Do you hate following the rules? Feel like airlines need to be taught a lesson in what’s really fair when it comes to fares? Or maybe you’re just keen to save some scratch when it comes to booking your next trip. If you’re willing to play some of the riskier games associated with flight bookings then online travel site Kiwi.com wants to help out, possibly even including legal counsel.
We want to make it clear that we will always stay on the side of our customers in relation to predatory behaviour while making sure they always have access to the best deals. – Oliver Dlouhý, Kiwi.com CEO
The site has a long history of piecing together itineraries that sit between nontraditional and blatant violations of airline policies. Kiwi will “assemble” a connecting itinerary across multiple, unaffiliated airlines, for example, offering “connection protection” in case of a misconnect. That’s not normal, but also a relatively low risk play, with liability reduced to refunding unused fares or buying a new ticket.
But Kiwi will also sell travelers a round trip ticket when they request one way pricing. Especially when crossing continents the savings on this type of transaction can be significant. It is also known as throw-away ticketing and airlines really don’t like when passengers do that, assuming they can figure it out. If an airline does discover these bookings they can pursue the passenger in court for the “missing” revenue, close down a loyalty program account or even blacklist a traveler completely. Kiwi is now willing to help out if lawyers come calling, assuming you’ve booked on their site.
We hold a rather liberal point of view because we trust in free will and the right to free choice in respect to the use of the product customers purchase from service providers, including airlines. We think that customers should have the liberty to choose whether they will use the service and to what extent, without the risk of being penalised. In this regard, we offer them our aid in the case they are sued for exercising their right to free choice. – David Liškutin, Chief Legal Officer at Kiwi.com
Just how much support will Kiwi deliver? Much like the connection guarantee the details are not especially well documented for travelers. But the company does offer this explanation of its policies:
We will provide You with the below-specified assistance in situations when a legal claim is brought against You by the Selected Carrier in relation to Your Booking due to the alleged breach of the Selected Carrier’s contractual clauses which are considered as unbalanced, disproportionate and/or abusive. These conditions include, among others, the practices commonly known as “throw-away”, “back to back” and “hidden city” ticketing. We believe that these and similar contractual clauses are disproportionate and thus shall not enjoy legal protection.
In case the Selected Carrier brings a lawsuit against You claiming a breach of these contractual clauses, We will:
(1) Reimburse You the costs of Your legal expenses related to such legal proceedings; or
(2) Assist You in the legal proceedings and provide You with the aid of Our legal advisors who are experienced with claims of this nature; or
(3) Reimburse You the amount claimed by the Selected Carrier in relation to the alleged breach of its contractual clauses.
The choice of the appropriate and most suitable method and scope of Our assistance will be done upon Our discretion following a previous consultation with You.
The part where the help provided comes completely at Kiwi’s discretion makes the deal far from a sure thing for travelers. And the part where an airline can close a loyalty account or blacklist passengers completely (which has happened for similar behaviors) makes it mighty risky to constantly book trips like this.
Enforcement actions by airlines are rare and typically come only after a long and repeated violations, or when passengers taunt the airlines by booking overlapping segments at the same time to different locations. Yes, systems exist to detect such overlaps and some airlines are known to use them.
Kiwi’s willingness to mix-and-match fares and even modes of transport (it will sell plane/bus combinations, too) is laudable in many ways. Creative thinking that that can save a lot of money. But there is also a necessary step of acknowledging when bookings are more towards that grey area of what the airlines permit.
Passengers who want to take the risk should be free to do so and Kiwi’s support, in whatever form it may take, is a nice little extra. But for travelers who are caught unaware that the bookings are made that way it could prove to be a situation far more troubling than creative.