Tag Archives: flying

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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Why You Should Not Fear Flying?

I was flying to Jakarta on New Year´s eve. About midway on the flight there was quite heavy turbulence quite close to the area of AirAsia crash. Nothing I would usually be worried about. When other passengers started praying and doing cross signs, I have to admit that I started to feel a little bit queasy as well.

Being afraid of turbulence after major accident is human, but it is not rational.

Although this year has been horrendous for airline industry (especially for Malaysian airlines), it is quite far from the most morbid years of aviation. Especially in relation to the skyrocketed in recent years, the flying still remains the safest way to travel. The most dangerous part of commercial flying is the drive to the airport.

After 9-11 over 1.4 million people changed their travel plans to avoid flying opting for driving. This caused over 1000 additional car accident fatalities. The most vivid fears are irrational, but easily explained:

1. We fear things we feared in Stone Age.
Although we should probably be more worried of our mobile phones in our front pockets, we tend to fear snakes, insects and spiders, which are quite minor threat nowadays. Being afraid of heights and flying made sense before the time of airplanes, not that much anymore.

2. We fear things we can´t control.
Everyone thinks that they are above average driver and the rest of the drivers are morons. We constantly overestimate our grip of the situation and underestimate the other people.

3. We fear things that are immediate.
Smoking kills you. It just does not kill you right away. Small odds add up and we fail to see them. One cupcake occasionally does not harm you. One cupcake a day might add few extra pounds. One cupcake after every meal might result in obesity and diabetes.

4. We fear things that are fresh in our memory.
After flight accident we are more prone to react to the turbulence. Because newspapers seldom write about people dying to diabetes, we overestimate that homicide is more lethal than it.

So there should be nothing to fear about…

Even though I know all of the above things on that particular flight, I was still a little bit worried. This is an important lesson about human behavior. We might know all the rational facts but still end up acting irrationally. Then we try to post-rationalize those irrational decisions.

Especially when asked afterwards in focus groups.

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