United, Orbitz Sue Computer Whiz Who Started Cheap Airfare Site

PHOTO: Planes at the gates and control tower are pictured at LAX in Los Angeles. Getty Images
Planes at the gates and control tower are pictured at LAX in Los Angeles.

A tech savvy 22-year-old has been sued by United Airlines and Orbitz, over the website he founded which allows consumers to exploit pricing inefficiencies and get cheaper fares.

Skiplagged.com, the brainchild of Aktarer Zaman, operates by searching flight patterns where the intended destination is a layover city instead of the flight's final stop. The practice is only possible if passengers don't check a bag.

While it may seem strange that a ticket to a place closer to home may cost more than one an extra 2,000 miles away, Skiplagged reports that consumers have saved as much as 80 percent on airfare compared to other sites.

Here's the issue: The practice is prohibited by many airlines.

A federal lawsuit now alleges Zaman "has used his website to intentionally and maliciously interfere with Orbitz and United's 'contracts and business relations' in the airline industry and has falsely associated Skiplagged with the site.

"This practice violates our fare rules, and we are taking action to stop it to help protect the vast majority of customers who buy legitimate tickets," Christen David, a United spokeswoman, told ABC News.

Until recently, consumers were given a "hidden city" itinerary on Skiplagged and were then directed to Orbitz to purchase the flights, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court.

"Some of our airline partners have advised us that if a passenger is caught on a hidden-city routing, that ticket will be voided consistent with published fare rules and a refund will not be authorized," Orbitz said in a statement to ABC News. "While some independent operators might encourage customers to try to break ticketing rules, we have an obligation to uphold airline fare rules and also protect consumers from making purchases that could be invalidated."

According to the lawsuit, Orbitz asked Zaman, who was an affiliate partner, to stop allowing hidden city searches on his site.

"Zaman agreed to stop engaging in this prohibited form of booking, only to continue the conduct unabated," the lawsuit states. "At the same time, Zaman has taken steps to try to hide from Orbitz and United his continued bad conduct and breach of promises to stop."

Zaman did not immediately return a call seeking comment. He has until January 6, 2015 to file a response, according to court documents.

In a GoFundMe page Zaman set up to fund his legal defense, he said that "everything Skiplagged has done and continues to do is legal."