagged was founded by Aktarer Zman in 2013 as an side gig. It advises travelers not to check bags, because they may get off the plane during layovers. They also caution them to not use their frequent flyer numbers, or use hidden city tickets, too frequently, because airlines might cancel their tickets, or remove them from loyalty programs.
Skiplagged was sued by Orbitz and United Airlines several years ago. Orbitz settled the case with Skiplagged and came out unscathed.
Representatives from Skiplagged and Southwest as well as Kiwi.com didn't immediately respond to inquiries for comment.
Southwest Airlines has a track record of at least two decades of successfully sueing online travel websites, forcing them to stop displaying Southwest fare information and using its intellectual property.
The airline provides its fare information to travel agencies worldwide and has agreements with corporate booking tools, travel management companies and travel management companies. However, it does not display its flight information to vacationers outside of Southwest.com.
Here's the Skiplagged complaint
Download (PDF, 295KB)