NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Airfares seem to keep on climbing, but a 23-year-old computer whiz found a way to save you hundreds of dollars on airline tickets.
As CBS2’s Emily Smith reported, Skiplagged.com helps you find what are called “hidden city” airfares with a few clicks of a mouse. And the site is creating some turbulence with travel industry giants.
With little more than a mattress on the floor, Aktarer Zaman’s tiny Manhattan apartment serves as the hub of operations for Skiplagged. The website works thusly – a traveler looks to fly from Newark to Miami, but might find it’s actually cheaper to buy a ticket to Charleston with a stopover in Miami.
“So the cheapest here (for that route) is $325,” Zaman explained.
Yahoo travel executive editor Laura Begley Bloom said the idea has been around for years.
“This has been a dirty little secret of the travel industry for a really long time,” she said. “Then along came Skiplagged, and your average traveler suddenly knew about it.”
Skiplagged only works with one-way tickets, and no checked bags. And while it is not illegal to fly that way, most airlines prohibit it.
“Think about it. They could have flown you at a higher rate into that middle city, and then booked somebody for that next leg too, so it’s a revenue loss for them,” Bloom said. “If they catch you on it, they say that they’ll freeze your frequent flier miles. They might not let you book tickets in the future. They might not let you take a return flight. It’s really — they’re pretty threatening.”
In a federal lawsuit filed last month, United Airlines – one of the world’s largest – and Orbitz – which made almost $700 million in profits last year – said Zaman has “intentionally and maliciously used Skiplagged to damage their businesses.”
Zaman insisted that his site only provides information, and does not actually book tickets.
“I actually haven’t made any money from this,” he said. “This is privately funded through my own my experiment fund.”
Orbitz called Zaman’s claim “disingenuous.” United said it was trying to “protect the vast majority of customers who buy legitimate tickets.
A total of 200,000 users visit Skiplagged every day. Zaman said he is running out of money to run the site, so he is asking for donations to help him keep it going.
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