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省钱机票:航空公司深恶痛绝的便宜机票秘诀

更新时间:2019/3/23 9:23:38 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Skiplagging: The travel trick that airlines hate
省钱机票:航空公司深恶痛绝的便宜机票秘诀

There’s a sneaky travel hack out there, right under your nose – but you may not even know it exists. It could save you big money on airfare.

有一个不为人知的旅游小诀窍就在你眼前,但你却没有注意到它的存在。这个秘诀可以帮你节省一大笔机票钱。

And airlines are doing everything they can to stamp it out once and for all.

航空公司正在竭尽所能来彻底杜绝此一伎俩。

It’s called “skiplagging”, and here’s how it works: Say if someone wants to fly from Boston to Houston, but the airfare is too high. So they buy a ticket from Boston to Las Vegas with a layover in Houston, because it is cheaper than the direct Boston-to-Houston fare. The passenger disembarks at Houston, leaving an unused portion of the ticket. So they never actually finish the entire journey they booked – but they’ve saved money doing so.

这个省钱诀窍叫做“弃程”(skiplagging),举个例子,如果某人想从波士顿飞休斯顿,但是机票价格太贵。有人就会买一张从波士顿飞到拉斯维加斯,但在休斯顿转机的机票,因为票价比从波士顿直飞休斯顿要便宜。乘客飞抵休斯顿后即离开机场,余下机票上还有的一程航班则弃而不用。这样一来,乘客实际上并未完成机票上的全部航程,但却因此省了一笔钱。

The practice made headlines earlier this month. German airline Lufthansa sued a passenger who saved money by skipping a leg of a round-trip ticket.

这种做法上个月成了头条新闻。德国汉莎航空公司当时起诉了一名旅客,这名旅客为了省钱放弃了一张往返机票的最后一段航程。

Airlines hate it when passengers game the system. Despite the fact that such lawsuits have failed in the past, Lufthansa is suing for more than $2,000. But while airlines try to stem the tide of passengers getting cheaper fares by using “hidden-city” ticketing, few airline analysts have much sympathy.

航空公司对乘客钻空子找漏洞的做法深恶痛绝。尽管这样的诉讼在过去都以败诉而收场,但是汉莎航空这次依然提出诉讼,要求该旅客赔偿2,000美元。不过,尽管航空公司极尽所能防止大批乘客使用“弃程”购票方式来获取便宜机票,但是鲜有航空公司分析师大力支持这一诉讼。

“Hidden-city ticketing is a problem of the airlines’ own making,” says Henry Harteveldt, founder of travel advisory firm Atmosphere Research.

哈特维尔德(Henry Harteveldt)是旅游咨询公司大气研究集团(Atmosphere Research)的创始人,他表示:“弃程购票这个问题是航空公司自身造成的。”

“I fully understand, as an airline analyst and business person, why airlines extract as much as they can where they have leverage. That is what business is all about,” says Harteveldt. “But when an airline puts out stupid airline pricing and the fare into a hub [airport] is nonsensically high, it is almost like airlines invite hidden-city booking.”

哈特维尔德说,“我是航空公司分析师,也是商人,在商言商,我完全明白为什么航空公司要竭尽所能来获取最大利益。但是当航空公司推出愚蠢的航班定价方式,将飞到某些枢纽机场的票价定到高得离谱之时,那就不能怪乘客弃程。”

It’s about where, not how far

票价高低取决于飞到哪个机场,而不是距离长短

At issue, says Harteveldt, is the logic underpinning airline pricing, which can appear incomprehensible to customers.

哈特维尔德说,有争议的是航空公司定票价的逻辑,这一逻辑顾客看来难以理解。

“If airline A has a low-fare competitor, they will match; if not, they charge a premium. It all depends on the competition, and that is why airlines strategically lower fares in some markets and not others. In my discussions with airlines, they say they don’t want to lose market share and will take a calculated risk.”

“如果A航空公司有一个低票价的竞争对手,那么A航空就会降价竞争;如果没有这样的竞争对手,那么A航空就会加价。降价还是加价全部取决于竞争。这也就是为什么航空公司会在一些航线上进行战略性降价,而在其他航线则不会这么做。在我与航空公司讨论的过程中,航空公司表示不想失去某些航线的市场份额,甘愿冒风险,因为觉得值得这样做。”

Peter Belobaba, principal research scientist at the MIT International Center for Air Transportation, says this kind of pricing is found all over the world.

贝洛巴巴(Peter Belobaba)是麻省理工学院国际航空运输中心(MIT International Center for Air Transportation)的首席研究科学家,他表示这类定价方式在全世界都有。

“Take Boston to Las Vegas, a leisure market which is more price sensitive. Boston-Houston is a business market, which means higher fares. They are very different markets when it comes to both competition and sensitivity to pricing. From an economic point of view, it makes perfect sense to charge lower fares in the Boston-Las Vegas market even though it is further than Houston in miles, especially if the competition is charging $199 for a non-stop flight,” he says.

他表示,“拿波士顿—拉斯维加斯这个航线来说,这是一个休闲旅游的航线,机票价格就要有弹性。而波士顿—休斯顿则是商务客多的航线,因此票价则较高。就市场竞争和定价敏感度而言,这是两个非常不同的市场。因此从波士顿飞拉斯维加斯这条航线的票价定得低,尽管波士顿到拉斯维加斯的距离比波士顿到休斯顿的距离还要远。这是完全有道理的,尤其是竞争对手推出的波斯顿到拉斯维加斯的直飞航班票价仅为 199 美元之时。”

Tony Webber, CEO of aviation research company Air Intelligence and former Qantas chief economist, says lawsuits like the one filed by Lufthansa are a scare tactic.

韦伯(Tony Webber)是航空研究公司航空情报(Air Intelligence)的首席执行官,并曾在澳洲航空任职首席经济师。他表示,诸如汉莎航空提起的这种诉讼只是一种恐吓战术。

Webber explained the impact on revenues saying skiplagging means airlines cannot maximise revenues because, had they sold the seat directly, they would have probably received a higher fare. So, hidden-city ticketing lowers the yield they receive from each seat and complicates what is already a small-margin business.

韦伯阐述了旅客弃程对航空公司收入的影响。他表示,旅客弃程就不能让航空公司的收入最大化,因为如果航空公司直接将座位卖出,就很可能获得更高的票价收入。因此,弃程降低了航空公司从每个座位上获得的收入,并且让这笔利润率本就很低的生意更趋复杂。

But, Harteveldt argues, airlines overbook because they know some won’t show up so it is unlikely the seat will fly empty.

但是哈特维尔德则称,航空公司一般会超售机位,因为知道总有些旅客买了票不会出现在飞机上,因此不太可能出现机位空置的情况。

Ethical dilemma

伦理难题

Yet frequent flyers buffeted by airline fees, poor service, delays and cancellations tend not to care much about the airlines’ troubles.

然而,深受航空公司机票价格、糟糕服务、航班延误和取消之苦的飞机常客却往往不在乎航空公司的难处。

Skiplaggers are generally the savviest travelers and often the airlines’ best customers. Indeed, about the only way to find out how many people are skiplagging is to ask Skiplagged, the website invented to help fliers exploit hidden-city tickets.

弃程人士一般来说都是最老道的旅行者,而且常常是航空公司的最佳顾客。诚然,要想知道有多少人在弃程,唯一的方法便是询问“Skiplagged”这个网站。这个网站就是为了帮助飞机乘客省钱而设立的。

Founder Aktarer Zaman isn’t talking, however, and did not respond to numerous BBC queries. But he appears to have plenty of supporters: when United tried and failed to sue him in 2015, crowdfunding yielded over $80,000 (£61,000) for his defence.

然而创始人萨曼(Aktarer Zaman)却不愿就此表态,没有回复 BBC 的多次询问。但他似乎不乏支持者。美国联合航空公司在 2015 年试图起诉他但没成功,当时为了给他辩护,人们众筹的资金超过8万美元。

So, are passengers gaming a system stacked against them? After all, the airline offered the seat at a given price and received that price. The New York Times’ Ethicist column saw no problem with skiplagging. Commenters agreed, with one concluding making a purchase does not oblige you to use it. Indeed, writing for the Times, Nate Silver cited airline monopoly power as part of the problem.

那么,乘客钻售票系统空子会对自身不利吗?毕竟,航空公司以给定的价格销售座位,而且获取了这笔钱。《纽约时报》的“伦理学家”栏目认为弃程没有问题。有一位评论员得出结论是,购置一件商品并不表示你必须使用这件商品,评论员们对此表示同意。事实上,为《纽约时报》撰稿的西尔弗(Nate Silver)说航空公司的垄断势力是造成此问题的原因之一。

“Yes, airlines have been compensated, but usually that pro-rated compensation is lower than the market value of fares for the leg the passenger has missed on purpose,” Webber explains. He notes that while the airline was paid by the passenger, the payment was less than the airline would have received if the passenger had not been skiplagging.

韦伯表示,“是的,航空公司获取了票价,但是通常来说,按照比例支付的票价要低于乘客故意弃掉的航段所对应的机票的市场价值。”他指出,尽管航空公司收到了乘客的付款,但款项低于乘客不弃程情况下航空公司应该收到的款项。

In fact, the contracts of carriage, that lopsided-in-the-airlines’-favour contract outlining the contract between airline and passenger when they buy a ticket, often prohibit hidden-city ticketing and promise a raft of measures if passengers are suspected of violations. It is understandable passengers dislike contracts of carriage since airlines use them as an excuse not to provide services when things go wrong.

事实上,行李条约(一项对航空公司有利的条约)概括了旅客购买机票时航空公司与旅客之间的合约条款,条款中通常禁止乘客弃程,并表示旅客涉嫌违反规定会对其采取诸多措施。乘客不喜欢行李条约是可以理解的,因为航空公司把这些条约作为出现问题时不予提供服务的借口。

Risky business

风险行业

As the recent lawsuit shows, the practice can be risky for the passenger. If you try to skiplag, you might get found out, even stopped at the airport.

最近的这起诉讼表明,这一做法可能会给乘客带来风险。如果你尝试弃程,你可能会被发现,甚至在机场被拦截。

“It does take effort and time to do this,” says Harteveldt. “Booking unusual itineraries could raise red flags, and someone could flag and monitor you while you fly. At some point you may get a letter, or corporate security meeting you at the gate. The airlines’ intention is to intimidate and recover what they perceive to be lost revenue.”

哈特维尔德说,“这样做需要花费精力和时间。预定不同寻常的行程可能会引起航空公司的预警,你在飞行途中可能会被人标记并监控。在某个时间你可能会收到一封信,或者公司的安保人员会在门口截住你。航空公司的目的是恐吓你,并把认为失去的收入补回来。”

Webber, however, thinks hidden-city tickets are almost impossible to track. But with the adoption of new technology, that will not stay that way for long. Airlines already have a lot of information they can cull from frequent flier records. Indeed, airlines have met passengers at their arriving flight and escorted them on to their next segment.

然而,韦伯认为乘客弃程几乎难以追踪。但随着新技术的采用,这一情况不会持续太久。航空公司已经拥有大量信息,这些信息可以从常飞乘客的记录中收集到。其实航空公司已会在乘客抵达中转机场时找到他们,并将他们护送到后续航班上。

Getting caught, Harteveldt adds, may mean having to buy a last-minute ticket that costs more than the amount you were trying to save. Travel agencies could lose the ability to ticket on an airline if they book hidden-city fares. Plus, airlines could share the names of hidden-city flyers with their partners or ban the passenger, he adds.

哈特维尔德补充说,如果乘客被抓到的话很可能就要在最后时刻买票,而这张票的价格要超出你想节省的部分。如果旅行社订的弃程机票,可能今后再无法向航空公司买票。此外,他还说,航空公司可能会把曾购买弃程机票的乘客姓名通知其他航空公司,或者禁止该乘客搭乘飞机。

Benét Wilson, a writer who covers travel and credit card rewards for online loan marketplace LendingTree, says it is a case of doing it at your own peril. “I do understand how travelers feel about airline pricing and the fact it looks as if they are trying to rip them off. But it really depends on where you live. If you live at a hub, prices are higher. It’s called capitalism. I also understand the temptation to balance that, but you need to realise you can be sued, you can lose all your frequent flier miles, which has happened. They could cancel your membership.”

威尔逊(Benét Wilson)是一位作家,她为网上借贷市场“LendingTree”进行旅游和信用卡奖励等方面的报道。她表示这样做需自担风险。“我的确理解旅游者对于航空公司定价的感受,我也明白事实上航空公司好像在漫天要价。但这真的取决于你的居住地点。如果你住在航空枢纽城市,票价会高一些。这叫做资本主义。我也理解乘客要平衡票价的诱惑,但是你需要意识到你可能会被起诉,你可能会失去所有的常搭飞机赚到的飞行里程,这种情况已经发生过。航空公司可能会取消你的会员资格。”

And she sums up her opinion of the issue succinctly. “Don’t hate the player,” she says. “Hate the game.”

她简明扼要地总结了自己的观点。她说,“不要仇恨游戏玩家。如果要恨的话,就恨这个游戏吧。”

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