Airlines see themselves as selling transportation between A and C at a certain price. That a connecting itinerary stops at B is immaterial.
A passenger believes they are buying a seat on a flight from A to B and then on to C. So it’s ok to use only the seat from A to B, and not use the seat they’ve paid in full for from B to C.
But the airline thinks travel between A to B is a totally different product with a different price.
That’s why airlines have a story for why ‘throwaway ticketing’ as a strategy to save money on tickets is bad (you’re cheating the airline by buying one product but taking a different one) and why most people can’t fathom that there’s anything wrong with it. Indeed, the New York Times “Ethicist” column says there’s not.
Of course, airlines also happen to believe the story that is in their own financial interest.
The thing is that they don’t always believe it. And those times seem to correspond with airline financial interest, too.
Last month a woman flying from Washington DC to Peoria via Chicago wasn’t permitted to use her FAA-approved child’s seat on the American Eagle segment to Peoria. Apparently the flight attendant was mistaken about the seat. The woman flew with a lap child instead of having the infant in a seat as planned, as purchased, and as she had done for her mainline segment from DC to Chicago.
American acknowledged fault. The DC – Peoria child’s ticket cost $323 (it’s unclear if this was one-way or round trip). American refunded only $55 for the Chicago – Peoria segment.
But if she was sold a DC – Peoria product, not flights from DC to Chicago and Chicago to Peoria, how can American claim she is only owed a refund for Chicago-Peoria?
She purchased transportation between two cities which the child was not provided. It seems to me that American is implicitly conceding the argument against throwaway ticketing is false, or only true when convenient to an airline. And that the lap infant was involuntarily denied boarding for the seat that was purchased.