3 Links I Love: Alitalia Rescue Plan #85,083, United Takes on Cheaters, Air India Hits Wall and Keeps Flying

This week’s featured link:

Alitalia relaunch to include Italian state ownership – USA Today
This is excellent news for all admirers of the Worst Airline Ever.  For anyone who thought Alitalia might go under or get merged into a bigger airline, fear not.  The Italian government is here to save the airline and make sure it… keeps losing money for years to come.  The new plan is to pour more state money into the airline and do some silly connection with the state rail company.  This isn’t shocking since nobody else is going to put money into that thing without massive reform, and massive reform just isn’t generally on the table.  As long as Alitalia keeps going, then I’m happy, and you should be too… unless you work for Air Italy and Qatar.

Two for the road:

United Airlines threatens Skiplagged clients with Collections – No Mas Coach!
If you’re going to have rules, you better enforce them.  It sounds like United is finally stepping up in the most egregious cases of hidden city ticketing.  Even though this makes it sound like there isn’t any follow-up, I spoke with United and was told that they are following up on these after they send the letters.  It won’t be a popular opinion, but I’m all for United doing this. (h/t View From the Wing)

Boeing 737 flies into brick wall — and just keeps going – The Washington Post
What in the hell?!  I mean, come on, Air India.

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HC
Guest

Really cranky? We need some more details on why you feel united should be chasing down frugal customers?

We are not taking anything from the airline, we are just buying 2 slices of pizza, only eating 1, and giving the 2nd slice back to the counter for no refund.

Nathan P
Guest
Nathan P

I disagree. You are buying the salad and then eating a slice of pizza.

Jim
Guest
Jim

HC that’s a bad analogy. A better analogy would be if a store is charging more for a small pizza than a large, and you take a small but only pay for a large.

United has the right to set fare rules and enforce them. Just because they make no sense to you doesn’t mean you can break them without consequence.

Miss Informed
Guest

But if you were buying two slices of pizza and giving one back, health laws would force the seller to discard the pizza you give back. Same situation (sort of) with hidden city bookings. While they *might* be able to put a standby in that seat, without advance notice that seat isn’t likely to be resold.

HC
Guest

And why is it the hidden city customers fault on whether or not that seat / pizza can be resold? They already paid for that 2nd piece in full. They just decided that they were full.

Alan
Guest
Alan

That’s where your analogy breaks down. An abandoned slice of pizza has to be disposed of by someone. An abandoned airline seat can be resold at a premium to a walkup customer. The airline is not losing a thing.

Mongo
Guest

Brilliant move by United. I’m SURE this will improve their customer service image. Look out Southwest and Alaska! United is coming for you!

Gary Leff
Guest

#3 no issue with United closing a member’s frequent flyer account or banning a passenger from the airline when the person refuses to follow the carrier’s rules. Threatening to send a debt to collection, though, is another matter entirely United’s contract of carriage aside it is not at all clear that there is a valid debt where a customer agreed to pay a specific amount in advance and failed to do so.

Chris
Guest

Agreed. I can understand closing their MileagePlus account but sending them a bill seems a little absurd. Granted, so does using hidden city tickets 38 (!) times.

Nick
Guest

Whether one likes the rules or not with Hidden City Ticketing, you’re breaking the rules intentionally. Justify it how you want, and no one is going to cry for an airline, but you are committing fraud. You’re entering into a contract that you have no intention of fulfilling.

J Walter
Guest

Light treason.

Fake Bob Crandle
Guest
Fake Bob Crandle

How about making the airlines create a document that isn’t 1,000 pages long and requires a law degree. And what about a Flyer’s Agreement that we won’t be smashed like sardines and have to pee sideways in lavatories designed to fit a 6 year old (thank you American). Can we send them a warning letter to pay for my chiropractor’s bill? I hope United gets raked in the press for this. There were much better ways of handling this.

Chris
Guest

No, you can choose not to fly or choose to fly another airline. You are getting exactly what you pay for. And when you support individuals violating the contract of carriage and circumventing the rules to save money via hidden city tickets, you are increasing costs for the airline and forcing them to install lavs where you have to pee sideways. The airline industry is the only industry that has not made an aggregate profit in it’s 100 years of existence. We all want to go back to a wonderful world 30 years ago where there was plenty of legroom,… Read more »

Jeff Marquis
Member
Jeff Marquis

The fact that the airline industry has never been able to make an aggregate profit in over 100 years of existence is not an excuse for the way they are conducting business today. This isn’t about going back to the good old days, it’s about evolving the industry and ecosystem to work in a way that benefits the public good and doesn’t hurt carriers willing to make acceptable profits. If the companies involved can’t figure it out, then there needs to be a functioning regulator to build the efficiency in so that it works for carriers and the public. This… Read more »

Nick
Guest

The issue is that people want opposite things. People want 1960’s Pan Am Comfort and 2015 Spirit ticket prices. And given the crazy expansion of ULLC carriers across the planet, most people care about price #1. And for those who want the comfort and space, the lie-flat seats on a lot of international routes are more comfortable now even than in the Gold Age of Air Travel.

Jim
Guest
Jim

Anyone who is sophisticated enough to figure out how to do hidden city ticketing is probably capable of reading the contract. I’m not buying the “it’s too complicated” excuse. The contract of carriage is online, and it’s written in fairly clear language that any native English speaker can understand.

Jeff Marquis
Member
Jeff Marquis

Jim – I’m sure that if everyone had the time, patience and sophistication that you evidently possess, yes we’d all have a comprehensive understanding of the United contract of carriage. Ok, soapbox time… There is a higher level point being made here about general fairness and the fact that United (in this instance) is defending and protecting an overall business model that is inherently pathetic in regard to serving the public good. If one focuses strictly on the United contract and a given customer’s adherence to it, ignoring the insanity and unfair nature of the contract, then you of course… Read more »

Alan
Guest
Alan

These ‘rules’ we’re talking about are not laws, and are not enforceable as such. Airline rules are self-serving and the “contract of carriage” is a one-way deal, breakable whenever they feel like it. If a customer finds a way to out-trick them on occasion, no court of law is going to enforce that nonexistent debt.

Shane
Member
Shane

If done intentionally this is against the rules so United has a right. However, there is an asymmetric information play going on. When United has a late flight or cancellation that strands a passenger or causes a missed connection, they can claim weather or mechanical and there is nothing the passenger can do about it. There is no mechanism or transparency as to the ACTUAL cause of the problem. Is the mechanical problem something that unexpectedly happened, or was there a maintenance deficiency that caused the mechanical problem, for which United should be liable. I know the two concepts are… Read more »

Richard
Guest
Richard

I suspect you will find their contract of carriage doesn’t actually promise to get you to your destination, or on time, only says that they intend to but don’t control if they actually can…

And good luck running an airline that can be sued for breach of contract over delays..

FWIW – I don’t think United should be able to collect more money off the Skipplagger, although they should be able to do what they like to that persons miles and status

Dave
Member
Dave

Mixed emotions about the United hidden city collection trick. On one hand, we all know this dirty little secret of airline ticketing. So, we take liberties with your fare structure. Don’t like it? Don’t sturcture your fares this way! Conversely, United’s contract of carriage bans this — no matter how obscure the language is and how much legalese is used. Yeah, you need a law degree and 20 years of corporate law practice to understand it, but it’s there. What United really ought to do is put the language in simple English. It should say something like this: 1) The… Read more »

Kilroy
Guest

Regarding hidden city ticketing, I wonder if United might be able to get away with rerouting the worst offenders individually. For example, occasionally switching pax to nonstop flights (or to other itineraries with different connecting airports), such that the itinerary no longer touches the hidden city. It could even be done with the veneer of customer service (“We found a more efficient routing for your upcoming trip. In an effort to reduce your travel time, we’ve automatically rebooked you on an itinerary that gets you to City B 10 minutes earlier than before, but with a later departure time from… Read more »

Nick
Guest

Now this would be quite funny. If there was a way to film this on hidden camera’s it might generate enough cash to cover the lost revenue due to hidden city ticketing.

Kilroy
Guest

Make the hidden-city travelers total jerks in many other ways, add in some snarky customer service agents and gate agents, and I think you’ve got the basis for an episode of (fake) reality TV. Gate agent: “Thanks for responding to the page, Mr. Smith. Here’s your new boarding pass. We’ve rebooked you on the nonstop flight from O’Hare to Cleveland, which leaves in 40 minutes from gate B7, so you won’t have to spent a layover in LaGuardia.” Angry pax: “&$(@&! How could you do this? I really need to go to, I mean connect in, LaGuardia!” Gate agent: “Oh… Read more »

Donald_T
Guest
Donald_T

“I was hoping to meet my long lost father’s son at the airport for coffee at LaGuardia before continuing my flight!”

Dale
Guest
Dale

This would seem to be the best option. If Untied was to sic a debt collector on the passengers who used hidden city ticketing there could be legal issues and there is the risk of a public relations disaster.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

And, they should do that an hour before the original departure time, so the skiplagger doesn’t have an option to research for alternatives. Do that a few times and watch the Flyertalk threads. “I wanted to screw United by skiplagging and they screwed me… what’s my recourse?”

Soon the general response will be similar to when people who sold miles or upgrades show up to complain about their closed accounts.

james
Guest
james

So long as I keep my original mileage credit :)

I have a flight from Asia to the west coast this fall via Newark, with the intentional routing of topping off my status for next year. I would be happy if things got delayed and was able to be rebooked on the non-stop.

USBusinessTraveller
Member
USBusinessTraveller

That’s happened during IRROPS many times. “The flight to Chicago is badly delayed so we’ve booked you home via Denver”. Pax -“But but but …”

And of course this isn’t just a UA issue.

Douglas Swalen
Guest
Douglas Swalen

I have no problem with United banning someone from flying with them or cancelling their Mileage Plus account or taking away their miles, or even suing them for the violating the contract of carriage regarding hidden city ticketing. But debt collection, at least without a court victory to back it up, is another matter. I suspect if United tries that, someone is going to sue…and probably win.

Matt D
Guest

Sounds like this is a classic case of “even if you’re right, you’re still wrong”. Now, we live in a world where disclosures, facts, rules, and laws…..none of it matters. What matters is the court of public opinion. And if this ends up angering and offending enough people, the negative publicity will end up blowing up in Uniteds face, not the scofflaws.

Choose your battles. Not all are worth starting.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

Blow up in United’s face? Maybe. I don’t see a lot of outrage when United penalizes people (takes “their” miles) when they get caught trying to see miles or upgrades. And most people will continue to book the cheapest tickets no matter who is operating the flight.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

So much for the theory that pilots have a vested personal interest in safe operations. Jeez, mental note to never ever book Air India. If I recall correctly, that’s also the airline that has pilots taping newspaper over the cockpit windows to block out sun or something, right?

Michael
Guest

I flew from Bozeman to Denver on United. Fare for Bozeman-Denver was $404. I booked Bozeman-Colorado Springs for $196 and got off in Denver.

Nathaniel
Member
Nathaniel

Unless you were going to fort Collins I would have just continued on to co springs..

james
Guest
james

that doesn’t make sense if his intended destination was Denver

MC
Member
MC

The UA issue has been going on for years….I worked in reservations for several years and back in late ‘80s early ‘90’s people would use AUS as a breaking point….they would buy a AUS to LAX rt fare, fly to AUS to take the outbound flts but when returning they would get off in DFW….you could buy a cheap one way fare on Southwest to AUS turnaround the same day and fly to LAX and with no bags, on the return, get off at DFW….several AUS flights especially on fridays from DFW would be sold out but go out with… Read more »

Tom in Las Vegas
Guest

What other consumer product can you name whereby the consumer buys a product, uses only a portion of the product, declines to use the rest, and the vendor from which they bought it, wants more money because the consumer chose not to use the rest. Its an oxymoron on its face.

Tim Dunn
Member

actually, Tom, there are a NUMBER of similar provisions in contracts where you cannot terminate without paying for what you originally agreed to – whether you are “full” or not. Telecommunications services are full of such clauses and so do many lease contracts. As much as you and/or others argue against them, legacy airlines could not possibly serve as many markets as they do if they did not operate hub and spoke networks. Deregulation of the US airline industry eliminated rationality in pricing one market comparable to another – as existed in a regulated era. Airlines, like telecommunications companies, do… Read more »

Ni7irs
Guest
Ni7irs

This is nonsense. United will never pursue these people. If it were me, I would demand that they produce all of the boarding records for the flights that were skipped. The labor involved in answering that discovery would exceed the pittance they are claiming. I’m going to be that they filled the seats with standby passengers in which case, I would counter-claim. The only remedy for breach of contract is money damages. Punitive damages are not allowed and it looks like that’s what United wants. It’s also fraud to claim you are out the money if you gave away the… Read more »