Latest News
HomeRegional NewsAfricaTravel agents demand end to unfair skiplagging penalties
Associations

Travel agents demand end to unfair skiplagging penalties

Otto de Vries
Otto de Vries

WTAAA demands end to unfair skiplagging penalties for agents.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM – As airfares continue to surge, travellers increasingly turn to skiplagging for more affordable options. Skiplagging is the practice of booking a cheaper flight with a layover at a destination the traveller intends going to, and then intentionally skipping the final leg to secure a lower fare. While this approach can be tempting for cost-conscious travellers, the World Travel Agents Associations Alliance (WTAAA) highlights a concerning reality: it’s travel agents who often bear the brunt of the consequences, facing penalties for practices driven by price-conscious consumers who book through the travel agency channel.

“Skiplagging is a long-standing issue in the travel industry that we do not support, but travel agents cannot control customer behaviour once travel is underway,” says Otto de Vries, Executive Director of WTAAA. “While airlines have filed unsuccessful legal cases against consumers who skiplag, they continue to issue Agency Debit Memos (ADMs), penalising agents whose clients break fare rules by not taking a flight segment.”

A recent survey by passport-photo.online found that over 64% of American flyers skiplag at least 25% of their flights annually, with the practice increasingly popular among younger generations as a way to find cheaper fares and more convenient routes. Social media platforms like TikTok have even promoted skiplagging.

“We do the right thing by booking as per the published fares, but the practice of holding the agent financially responsible when the client breaks airline rules remains a major concern,” says De Vries. “It’s time airlines play a straight game on pricing without huge markups for hub-to-hub tickets versus to final destinations, which would diminish the incentive for skiplagging.”

While skiplagging can constitute a violation of airline terms, a 2019 court case in Berlin dismissed Lufthansa‘s attempt to sue a passenger for over US$2,300 in fees avoided by skiplagging, likely due to the difficulty of proving intentionally missed segments.

However, according to IATA Resolution 830a, airlines have an easier path to enforcing penalties against travel agents via ADMs issued through the Billing and Settlement Plan system when agents’ clients go against fare rules without the agent’s knowledge.

“The consequences are clearly uneven based on whether the consumer booked direct or via an accredited agent who unintentionally booked a so-called skiplag itinerary on behalf of their customer,” adds De Vries. “While airlines struggle to punish direct booking consumers legally, they readily fine agents, sometimes contributing to agency closures from the financial impact. This unequal treatment must be addressed.”

WTAAA emphasises that travel agents have a duty to advise clients about the potential risks associated with skiplagging. These risks can include voiding return flights, losing frequent flyer benefits, facing legal action, or having accounts banned by the airline. Ultimately, however, it should not be the travel agents who bear the financial cost of their client's travel decisions.

WTAAA calls for an open dialogue between the airline industry and travel agent associations to address the increasing issue of skiplagging. This dialogue should focus on finding solutions that protect consumers’ rights to make informed choices while ensuring a fair and sustainable environment in which travel agents can operate.

Co-Founder & Chief Editor - TravelDailyNews Media Network | Website | + Posts

Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales.

She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.

24/05/2024
23/05/2024
22/05/2024
21/05/2024
20/05/2024