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Hidden City Ticketing (Air Travel)

Rabbi David SperlingKislev 21, 5775
445
Question
Hello, What is your interpretation of "hidden city ticketing" for airline travel (from a halachic standpoint)? I assume it’s not allowed, but if you can provide some detail. Please see the following for some background: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-11-18/united-orbitz-sue-travel-site-over-hidden-city-ticketing-1-.html
Answer
Shalom, Thank you for your interesting question. I had never heard of the practice of "hidden city ticketing" until you set me your question. But, as I learnt, it is the practice of buying an airline ticket for a destination which involves a stop-over on the way. The person buying the ticket never intends to go to the final destination, but rather really wants to reach the location of the stop-over, where they leave the flight, never to continue on their final destination. As the ticket from A to C, with a stopover at B is often cheaper than a ticket from A to B, people see this as a way to attain cheaper tickets. As the article you directed me to states "People who seek out hidden-city tickets often liken forgoing the second half of a trip to not eating the bottom half of a bag of chips. The thinking: They paid for the chips, so why are they required to eat the whole bag?" However the airlines counter with "Carriers say that the practice takes unfair advantage of the hub-and-spoke airline system and that people who use it are defrauding them", and "Among their stated concerns is [the airline's] resultant inability to count passengers, which can cause departure delays and affect fuel load computations". What does Halacha have to say about this? Your assumption that Jewish law forbids this is correct. Firstly, if the "law of the land", that is the local legal system, finds the practice illegal, then it is certainly forbidden. Jewish law recognizes the power of society to create laws (which do not force us to violate our beliefs), and hold these laws as binding. But, even beyond this, there are several halachic problems involved in the practice. The first is the dishonesty involved. Secondly, the "bag of chips" analogy is not correct. One is not buying an object from the airline, where the purchaser has the rights to use or disregard the purchase at will. Rather, one is entering into a contract between the airline and the traveler. The airline is being contracted to fly the passenger to a certain location for a certain price. They fact that they want to charge less for a longer trip than a shorter one is their decision. The passenger may choose not to do business with the airline – but once the ticket is purchased it is a breech of contract to use the ticket for the shorter journey. This is certainly forbidden by halacha. Thirdly, there is probably an element of a desecration of G-d's name if a Jewish person is seen to be taking unfair advantage (or in this case defrauding) the airline. In short – whilst legal loopholes may sometimes be justified, cheating and practices that are totally illegal are forbidden by Jewish law. Blessings.
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