Sued cheap-flights site owner: 'It's not illegal'

Aktarer Zaman
Aktarer Zaman

Aktarer Zaman, the young man who is being sued by United Airlines and Orbitz for founding a cheap flights website, said he hasn't done anything wrong.

"All it does is provide information to consumers that is already publicly accessible," the 22-year-old Manhattan resident told CNBC Wednesday.

Zaman founded last year as a side project and runs the site alone. It uses a strategy known as "hidden city" to allow a user to book a ticket with a layover in the flyer's actual destination, and the user just skips the last leg of the trip.

He said there is nothing illegal about the strategy and noted that it has been around for a long time. He says he doesn't think it is "ethical for big corporations to suppress this knowledge that is publicly accessible" to consumers. The site does not generate any profit.

United Airlines and Orbitz claim "unfair competition."

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Zaman found out about the lawsuit in mid-November and has since recruited legal counsel to help him move forward.

He also told CNBC that news reports of claimed damages of $75,000 are incorrect. The two companies are suing Zaman for six claims of $75,000 each, bringing the total amount to just under half a million dollars. Zaman has raised over $30,000 on GoFundMe to help with the legal fees.

Zaman explained that "travelers do not break the law when they miss all of their flights so why would it be illegal to miss one leg of a flight?"

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The website is still up and running, although Zaman said that he is overwhelmed with the traffic after news of the suit broke. He told CNBC that in the 24 hours after Monday, one million people around the world accessed the site.

"I'm very focused on what I'm doing because I do believe I have something that is benefiting consumers," he said.