United Airlines and Orbitz are suing 22-year old Aktarer Zaman for $75,000 because he uses his website, Skiplagged.com to provide air flight customers with information that can help them save costs on one-way tickets.
Zaman’s website explores the “hidden city” ticketing strategy to enable customers that are searching for cheap flights to destinations with layover benefits pay less for their ticket and travel. This strategy works by allowing air passengers to book flights that have a layover in their desired destinations and not necessarily continuing for the last leg of their journeys.
For instance, if you have to pay about $500 to book a flight from New York to Atlanta, Skiplagged.com could provide you with information that would help you rather book a $200 flight from New York to Los Angeles with a layover in Atlanta – helping you to save about $300 in the process.
This trick for saving money on air flights is not really illegal, but airlines do not like it and they actually frown at it because they insist it makes them lose money and revenue. The hidden city ticketing option is not readily available for every air trip to all destinations, but it works well with one-way tickets since most airlines would cancel the rest of your flight where you fail to check in for one of your flights. Also, it doesn’t allow passengers to check their bags if they ever decide to dip out on part of their journey because airlines will continue on without them.
In the lawsuit filed by United Airlines and Orbitz, the charge against Zaman reads that “Defendant Zaman…has used his website to intentionally and maliciously interfere with Plaintiffs’ contracts and business relations in the airline industry and in doing so has falsely associated Skiplagged with Orbitz and United. By promoting prohibited forms of travel on Skiplagged, Zaman has induced breach of Orbitz Worldwide’s travel agency contracts with commercial airlines and of United’s customer contractual relationships.”
To this end, Zaman maintains his website is perfectly legal and operates a legitimate service backed up in law. He states that his website does not book tickets for passengers, and he does not make any profits from the website in spite of the invaluable information it provides to air travelers. “I haven’t made any money from this,” Zaman said. “This is privately funded through my own funds.”
Following the lawsuit slammed again him, Zaman’s Skiplagged.com website now carries a banner notification that reads “United Airlines and Orbitz recently filed a lawsuit that can force us to remove results only we find, getting in the way of saving you lots of money on airfare. Please support Skiplagged by donating to our legal fund here. Thank you!” And incidentally for him, Skiplagged has been able to garner almost $13,000 out of the $15,000 it aims to raise.
Born in Bangladesh but raised in Brooklyn, New York, Zaman graduated some years ago with a computer science degree from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He works as a full-time staff with a technology startup and only runs Skiplagged on the side as a side project.