Earlier this year, Lufthansa attempted to sue a passenger that exploited hidden-city ticketing. After they skipped the last flight on their ticket, the German airline demanded this customer pay the substantial difference in ticket price.
The court case generated a lot of public interest and was seen as a “test” to see if the courts would set a precedent that favoured the airline or passengers. Well, we now know the answer to this.
After taking the case all the way to the Berlin District Court, Lufthansa was forced to withdraw after realising its conditions of carriage were “incompatible with German law”. Dr Matthias Böse, the lawyer defending the passenger, is quoted in Germany’s Bild newspaper saying that the withdrawal of the appeal provides “legal certainty for passengers” that they won’t need to go to court.
The sued passenger had flown from Oslo to Seattle via Frankfurt in Business Class in 2016, taking advantage of a Lufthansa sale fare offered out of Norway. They flew from Oslo to Seattle as ticketed, but on the way home ended their journey in Frankfurt. Instead of flying back to Oslo, this passenger flew from Frankfurt back to their home in Berlin on another ticket. This passenger originally paid 6224 Norwegian krone ($1,011) for their ticket, but after they skipped the last flight, Lufthansa recalculated the fare and sent them a bill for an extra €2,112 ($3,436).
The customer refused to pay, and was eventually taken to court by the airline. In the first hearing, Lufthansa attempted to withdraw its case but the client refused. Lufthansa eventually appealed the hidden-city ticketing case and it was brought recently before the Berlin District Court.
While this case took place in Germany, it sets an interesting precedent. Although there is no guarantee the result would be the same in other countries, it now seems less likely that other airlines would try to recover revenue from passengers that exploit the loophole of hidden-city ticketing. This is arguably a win for frequent flyers.
While hidden-city ticketing is more common in North America and Europe, where prices can differ substantially between markets, it does exist in Australia. We recently highlighted an example of hidden-city pricing where a flight from Perth to Sydney was more than double the price of a ticket from Perth to Auckland… via Sydney.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Lufthansa sues no-show passengers [Hidden City Ticketed]
Want to learn more about this case? We interviewed the lawyer who represented the hidden-city ticketer in the German courts in Episode 22 of the ‘AFF on AIR’ podcast.