Q&A With Defendant’s Attorney In Lufthansa Hidden City Ticket Lawsuit

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Q&A With Defendant’s Attorney In Lufthansa Hidden City Ticket Lawsuit

A few weeks ago we covered the news of Lufthansa’s lawsuit against one of their customers for skipping the last portion of their flight.  This is commonly known as hidden city ticketing. Upon reading our coverage the defendant’s attorney, Dr. Matthias Böse, reached out to see if we had any follow up questions for him.

What Is Hidden City Ticketing?

Hidden City Ticketing is when someone purchases a ticket but stops traveling before all segments are complete.  This is because the ticket with an extra stop is cheaper than booking the direct ticket.  An example would be if I were to book a flight from Las Vegas to Detroit to New York but get off the plane in Detroit.  I would do this because the flight including the New York leg was cheaper than the flight directly from Las Vegas to Detroit.

Airlines have been against this practice for a long time and Lufthansa decided to take legal action. The lawsuit didn’t end up going their way and the defendant won the case.  Lufthansa has proceeded forward with an appeal of the decision.

Questions

I emailed him a few follow up questions and I will share his responses with you.  He also shared a link to a more detailed breakdown of the case that he wrote.  It is worth checking out as well. If you think of any questions that I missed then let me know in the comments and I will see if he would be gracious enough to answer them for us.

What do you think it would mean if you win the appeal too?  For your client and for the airline industry as a whole?
I am quite sure that Lufthansa will try to amend their terms & conditions for future cases. This is what they already did after an Austrian ruling regarding skipping the first flight of a ticket. I am not sure whether their approach of charging more for doing less will be something which can be part of terms & conditions under German law.
Will this only effect Germany or could it go further? Since Lufthansa is based in Germany would the ruling stretch to other countries where they provide service to or does it only deal with German nationals? 
As always with lawyers, the answer is: It depends ;-). There are several rules in international private law that deal about the applicable law but one thing is important to know: German law does not only apply to German citizens.
Do you think they will simply change their rules to be more straight forward with the penalties if they lose the appeal?  Maybe clearly defining the penalty etc. so that they can attempt it again?  Or are there other German laws that they are circumventing by charging clients for skipping portions of their flights?
This is what I expect them to try. I am not sure, whether charging more for doing less is really something that can be part of legally binding terms & conditions. Furthermore OTA reservations often do not lead to a legally binding inclusion of terms & conditions as processes are too complex, which is quite an issue for airlines as well.
If there is anything that I missed that you think would be worth covering please let me know.
Lufthansa tried to withdraw the case after the court told the parties that this lawsuit will certainly not be successful. They obviously wanted to avoid a negative ending. My client decided not to approve this withdrawal to come to a legally binding decision. That is a quite interesting fact.

Conclusion

I find this case to be very interesting and Dr. Matthias Böse has my extreme gratitude for the willingness to answer my follow up questions.

I found a few of his points very intriguing. The point about OTAs not leading to the airline’s terms and condition section was a valuable nugget. It makes me consider booking all of my flights through OTAs versus direct bookings since you still earn frequent flyer miles when booking flights via OTAs. Plus you can get portal bonuses booking this way as well. The part about Lufthansa trying to withdraw from the case was also interesting to me and I am glad his client was unwilling to let it happen.

These types of cases seem to be popping up more and more often around the world.  I don’t see how they have a legal leg to stand on.  They can obviously freeze your frequent flier account for violating their terms but I don’t see how they can try to recoup funds for a flight not taken.  You paid for it and it is your right to choose if you want to use it or not.  They saved money on not having to provide you with peanuts or a drink and saved on some fuel costs as well.  They should take that as a win.

Remember to check out Dr. Matthias Böse’s summary of the case if you would like more detail on the matter.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Great story and salut to Dr. Bose! I am Anton Radchenko Foudner of AirAdvisor (www.airadvisor.com) and enforce passengers rights in different countries. We would be pleased to partner with DR. Bose on some of our cases against LuftHansa and other airlines.

  2. I would like to know if the client was able to counter-sue and/or have the court rule that LH needs to cover their attorney fees. As Sevillada pointed out there are plenty of people in the world that don’t have the money to hire a good attorney so LH (and other big corporations) can simply use the threat of a lawsuit to cow people into submission.

    I also couldn’t agree more that the passenger really took one for the team with their decision (and it probably ended up costing them even more in attorney fees to continue with the case as opposed to allowing LH to withdraw). So not only did they accept continued legal risk but they also paid more out of pocket to cover their legal representation for add’l time. Bravo!

  3. I think the client is taking one for the team, and i applaud that. Had he allowed the case to br withdrawn, Lufthansa could have gone after the next person, who may not have the means to hire a good lawyer or it may be too much of a burden for them.
    It’s best to set a precedent. If they don’t want people to find loopholes then maybe they shouldn’t try to charge more for less.

  4. What a great lawyer to take the time to answer some questions and it’s SUPER interesting that the client didn’t approve them to “withdraw the request”. That’s awesome of him/her and it will be interesting to see how this turns out.

    Huge thanks to Dr. Matthias Böse and his client.

    • I thought the client not withdrawing was awesome as well. And I can’t thanks Dr. Matthias Böse enough for taking the time to answer my questions.

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