Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Lufthansa Sues Passenger for Hidden City Ticketing (April 2016)

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Case Description
Lufthansa is one of the largest airlines in Germany and has been flown on by hundreds of millions of people. They provide world wide flights and aren’t very costly depending on the destination. The airline has great ratings all around and majority of people that have flown Lufthansa have enjoyed their flight. Today, Lufthansa has over 540 subsidies and associated companies world wide (Vox 1). This airline is consistently growing and providing many safe travels for people all over the world. As great of an airline as Lufthansa is, they’ve been having a problem with their passengers regarding flights. Over time, passengers have developed a tactic that enables them to save money on certain flights called “Hidden City Ticketing”. Hidden city ticketing is the act of booking a flight from one destination to another with a layover that is the desired location. The passenger would then board the flight and once it landed at the layover the passenger would leave and not finish the final leg of the flight.
Hidden city ticketing was never a big scandal within the news until Lufthansa decided to take action against one unsuspecting passenger. In April 2016, a passenger that hasn’t been named, participated in hidden city ticketing on one of their flights. The passenger booked a flight from Seattle to Oslo, Norway with a layover flight in Frankfurt, Germany (Vox 1). Instead of continuing onto the connecting flight to Frankfurt, the passenger jumped onto a different Lufthansa flight and went to Berlin. After the airline had caught the passenger, they began the process of filing a lawsuit for the damages incurred. Lufthansa came up with the estimate of 2,112 euros which comes out to approximately $2300 in US currency (Vox 1).
When it comes to the Lufthansa case, it’s unclear as to what will happen to the passenger and the airline. The lawsuit was thrown out by the Berlin-Mitte court however, Lufthansa has applied for an appeal (Simplyflying 1). The court had said the reason Lufthansa is suing the passenger was valid but, the reasoning for the pricing had lacked transparency. They want to ensure that this sends a message for future passengers that it will not be tolerating this type of behavior and abuse of the system. However, no matter how to case ends up, Lufthansa will still look like the bad guy since the population seems to side against airlines rather than the passengers.

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The three main stakeholders within this case is the airline Lufthansa, the unnamed passenger being sued and the general population of people who use planes for travel. The airline Lufthansa was affected because they were a victim of hidden city ticketing and ended up losing money because of it. The passenger was affected by using this scamming method to get a cheaper flight and then getting sued by the airline after being caught. Lastly, the general population of flight travelers are affected because this same situation can happen to them.

Individualism Within the Case
Taking an individualistic approach is when the only goal of a business is to maximize profit within the constructs of the law. Within the case of Lufthansa suing the passenger, both of these parties used an individualistic approach. The passenger found a loophole along with not having any clear information about the consequences to enable himself to get the best deal. They knew this process wasn’t illegal so there was no second guessing it when the cheaper route was figured out. There was also little to no transparency in the court case because this isn’t an illegal practice, however it’s very frowned upon in airlines. After being dismissed in December of 2016, Lufthansa filed for an appeal to the case because they still believe the customers actions were unlawful. The airline took the individualistic approach by suing the passenger because they had the right in regards to trying to maximize their own profit. Lufthansa suing the passenger for the $2300 shows they were trying to maximize the profits of this case because a flight like that doesn’t cost that much. They tried suing for the “estimated” cost of the flight, demand of the flight, and inconveniences they endured after flying this customer.
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Utilitarianism Within the Case
In utilitarian beliefs, they believe that the ultimate goal is to maximize happiness in every way possible for each stakeholder. Utilitarianism played a role within the Lufthansa case because there were different conclusions to maximize happiness for the stakeholders in this case. It applied to the passenger being sued because they were able to use hidden city ticketing without any risk, since the process is used in order to save money. Future passengers can use these hidden city ticketing sites in order to save themselves money which in turn maximizes their happiness. While this process isn’t illegal, it’s very unethical to airlines because of the potential damages and inconveniences it may cause. A conclusion the airline can come up with to maximize their happiness would be to lower their prices on flights. While the price decrease seems like a let down, lowering prices will keep passengers in their seats for the full flight rather than getting on different ones. Doing this would eliminate hidden city ticketing for airlines and give the passengers a price on tickets that doesn’t drive them to find a loophole in the system.

Kantianism Within the Case
One who follows Kantianism believes that everyone should act rationally with their decisions, help others make rational decisions, respect others and their autonomy, and to always be motivated by good will. The three main parts of this formula is humanity which means rationality, end which is something valuable in itself, for its own sake, and means which is something that is valuable as a way to get something else. The passenger in this case did not follow Kantianism because they only looked into their own self interest and not the airlines. Even though what the passenger did wasn’t illegal it is frowned upon and violated the terms and conditions of the airline. They didn’t think about the cost the airline would take and they figured themself to be exempt from the rules and conditions. Also, the passenger violated the formula of humanity because instead of focusing on humanity, ends, and means they only focused on means by caring about themself rather than the outcome of the airline. Lufthansa followed Kantianism as they are treating every customer fairly and providing all passengers with the ability to book flights fairly. They weren’t trying to gain an advantage by suing this passenger all they wanted was compensation for being scammed out of the money they were expecting.

Virtue Theory
Virtuism has four main virtues of character which are courage, honesty, temperance/self control, and justice/fairness. Within the Lufthansa vs. passenger case, courage was shown by the passenger when they got off on the layover for the cheaper price, instead of finishing out his flight. Also, courage is shown by the airline calling out this passenger for what they’ve done and suing them for what the airline believes it’s worth. Honesty wasn’t shown by the passenger in this case because when the airline sued, the passenger would’ve made an agreement and fessed up that they had committed this act. Instead, the customer let the case get dismissed and make the airline file for an appeal. With the virtue of temperance/self control, there wasn’t either displayed by the passenger or the airline in this case. Finally, justice/fairness comes into play because it isn’t fair for the other passengers on the flight and the company that the unnamed passenger skipping the flight. This costed the airline money that they could’ve spent on another passenger and the passengers lost valuable time waiting for this passenger on their flight.

Justified Ethics Evaluation
Image result for unethical In my opinion of this case, the passenger wasn’t ethically right in making his decision about cheating the airline. While it was more cost effective and seemed like a smart thing to do, the passenger messed with the airline and the other passengers on the plane. He screwed the airline out of that seat on the flight which could’ve been provided to someone else costing the airline money. Also, they screwed over the other passengers because they had to wait for them to board when there was no chance of the passenger ever boarding the plane. For the airlines point of view, I believe they had every right to sue the passenger and it was ethical of them to do so. If someone wrongly cheated me out of money I would feel the same way and demand my money back. The passenger wasted the airlines time and made everything harder than it needed to be. The passenger was very unethical in their decision making while the airline made the proper ethical choice of suing them for what they are owed.

Action Plan
  First off, this problem can be solved in a number of ways such as performing a roll call before the layover flight takes off to ensure that everyone who's supposed to be on the flight is aboard. While this process could take a couple minutes, it saves the airline money by making sure no ones skipping and that all seats are accounted for. Also, if certain people are caught missing their flights, then they should be legally charged with the full price of the ticket purchased even though they missed the flight. This would prevent people from skip lagging and save the airlines money because people will be too afraid to attempt the loophole. Lastly, if a certain passenger is caught repeating this process more than once, they should be banned from the airline usage entirely. It isn’t fair that other passengers go through the normal flight patterns while one person gets to skip around and do as they please.
In order to prevent hidden city ticketing from occurring, Lufthansa will have to change its terms and conditions to ensure people know it isn’t allowed. By adding a section into the terms and conditions stating that the passengers will be held accountable for skip lagging, it will prevent cases like these. When people know they can be held accountable for things that will get them into trouble, they tend to do it less often if not ever. Also, flight attendants should manager a double check system to ensure everyone that’s supposed to be on the flight is on the flight. These are just a few possible ways Lufthansa can cut down on hidden city ticketing and prevent it in the future to help ensure they’re a profitable airline. Another thing Lufthansa could do is develop a television commercial to show customers that they ensure customer satisfaction rather than money. The lawsuit gave off Lufthansa as being money hungry and that’s not a label any company wants. The commercial could show how the flight attendants treat the passengers on the flight and how easy it is to book flights through Lufthansa.

Work Cited
Hill, Catey. “This Airline Sued a Passenger for Skipping His Flight - Why We Should All Take Note.” MarketWatch, 23 Feb. 2019, www.marketwatch.com/story/this-airline-sued-a-passenger-for-skipping-his-flight-why-we-should-all-take-note-2019-02-13.

Valle, Gaby Del. “An Airline Is Suing a Customer Who Skipped a Leg of His Flight to Save Money.” Vox, Vox, 13 Feb. 2019, www.vox.com/the-goods/2019/2/13/18223833/lufthansa-sues-passenger-hidden-city-ticketing.

Chappell, Bill. “Lufthansa Airlines Sues Customer Who Skipped Part Of His Return Flight.” NPR, NPR, 13 Feb. 2019, www.npr.org/2019/02/13/694352593/lufthansa-airlines-sues-customer-who-skipped-part-of-his-return-flight.

“Lufthansa Is Trying To Sue Passengers For Skiplagging.” Simple Flying, 11 Feb. 2019, www.simpleflying.com/lufthansa-is-trying-to-sue-passengers-for-skiplagging/.

“Germany: Number of Passengers of Lufthansa Group 2007-2017 | Statistic.” Statista, www.statista.com/statistics/734402/number-of-passengers-of-lufthansa-group/.
Lufthansa Group AG. “History.” Lufthansa Group, www.lufthansagroup.com/en/company/history.html.

“Why Hidden City Ticketing Really Is Too Good to Be True (Video).” Travel + Leisure, www.travelandleisure.com/travel-tips/hidden-city-ticketing-consequences.

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