Southwest Airlines has filed a lawsuit that aims to stop customers from saving money on air travel. Southwest is suing Skiplagged, a company which helps customers find two-step flights going directly to their desired destination since this often works out to be cheaper than a direct flight. According to Southwest's legal filing, this is becoming harmful to operations and they want it to end.
Skiplagged is an online travel agency that promises to help customers find the cheapest path possible to their destination. One of the unique ways it does this is by finding two-step flights where the layover is at the customer's destination. In many cases, customers can actually save money by paying for this long flight but simply getting off at the layover, leaving a vacant seat on the rest of the trip. Harmless as this may sound, Southwest claims that it is becoming a problem.
According to a report by ZDNet, Southwest's lawsuit claims that this method of cheap travel slows flights down because staff are unsure of where the missing person is. The company claims that this is messing with "on-time performance metrics," even though customers are frequently warned that a plane will not wait for them under any circumstances.
Southwest also claims that this practice is clogging up airports with misplaced baggage, forcing the company to send checked bags back to the person who got off in an unexpected place. ZDNet's Chris Matyszczyk speculates that most savvy people using Skiplagged are only taking carry-on, not checked bags.
Southwest's statement also said that it "prides itself on offering customer-friendly policies," but that this practice simply does not serve the best interests of all travellers. However, Skiplagged's strategy does not violate any laws and, in most cases, does not violate the policies of airlines or airports.
Southwest has sued online travel agencies before, and is also suing the site Kiwi.com, which it claims is supplying Skiplagged with Southwest times, fares and other information. The lawsuit reads: "On information and belief, Kiwi distributes to Skiplagged the Southwest schedules and fares Kiwi scrapes from Southwest's website."
So far, Skiplagged has said that it is trying to reason with Southwest and settle the matter out of court, while Kiwi is apparently taking a more aggressive legal approach. a Kiwi spokesperson told Matyszczyk: "Kiwi.com is not 'hacking' Southwest. Southwest openly admits that it makes all of its flight and fare data generally available to the public. The question in this case is whether a company like Southwest can publish information openly on the internet and then sue its online competitors from accessing that same data."
Meanwhile, customers on social media are debating the ethics and logistics of this flight-hopping strategy with our without the help of an app. A surprising number of them feel that Skiplagged is crossing the line, and that customers using this method are making things difficult on others.