Travel hacking is usually innocuous. Zero to Travel defines it as, “…working within the existing rules set up by airlines, credit cards, and hotels, and using them to your advantage to earn free travel including flights, lodging, and other upgrades.” Which is fine. But here’s what Rob Berger, a writer for Forbes, said of the concept: “The term describes ways frequent travelers save loads of money. It’s more than finding a “deal” online. It’s discovering a magical world of free travel, upgrades, and elite status.”
I’m sure it was just an oversight, but there was one thing missing from Berger’s definition of travel hacking: working within the rules. You know, the legality of it. And one guy in Europe just totally disregarded that aspect and hacked an airline’s computer system to book free business class flights worth over $20,000.
According to The Brussels Times, the suspect is a 25-year-old male who allegedly hacked Brussels Airlines’ ticketing system. He apparently bought several tickets using a special app that was supposed to only be for the use of airline employees.
The suspect made the reservations and then canceled them to get his money refunded. But he manipulated the URL of the tickets so he could still use them.
He was able to use this technique to book 3 business class tickets for a flight to New York, which would normally cost about €6,000 (nearly $6800) per ticket.
Brussels Airlines is asking for €20,000 (over $22,500) in compensation: “We are asking for the cost of the three business tickets to New York, some airport taxes for the canceled tickets and 1,000 euros in additional fees that we had paid to secure the systems,” the airline’s attorney said.
The hacker’s lawyer is asking that the extra €1,000 not be included because the defendant actually helped the airline by showing them the weaknesses in their computer system.
Because cajones, I guess.
And big ones, too…apparently the same guy had done similar things to American Airlines, Lufthansa and, yes, Brussels Airlines, back in 2017, as well, “…largely for the thrill of it but also for free travel around the world.”
A verdict is expected at the end of the month.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary