Airlines have fought against ‘throwaway ticketing’ for years. A ticket on United Airlines to Chicago might be super expensive, but connecting through Chicago to Milwaukee may be cheap. So passengers might buy a ticket to Milwaukee and just get off in Chicago and not board their final connection.
This strategy is not without risk:
- You can’t check bags or your bags will go to the final ticketed destination
- You don’t want to have to gate check bags either, you don’t want those getting sent to your final destination (though it’s not hard to have them tagged just to where the plane is going)
- In the event of bad weather or a mechanical delay the airline might want you route you through another city entirely (though insisting on the connecting city you want shouldn’t be hard)
Moreover if the airline ‘catches you’ especially if you do it frequently they might take away your frequent flyer miles or even ban you from the carrier going forward. That’s why it may be a good idea to credit miles to a partner frequent flyer program instead.
In the past airlines were aggressive with travel agencies issuing throwaway ticekts — they would issue debit memos (charging the fare the airline believes they lost) and agencies would risk the ability to sell tickets on the airline in the future. It was rare though for an airline to go after an individual passenger.
This past fall though we learned that United Airlines was threatening passengers with sending them to collections for the fare the carrier believes that they lost. They’re threatening to trash their customers’ credit report with a dubious debt, since the passenger never agreed to pay a different fare in the first place.
United isn’t the only one getting aggressive. Their transatlantic joint venture partner Lufthansa is apparently suing a passenger over throwaway ticketing (Google translate),
Lufthansa is apparently tightening the fight against so-called no-show passengers. Passengers who forfeit parts of their booked flight must pay a higher rate. This is to prevent the fare system of the airline being circumvented with cheaper foreign offers.
Lufthansa now wants to enforce additional payments on passengers who only forfeit their last flight. In this case, the airline can not exert pressure by denying boarding. But last year, she filed a lawsuit against a customer in the aftermath. “To my knowledge, this is the only case in which Lufthansa has sued for a subsequent payment,” says lawyer Matthias Böse to airliners.de. He defended the defendant in the lawsuit with the airline.
First, Lufthansa received a rebuff: The lawsuit against the passenger was dismissed in December by the district court Berlin-Mitte ( Az 6 C 65/18 ). However, the airline remains persistent: It has appealed against the verdict, as a spokesman on request from airliners.de announced. Further things will not be said because of the ongoing procedure.
This seems like a risky strategy for Lufthansa, since Spain’s Supreme Court recently ruled that throwaway ticketing was fine. They might be better off maintaining the policy, and the threat of a suit, without actually suing since they roll the dice they may lose.
Of course this isn’t the first time Lufthansa has sued a customer, they went after a man who bought refundable tickets just to use their lounges and hit him with a 2000 euro bill.