Skiplagged Sends Airlines to Hell

This week seems to be all about airlines and flight industry.

From Skiplagged website:

Update: Dec 30, Skiplagged is facing significantly higher than normal traffic. Please try again later if you encounter any issues–you will be amazed. Thanks.

The odds that you had heard about Skiplagged before Orbitz & United Airlines sued them last November are quite slim. After that, their visitor count has skyrocketed through the roof. Sometimes all publicity is good publicity.

Lesson #1: Getting sued is a great way for free promotion

Skiplagged effectively helps you to find cheap flights by using “hidden city ticketing”. The direct flight from Singapore to Helsinki can be more expensive than the flight from Singapore to Paris with stopover in Helsinki. Then you just hop over in Helsinki and just don´t use the last flight. This is only recommend to one-way flights because usually your ticket is cancelled afterwards. I have not (yet) tried out hidden-city ticketing, but I have done throwaway ticketing once. It just feels completely odd that if you want to travel one-way you have to pay double the price of return ticket. Actually when I did it, I did not even know that it was not approved. Aktarer Zaman, the founder of Skiplagged explains:

When you are searching for tickets, your market is just to go from this city to this city to this city. And you are shown a price. You are buying this flight when you are buying a ticket. So this is a service you are buying in. Consumers should have the right to partially use the services they buy.

I agree to most extend with the sentiment in here: when you buy something you should also decide not to use it. Not to mention that sometimes you are forced to not use the flights. There are certain arguments that using these loopholes in large scale might increase the costs of airline travel. It might also hurt smaller airline destinations as well. Eventually I feel it is quite fair game though. Airlines try to maximize the money out of us; meanwhile we are doing the opposite. In the bigger picture I think they are in better position to screw us over.

Lesson #2: Digital makes your business model eventually more transparent

Doing different airline booking ploys has been around longer than Skiplagged, but it naturally has done it faster and more effective. Exploiting these loopholes is definitely not illegal, but in can result in losing your loyalty program points. Based on the increased interest to Skiplagged and rising popularity of budget airlines this does not seem to be the a big concern for the majority of users. Consumers are not essentially stupid and millions of loyalty programs and cards have just led to more disloyalty. Also it has lead to increased focus on price especially with airlines.

I was just talking with one friend who mentioned that even with their corporate discounts with major commercial airline, it is still cheaper for the company to fly short-haul with budget airlines. And so they are doing. Consumers are doing the same. Flying has become so commoditized that you do not really care what airline you are flying if is deemed relatively safe.

Lesson #3: Price trumps the loyalty for the majority of consumers

After the lawsuit, Aktarer Zaman put up a crowdfunding-site up to cover up the upcoming legal bills. He has already raised over 60k. The response has been overwhelmingly positive for Skiplagged and quite vicious towards the airlines. One person donated $666 dollars and commented: “send them to hell”.

Lesson #4: People hate airlines

It is interesting to see how this will pan out, but again this a manifestation that no business is “safe” from digitalization. If there is a market fault, it is just easier and faster to point it out and also solve it digitally. That might create a totally new business as well. In the case of Skiplagged, it will be a zero-sum game. Either one will win. Time will tell will the Skiplagged send airlines to hell or will they sue Skiplagged to death.

Lesson #5: Always keep evolving

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