Stay with us on this one, because it’s all a bit strange at every turn. Lufthansa, a major German airline, is currently locked in a testy legal battle against a single, solitary passenger over a deliberately missed flight. If that sounds bananas, believe us: It is.
Lufthansa launched the legal action against the single, solitary passenger as a means of blocking the reasonably common “hidden city” travel hack, which involves deliberately missing a connecting flight in order to save money.
The hack works thusly: A direct flight to a specific destination city might hypothetically cost $169, but a flight to a different city that happens to connect in the destination city might be cheaper at $109. The passenger books the longer, cheaper flight, disembarks at the destination city, and deliberately misses the connecting flight to the different city.
For example, you might be keen to get from Los Angeles to Houston, but a flight from LA to New Orleans with a connection in Houston happens to be cheaper than a direct flight. You take the first leg, get off the plane in Houston, and sail off with your carry-on luggage safe in the knowledge someone on the New Orleans flight copped a row with an empty seat in it.
It’s not even remotely illegal, though airlines have written warnings against it into their terms and conditions. Airline officials, however, would like to take it one step further by outlawing it completely.
The case in question isn’t even the most egregious example of the practice: The unnamed passenger bought a return flight from Oslo to Seattle. He successfully completed all legs of the departing flight, but on the return leg left the plane in Frankfurt. Rather than take the completing Frankfurt to Oslo leg, he instead took a different Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Berlin.
Lufthansa contests this was a violation of their terms and conditions, and took the man to court seeking €2112 (Around AUD$3357) in compensation.
In December, a court in Berlin threw the case out. However Lufthansa has since been granted permission to appeal the ruling.
A court decision in the airline’s favour won’t exactly outlaw the practice in the eyes of the courts, however Lufthansa hopes to dissuade passengers from using the hidden city trick by making an example out of one single, solitary traveller.
The more you bloody know.