Judge Throws Out United’s Lawsuit Against “Hidden City” Airfare Site Skiplagged.com

Example Skiplagged listings for flights that don't end in Chicago, but go through Chicago.  As part of its settlement with Orbitz, Skiplagged will no longer direct people to purchase their hidden city fares through the travel-booking site.

Example Skiplagged listings for flights that don’t end in Chicago, but go through Chicago. As part of its settlement with Orbitz, Skiplagged will no longer direct people to purchase their hidden city fares through the travel-booking site.

Last fall, both United Airlines and Orbitz sued travel-booking startup Skiplagged.com, which helped travelers find so-called “hidden city” tickets where you book a multi-stop itinerary with the intention of not flying all the way to the end. Orbitz settled its part of the case in February, but the United suit continued — until yesterday, when a federal judge dismissed the airline’s complaint, but not because the airline didn’t have a case.

Instead, in his order [PDF] dismissing the complaint, the judge says it’s a matter of jurisdiction, i.e., that United filed its claim in the wrong court.

The lawsuit was filed in a U.S. District Court in Northern Illinois, but the judge explains that “the record only shows a limited course of dealing between the parties and Defendant’s Illinois contacts were with a third-party. Such contacts, even where relevant, are not meaningful enough to warrant exercising personal jurisdiction over Defendant.”

In non-legalese, because the defendant, Skiplagged owner Aktarer Zaman, lives in New York and doesn’t operate his business in Illinois, this particular court should not be the one to hear it.

“This dismissal does not preclude Plaintiff from refiling and litigating its claims in a proper forum,” concludes the order.

And it looks like United may not give up its fight, with a rep for the airline telling CNN that “the decision was a ruling on procedural grounds and not on the merits of the case.”

The rep continued, “We remain troubled that Mr. Zaman continues to openly encourage customers to violate our contract of carriage by purchasing hidden-city tickets.”

For his part, Zaman is calling the dismissal “definitely a victory.”

Skiplagged lets users search for savings through hidden city fares. For example, rather than book a flight that terminates in Chicago, it might be less expensive to book a flight to Kansas City that stops in Chicago. I can just get off the plane when it lands at that first stop.

It’s not illegal, but it is against every major airline’s policy. Because Skiplagged didn’t just provide pricing information but actually directed users to airline sites where they could then book their hidden city tickets, it was accused of, among other claims, encouraging customers to violate their terms of service by knowingly booking these fares.