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Old Jan 1, 11, 7:26 pm   #1
 
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what to do when airline warned me about numerous throw-away ticketing? ($95 vs $497)

I live in city A and work in city B. A and B are about 230 miles apart.

The lowest one-way fare from A to B is usually around $497. (FOUR-HUNDRED AND NINETY-SEVEN)
The lowest one-way fare from A to B to Newark is $95.

There is only one airline serving A to B.

So, for that last several month(since I started working in city B), I've been
buying tickets for flights from A to Newark. I always get off in city B and
drive home. On the return leg, I usually take Amtrak, which only charges
$60, but takes several hours for the same route.

I do this every week, so the savings are very BIG.

My mistake is that I did enter my frequent flyer airline for that airline and
they caught my little trick. They sent me a letter warning me that it's
against airline rules.

If I continue to do this without entering my frequent flyer info, will I get
in trouble again?

Last edited by MilkPowder; Jan 2, 11 at 11:25 am..
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Old Jan 1, 11, 7:40 pm   #2
 
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Quite possibly. They may now be monitoring your name/addr/credit card info...

The hidden city ethics are debated frequently here, and the usual line in the conversation is "if you do it occasionally, its OK, but if you make it a habit, they will keep an eye on you". Sounds like you made it a habit!
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Old Jan 1, 11, 8:05 pm   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MilkPowder View Post
If I continue to do this without entering my frequent flyer info, will I get
in trouble again?
IMHO, probably. You're now on the list, and there's more than a FF number to identify you.
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Old Jan 1, 11, 8:30 pm   #4
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Does the letter suggest what action they will take if you continue to do this?
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Old Jan 1, 11, 8:36 pm   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MilkPowder View Post
I live in city A and work in city B. A and B are about 230 miles apart.

The lowest one-way fare from A to B is usually around $497.
The lowest one-way fare from A to B to Newark is $95.

There is only one airline serving A to B.

So, for that last several month(since I started working in city B), I've been
buying tickets for flights from A to Newark. I always get off in city B and
drive home. On the return leg, I usually take Amtrak, which only charges
$60, but takes several hours for the same route.

I do this every week, so the savings are very BIG.

My mistake is that I did enter my frequent flyer airline for that airline and
they caught my little trick. They sent me a letter warning me that it's
against airline rules.

If I continue to do this without entering my frequent flyer info, will I get
in trouble again?
I guess they really want people to fly into Newark pretty badly, that's quite a price savings! I wonder if when you get to Airport B, you could go to the ticket counter and have them cancel the ticket to Newark instead of just no showing? I don't know if that'd make a difference.

What airline is it?
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Old Jan 1, 11, 10:23 pm   #6
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Start a new ff account with a new address?
Fly without a ff number and forfeit the miles?

Once, I boarded the jetway for the connecting flight, walked a few feet, then ran away and the gate agent didn't see me.
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Old Jan 2, 11, 5:25 am   #7
 
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How much out of the way would it be to just fly the round-trip to EWR?

I think you are pretty much at the end of the line on this if you've hit the airline's radar.
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Old Jan 2, 11, 10:12 am   #8
 
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Your plan is called "hidden city" ticketing.

Airlines have a lot of money to pay a lot of data miners to ferret out people who make a practice of hidden city or back to back ticketing. When such a person is identified, and you have been so identified, the airlines pay lots of money to lots of lawyers to send demand letters with an itemized list of the lost revenue and, perhaps, an offer to settle for a portion of that lost revenue.

You could go to court and fight their demand. Or, you could pay the offered settlement amount.

If you go to court and fight, you would have to hire a lawyer to defend yourself. The airline already has lawyers on their payroll who do this kind of thing all the time, routinely. Your cost for a lawyer could run into thousands of dollars and negate the savings you have accrued on airfare.

The airlines have all kinds of other ways to deal with you, besides getting a court judgement against you. They can, for example, ban you from their flights.

You are skating on thin ice, in my opinion. I suggest that you consider taking Amtrak both ways, in the future. Find something productive to do on the train.

You might also put "hidden city" and "revenue protection" in the search field of this message board and read what others have to say.
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Old Jan 2, 11, 10:33 am   #9
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Originally Posted by QueenOfCoach View Post
If you go to court and fight, you would have to hire a lawyer to defend yourself. The airline already has lawyers on their payroll who do this kind of thing all the time, routinely. Your cost for a lawyer could run into thousands of dollars and negate the savings you have accrued on airfare.

The airlines have all kinds of other ways to deal with you, besides getting a court judgement against you. They can, for example, ban you from their flights.
The very least they will do is confiscate your miles. The way airfares are structured there are numberless cases where A -> B -> C tickets are cheaper than A -> B tickets, which is why the airlines have revenue protection units to identify and punish cheaters. I would say you are engaging is very high-risk behavior in pursuit of comparatively minor benefits.
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Old Jan 2, 11, 10:58 am   #10
 
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Wow, I have always heard the threats (from my corporate travel agent) about airlines enforcing throw-away ticketing, but have never heard of an example where they actually do.

Congratulations, OP! You seem to have gotten yourself in the worst possible situation -- repeated infractions, a major price difference, and a highly visible scenario. I don't have first-hand experience, but it's a fair bet that if they sent you a letter, then they will continue to take this seriously.

Hopefully they will just deny you the miles instead of worse outcomes -- e.g., cancelling your frequent flier account or issuing debit memos.
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Old Jan 2, 11, 11:01 am   #11
 
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Is this a put-on? Why have the prices in the original post been edited to be more or less the same? (originally $497 vs. $95, now $97 vs. $95).
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Old Jan 2, 11, 11:08 am   #12
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I understand that they could confiscate someone's miles for this, but on what grounds could they sue you? And for how much? This has bad publicity written all over it.

"XYZair sues loyal customer for *not* taking flights"

a la:
American Airlines Now Charging Fees To Non-Passengers
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Old Jan 2, 11, 11:13 am   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TA View Post
I understand that they could confiscate someone's miles for this, but on what grounds could they sue you? And for how much?
Theft of service, obviously. If you pay $95 for a service priced at $495, you stole $400 from the airline.

Similarly, if there are a bunch of $5 firewood bundles stacked up outside Safeway and you pay the cashier for one but load a dozen into your car, you may pride yourself on craftily outwitting Safeway, but from an ethical and legal standpoint you're a thief who owes Safeway $55. This is really no different.

If you think the wood is overpriced and ought to be $2, not $5, you can take it up with the store manager and try to make a deal -- but you can't steal extra bundles to compensate.

The airline is this case can sue for all lost revenue associated with all the OP's trips, plus attorneys' fees, which obviously could run into many thousands of dollars. And don't think they wouldn't do it.
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Old Jan 2, 11, 11:18 am   #14
 
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You should be celebrating UA took no other action than to warn you. This is particularly true since you were making a habit of throwaway ticketing. Regardless whether you agree with their policy, you are now on their radar and should discontinue this practice.

A bit off topic, but the same holds true with complaints to UA. There is recent discussion about how often someone can/should complain (particularly the petty stuff) and the $ vouchers $ people are getting as a result. At some point, the chickens will come home to roost.

Bottom line in both cases: If you are going to do it, don't be the outlier on the data reports UA miners dig up.
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Old Jan 2, 11, 11:19 am   #15
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BearX220 View Post
Similarly, if there are a bunch of $5 firewood bundles stacked up outside Safeway and you pay the cashier for one but load a dozen into your car, you may pride yourself on craftily outwitting Safeway, but from an ethical and legal standpoint you're a thief who owes Safeway $55. This is really no different.
Faulty analogy. A more appropriate one would be:

You need two bundles of firewood.
Safeway is selling bundles for $5 each or four for $10.
You buy four and throw two away.

Should this be illegal?
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