There are times to draw lines in the sand, and there are times to lay down your arms and choose not to fight that battle. It’s a lesson all people learn sooner or later. And, unfortunately, some have to learn it the hard way. The world of public relations is no exception to that rule. In fact, it’s a prime example of it. Yet some companies never seem to grasp the truth that is right in front of them. United Airlines may be in line for such a lesson.
Recently, the Washington Times reported that United Airlines has joined Orbitz in filing a lawsuit against a 22-year-old New York-based entrepreneur. The entepreneur, Aktarer Zaman, founded the website, Skiplagged.com last year. The business purports to leverage a loophole called “hidden city” ticketing to help its customers save on airfare. The example, as reported in the Times is as follows:
“…if you want to fly from New York to San Francisco, you would book your flight from New York to Lake Tahoe, with a layover in San Francisco, and then get off there…”
Travelers are saving a ton of cash by using this method, and that is cutting into the profits of both the airlines and travel companies. How much money are they losing? Well, the lawsuit against Zaman states that United and Orbitz are seeking $75,000 in damages from lost revenue because of Skiplagged.com.
Of course, consumers see it just the opposite way. They see $75,000 saved by fliers. Money that the airline is overcharging their customers. There is no way that United can frame this argument in a way that consumers will not see the airline trying to protect their bottom line at the expense of the customer. “Hidden City” ticketing has been around for decades. While it was relatively unknown outside travel booking circles, the practice was relatively common within those “in the know.”
The only difference now is that the knowledge has been shared. And while Zaman is profiting…so are his customers. Should United and Orbitz get their 75 grand back, they may lose customers in the bargain.