Iggers Digest: The Ethics of Hidden City Ticketing

Iggers Digest: The Ethics of Hidden City Ticketing

I’d like to know what my friends think about this: I just discovered that if I book a roundtrip from Minneapolis to Buffalo, it will cost me $440. But if I buy a ticket from Minneapolis to Buffalo, with a return ticket to Chicago, it will only cost me $330 – and my return ticket will include a change of planes in Minneapolis. So, I could just get off the plane in Minneapolis and not show up for the continuing flight to Chicago, and save $110.
I discovered this by accident, but it turns out that it’s called Hidden City Ticketing. Nate Silver, the polling guru, wrote about it for the New York Times, in an article called “How to Beat High Airfares.”
This isn’t illegal, but airlines don’t like it. They say it violates their conditions of carriage, and they have sued a couple of websites that help travelers find these hidden city fares.
Is it unethical?
There’s a lively conversation on the web about this.
 Jack Marshall, a lawyer and ethicist, argues on his Ethics Alarms website that it is unethical: “You pay the airline to take you to a specific destination. How they get you there is irrelevant: a ticket to Minneapolis is a ticket to Minneapolis, and if you use it to get to Chicago instead because the airline charges more to go there, you engaged in bad faith negotiation.”

When the Times’ ethics columnist put the question to Silver, he defended the practice: “These “hidden-city” ticketing opportunities arise, with few exceptions, because the airline is charging the passenger a premium to fly a route over which they exercise monopoly power…When a consumer is disadvantaged by monopoly pricing, I think there ought to be a strong presumption — legally and morally — that he or she is entitled to recourse.”

 I find Silver’s argument more persuasive. (Rather conveniently for me.) There’s not much negotiation involved when an airline has monopoly power.
What do you think?

 

Jeremy Iggers
Author: Jeremy Iggers

Jeremy Iggers is a journalist, university instructor and social entrepreneur with interests that include food, philosophy and global-local connections. Previously, he was a staff writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and publisher of the Twin Cities Daily Planet. He lives in south Minneapolis with his wife Carol and two cats.

About Jeremy Iggers

Jeremy Iggers is a journalist, university instructor and social entrepreneur with interests that include food, philosophy and global-local connections. Previously, he was a staff writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and publisher of the Twin Cities Daily Planet. He lives in south Minneapolis with his wife Carol and two cats.

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