This week Lufthansa announced its intention to appeal a court decision which found against a case it had brought.
The case concerns a passenger booked on a return flight from Oslo to Seattle with a connection in Frankfurt. The passenger flew all the sectors of the outbound flight but did not catch the Frankfurt to Oslo leg on the return journey. He instead flew from Frankfurt to Berlin on a separate Lufthansa booking.
This practice might not be unusual but it contradicts the airline's terms and conditions. Air fares are calculated on the basis of a full itinerary.
The Lufthansa case illustrates what the industry knows euphemistically as creative ticketing. Airlines are constantly trying to prevent it but tales abound of various TMC manoeuvres to deliver clients cheaper fares than their intended itineraries might otherwise cost.
There are of course difficulties. For example, in the Seattle to Oslo case it would work only if the passenger had only hand baggage as otherwise the luggage would end up on the carousel even if the traveller wasn't there to collect it.
Here's another example. A traveller wants to fly from London to a business meeting in Budapest on Thursday the 21st returning Friday the 22nd. The cheapest return fares include a Saturday night stay-over. The agent issues a return ticket between the two cities going out on Thursday the 21st, returning to London on Monday the 25th. It also issues a return ticket from Budapest to London on Friday the 22nd and returning to Budapest on Monday the 25th. Two outbound sectors are used; both inbound sectors are no-shows. As they both include a Saturday night stay the total cost is less than the one ticket for going out on Thursday, returning on Friday.
The client is happy; the airline less so.
In contrast the rail industry very openly practises split ticketing.
In the UK a dedicated site helps passengers find and book such tickets. It was in the news this week because the UK's Rail Delivery Group, which represents all the county's train operating companies, this week published some recommendations to reduce the complexity in the rail fares. It is promoting more flexible tickets to obviate the need to search for creative solutions, split tickets.
IATA has spent much time and money to introduce NDC to bring air distribution and purchasing into the 21st century. A review of the algorithms and structures that deter passengers from booking their journeys in a straightforward manner might also go onto its agenda.