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American Airlines Has Just Issued A Warning To Travel Agents About ‘Hidden City’ Tickets

Serial airline leaker JonNYC flags that a memo has gone out from American Airlines to travel agents, available on its SalesLink platform, warning them that the carrier is cracking down on a variety of ticketing techniques, including hidden city ticketing and ‘churning’. ( More...

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Carol Dow 27
No-shows, for any reason, is why airlines oversell and overbook their product, often unsympathetically leaving people behind or screwing with their plans. If airlines just sold their products straight up, perhaps customers wouldn't feel the need to use airline fancy tricks against them
SmokedChops 25
"serial leaker"....prolly should consult your urologist at this point. As another poster said, "Will MacDonald's come after you if you don't finish your fries when order combo #4 because it is cheaper than purchasing separately?" As long as the system is set up for being gamed, it will be. The plane will still be making the trip whether you are on it or not, the seat has has been paid for, in full by you. They are hurt that they cannot sell that empty seat to somebody else at a higher rate.
Who Want to eat McDonalds food?
SorenTwin 8
Same people that want to fly economy on a no-frills airline.
not even a sentence
Cristi Neagu 44
Seems to me like AA is upset that someone figured out their scam and are scamming them in return. If you inflate prices to scare customers into buying tickets before they get too expensive, don't be upset when the scam turns against you.

It all seems oddly similar to what's going on with Wall Street. Seems like the rich don't like it when we plebs outplay them at their own games. Sore losers the lot of them.
Bob Kamman 0
And AA shares have been targeted by some of those Robinhood armchair investors, driving up the price to profit from short sellers who see the bankruptcy coming eventually.

The only reason to sell two tickets for less than the price of just one of those tickets, is to take passengers away from the competition. Do it often enough and you put the competition out of business. There are laws against that, but they are not enforced.
jbermo 24
"If Airlines Sold Paint" . . .This describes it all!
Tom Bruce 10
every year we would change rules... after a few weeks one of my seasoned employees would come to me and say "well, got this one figured out" AA makes the rules...and there's always somebody figuring out a way to take best advantage..

[This comment has been downvoted. Show anyway.]

srobak 1
Kent Rebman 9
My father, living in Dallas at the time, had friends who lived in LA whom he would see occasionally in the Dallas area when this couple came to visit a daughter who lived in Forth Worth. In the mid-80s this couple had discovered that an LA to Atlanta roundtrip, on AA I think, that stopped at DFW on its way to Atlanta, was less expensive than an LA - DFW flight. They'd buy a ticket on the ATL roundtrip, carry their bags and just get off at DFW. When the time came to go home they'd call the airline and tell it some story about a family emergency that had caused them to leave Atlanta and go to Dallas and the airline would arrange for them to get on at DFW with their original tickets. I'm guessing that hustle's gone by the wayside. :-)
Russ Nelson 3
Which is why, now, when you miss a leg (because, say, your plans changed and you need to shortcut your outgoing flight, they cancel your ticket for the return flight. That screwed the hell out of me when I got laid off WHILE I WAS ON A BUSINESS TRIP, and was told not to spend any more money. Well how the F am I supposed to get home without buying a new ticket, huh,
Nultech 8
This is the airlines version of Robinhood on Wall Street. Straightforward business practices and pricing would result in straightforward transactions. With all the games played to extract maximum money, expect games in return.
Can't do this if you checked a bag...….You stay in DFW; the bag goes onto OKC
Brad Benson 2
Correct. Carry on only.
Joseph Sede 6
Airlines have been sticking it to passengers for years. They get upset when someone figures out how to get over on them.
ko25701 16
Americann airline plays stupid games with pricing, then wants to penalize customers for figuring out the scam and beating them at the shell game? Worst PR move ever AA!
srobak 7
If the airlines don't want people to have to game the system in order for it to make sense and be affordable - then they shouldn't make it where this is the case. There is no reason on earth as to why LAX -> DAL -> JFK should be cheaper than LAX -> DAL. None. Flights need to be charged based on hops or miles - not... whatever the hell they use to accomplish this silly algorithm.
Brad Benson 2
Absolutely correct!
Richard Haas 3
Working the counter at an American regional airport I have seen this fail once on the east coast and once on the west. A passenger bought a ticket to Nassau because it was cheaper than a ticket to Atlanta, and going west another passenger bought a ticket to Vancouver because it was cheaper than a ticket to San Francisco. In both cases they did not have a passport and so could not get through security.
Brad Benson 3
Well that’s just dumb.
Richard Haas 2
If you want to see dumb work at an airport. A favorite is destination weddings someplace romantic. If there are any delays you have to rebook to tomorrow and you miss the wedding.
John Galt 4
I doubt many remember when the airline industry was first "taking off" or trying to at the very beginning of the age of aviation the federal gov't subsidized airlines so they could manage the high cost of entry (purchasing and maintaining planes) and still keep fares affordable ... they did so to the detriment of the railroads ... and the federal gov't were not only short-sighted but grossly influenced by airline lobbyist ...airlines figured out the political "game" and the railroads did not (btw railroads surely subsidies too but for freight especially getting perishables to markets etc ... NOT so much for travel) ... this is why the US has such a bad rail system for travel versus the rest of the world. If we had affordable, high-speed, clean and comfortable rail service that went directly into city centers, many more would opt to take a little more time and travel that way. Even the Boston to NYC to Philadelphia to Washington, DC corridor (Northeast Corridor) does not have high-speed capabilities other than 35 miles of track between Boston and New Haven! (The Acela Express is the fastest train in the Western Hemi- sphere, with a maximum speed of 150 mph (241 kph) over current infrastructure on two sections of its route between Boston and New Haven (35 total miles). Its top speed between New York City and Washington, D.C., is 135 mph). Point is: Airlines complaining about not getting the subsidy when a seat flies empty (because someone purchased the seat but did not complete the trip "as booked") is ludicrous.
Russ Nelson 1
The railroads were always subsidized in one form or another. For example, in New York State, railroads had the power of eminent domain. The early ones were built with state money. This was such a disaster that a law was passed which prevented the NYS government from paying for "internal improvements." Either that law has been repealed or simply ignored.

The transcontinental railroads were subsidized by giving them alternating blocks of land for every mile they built. The federal government rationalized this by giving the railroads mail service, making them "postal roads" and thus making it Constitutional to subsidize them. When it came time to build the Interstate system, they moved mail service to trucks on the Interstates, turning them into postal roads.
Doug Fehmel 2
Back in the day, it was cheaper to fly Icelandair round trip from Luxembourg to Baltimore, with a stop off in Keflavik, than just flying directly into Keflavik. Most sales reps, calling on the NATO base such as myself, would book the round trip but not continue on to the US. Now a days, if you missed a segment, they would cancel all remaining legs.
Interesting article - lets see now, the federal government is bailing out the airlines with our tax money, American freely admits to a pricing scam and penalties for partial consumption of a service you paid for, they are now warning travel agents that they will sanction them and customers. So this is the customer service you get from the airlines, there is not better reason to remove the subsidies and let them go bankrupt than this.
The whole point is to make it cheaper for those going to less traveled cities. The higher demand cities carry a higher fare, but if everyone took advantage of hidden cities to skip out on paying premium fares for premium cities, then those traveling to small towns will have to pay an arm and a leg.
I see, I really do not believe that is the case as the federal government has a program to subsidize the airlines for that very issue. I do not see that as the motivator here. Think of it this way, you drive from home to work and it costs you $5.00 but if you drive from home to the mall and then to work it costs you $3.00, however if go into the mall and do not go to work you are charged an extra $2.00 and told you cannot go to work anymore.

The airlines have for eons driven deceptive practices in the pricing models. It has to stop and the carriage agreements needs to be removed. My original statement stands, remove the subsidies and let them compete or go out of business.
Michael Hawke 7
That subsidy only pays the airline when someone is actually in the seat. So when someone uses the lower price to get a cheaper overall ticket then doesn’t fly the last leg the airline loses. They could have sold that seat to someone else and they would have gotten a better fare overall for the ticket. The system is pretty straight forward. You buy a ticket for the travel you want. If you don’t like the price don’t buy the seat. If you look overall, despite everyone’s complaints about ticket prices, it is cheaper to travel now then before deregulation when considering inflation.
The cost today vs inflation means nothing other than the efficiency of the travel system is getting better. The airlines are already heavily subsidized and the get paid on route and seat for those flights. If the airlines don’t like what is happening then change the route structure and flights so it does not happen. They won’t do that as it cuts their subsidy. The issue cuts both ways. Getting a good deal as a passenger is frowned upon but the airline getting more money on fare is not? How is that supposed to be free market?
Russ Nelson 2
Once the government gets involved, it isn't a free market, and customers get screwed.
Richard Haas 1
Without government subsidies over a hundred of the Essential Air Services airports would close.
Here is a list:
Russ Nelson 2
And then we'll see how essential the people think their flights are when they actually have to pay the cost.
Richard Haas 3
They are essential to the towns they are in which would otherwise be even more isolated. The voters that live there tend to vote against federal subsidies. If isolation is a good thing then they are voting in their best interests, otherwise not.
Russ Nelson 2
"essential" is your opinion. The only way to discover if something is essential is if people pay for it. Noticing that people use something if you give it to them at a reduced cost is not a measure of essentiality.

I'm sure that further discussion will not be worth it for either of us. Thanks for the replies!
A or F-4's
Richard Haas 1
Antonello Davi -5
let all airlines go? You think any one of them is in better shape? Guess you are a fan of road travel. Oh wait...….don't give any money out.....Let those that lost a job go bankrupt too...……...
Phil Howry 2
This issue is one negative impact of centralized government interference with a free-market economic system. If the government would step back and allow private industry (e.g. commercial airlines) to prosper or fail, these types of issues would be reduced. For example, if you take a trip in the America and forget to pack your socks, your destination will have a free-market business that sells socks. The centralized government didn't/couldn't tell the business how many socks to keep in stock, the free-market, supply & demand economic system provides sock inventory availability.

In a free-market economic system, the customer judges the efficacy and proficiency of a business' operations and its place holder status in the marketplace. Excessive government regulation overreach creates 1.) a bloated centralized bureaucracy that 2.) creates self-serving "make work" regulations; when the system fails the responsible bureaucrat(s) takes no personal liability for a failed system/decision oversight hiding behind government sovereign immunity. What a deal, you make decisions and avoid any personal/financial responsibly for the outcome.
Bruce Horwitz 1
How does AA's fare structure, which charges more for high demand routes and less for low demand routes, represent government interference. The problem, of course, is that the routes "overlap".

And how does AA's attempt to prohibit a passenger from taking advantage of this overlap represent government interference?
Phil Howry 2
Perhaps you're too young to remember how legacy airlines, like AA operating at DFW, were protected by route restricting SWA's non-stop flight operations out of DAL.

"The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new." SOCRATES We need a new day of government "hands off", let the airline customer straighten out unfair fare structuring, by allowing competing airlines to compete on a level playing field.
Steve Tarr 1
Good points. Regulation is but one tool available when markets do not function as well as your good example of socks. Flights compete for many limited shared resources, some natural and some business decisions, ie limited gates at airports. These limits to free markets are not ideological but are rooted in solid economic analysis. Some good examples include:
Russ Nelson 1
They're not "ideological" limits. They're greedy limits. Yes, there are limited gates, but airports are often government-owned and simply refuse to add more gates or runways. Why not? Because they have little incentive to please citizens and much incentive to please lobbyists.

The assumption here is that because markets do not function [well], government can function well. This is refuted by the presence of problems that are simply hard to solve, and the ability for politicians to make claims about their ability to solve these problems.
At one time, SWA did not expressly exclude Hidden City bookings from its COC, I'm not sure if they do now or not. Perhaps it's because their fare structure / route system does not include as many lower tier cities.

The fact that airlines willfully oversell seats is reason enough to not want to return the practice to the airlines by booking hidden cities.

This is an interesting read of many of the practices that most airlines abhor:
There have been times while traveling for work where I've arrived at the connection city and then have the trip canceled, but I always let the airline know, as fregent on two majors (even now) i doubt either one would risk the loss of business. Another reason to NOT fly AA unless you need to get to Roswell NM, besides the insanity of paying for a STATUS MATCH - Doug ... you've lost your way
Russ Nelson 1
That's not really the same thing, though, because you let them know in advance that they could re-sell that seat going out and coming back. Okay, so not very much in advance, but still.
The 'GameStop' Effect
Jaina Brown 0
This policy is at least 10 years old, if not 20. All airlines forbid illegal ticketing practices. About once a year, they send out a "reminder" with veiled threats of what the will do to us if we break the rules. Talk about scraping the bottom of the barrel for a news story.
srobak 4
you're missing the point. this isn't illegal - meaning there is no law & no criminal action that can be taken as a result of doing it. this might be against an airline's policy - which is an internal issue, but it is by no means a crime. to that effect - not only shouldn't this tactic be illegal, but it also should not be against policy. the airline should not be able to have their cake & eat everyone else's too. honestly - this is exactly the same kinda situation that has been going on with gamestop this week. the people who have been bilking the game for eons in efforts to take advantage of the customers and line their pockets have had the tables turned on them by the very people they were screwing in order to do it - and in the very same method. it's their own damned fault - if they wouldn't set up the game this way to begin with, then it couldn't be used against them. be straightforward with ticket pricing and in a model which makes sense and isn't glaringly contradictive in nature just by looking at it on paper in front of you.
Why not punish the traveler, who purchases the tickets online? You know tickets can be purchased online, too.
Russ Nelson 1
According to the article, they have started doing that.
ReverendLee 0
I did this exact thing many, many years ago. The agent actually told me to do it. Flying TWA out of San Francisco (SFO) to Kansas City (MCI) with a layover in Saint Louis (STL). I didn't even have to cancel the final leg ticket. I told the flight attendant I wouldn't be flying on to Kansas City and got off the plane. Saved almost 50% off the nonstop SFO-STL ticket price.
Robert Green 0
I believe at one time, Delta would void a round-trip ticket if you did not hit all the stops on the way outbound. For example, JFK - DTW - LA - DTW - JFK, not going to LA on the outbound would immediately void the ticket and you would have to buy new ticket to return from DTW to JFK.
Bruce Horwitz 3
of course, the airlines don't really sell round trip tickets anymore. They are selling you 2 one way tickets. There is one international flight I take (took?) regularly in which it was less expensive to literally buy the out- and inbound flights as separate purchases rather than buy them as a "round" trip.
Russ Nelson 1
I think they all do that, and have for at least a decade.

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