A small victory for bargain hunters: Lufthansa drops lawsuit against ‘skiplagging’ passenger

Oct 8, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Lufthansa has withdrawn its lawsuit against a traveler who engaged in “skiplagging,” also known as “hidden-city ticketing,” or the practice of paying for a round-trip flight but skipping the final leg of travel in order to pay a cheaper airfare.

In 2018, Germany’s largest airline filed suit against a passenger who paid for a round-trip flight in business class from Oslo to Seattle via Frankfurt. The airline alleges that the passenger went to Seattle but then intentionally missed their return flight and instead booked another flight, with the final destination in Berlin. Lufthansa claimed the passenger intentionally engaged in the practice known as hidden-city ticketing to save money on airfare.

Hidden-city ticketing basically means booking a multi-city ticket without then flying on the last leg of the itinerary. That’s because in some cases, the most direct itinerary or a one-way ticket cost more than an itinerary that terminates in a different city, or round-trip ticket.

So for example you might want to fly from A to B, but discover that there is a cheaper ticket continuing to C. So you book that cheaper trip from A via B to C, but get off at your real intended destination B and never take — hence, skiplagging — the last leg to C. Obviously, this only works when you have no checked luggage, which would go to C without you. And it’s also a practice that we at TPG do not condone.

In the Lufthansa case, sent the man a revised invoice for his ticketed itinerary, requesting additional payment of more than $2,300 for the going rate of what effectively became a multi-city flight instead of a round-trip ticket. 

The lawsuit was thrown out of a low-level court in December 2018, but Lufthansa appealed the decision in the Berlin district court in early 2019. But this past week on Oct. 2, the airline unexpectedly withdrew the appeal without explanation, according to German newspaper Bild.

While the failed lawsuit represents a small victory for commercial travelers looking to save a few bucks, the practice is frowned upon in general by the commercial aviation industry at large. Airlines lose revenue when seats go empty which otherwise could have been sold to other customers.

In the US, skiplagging is against the airlines’ contracts of carriage:

But how strictly is this enforced, and what does that mean for U.S. customers in practice?

The answer is “it varies.” As a general rule, it’s difficult for airlines to prove that passengers purchased flights deliberately intending to skip one or more legs of the trip. However, you’ll most likely find that the rest of your itinerary will be swiftly canceled, which is why “skiplaggers” usually only ditch the very last leg of travel.

Instead, you’re far more likely to find yourself threatened with the loss of airline privileges such as mileage credit toward elite status, or potentially even termination of your entire frequent flyer account and setting your mileage balance to zero, as American Airlines threatened to do to one TPG reader.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

This story has been edited to specify that skiplagging is against airlines’ contracts of carriage, but not illegal.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at US restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
  • Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.