Southwest Airlines likes to remind customers about their friendly features. They don’t sell basic economy tickets. All of their tickets have been fully changeable. Their flight credits don’t expire. They offer two free checked bags.
But in the aftermath of their historic operational meltdown over the holidays, we have a reminder of one of the ways that Southwest Airlines goes to war with any tools that help customers compare prices and get the best deals.
- Southwest Airlines doesn’t fully participate in airline distribution systems. If a consumer wants to buy a ticket, they usually need to go directly to Southwest to do so. (There are exceptions to this.)
- They don’t let anyone else display their schedules or fares, or otherwise access their websites. And their lawyers aggressively go after anyone that tries.
AwardWallet and other mileage-tracking services can’t show you your Rapid Rewards balance.
Sites that have automated the process of checking in exactly 24 hours in advance to get the best boarding position have been shut down.
They’ve even gone to court to stop Skiplagged from showing its schedules and fares even though Skiplagged wasn’t getting those from Southwest’s website.
- Wanderlog would take the search request you entered into Google flights, and then from your browser would search the Southwest website and insert the flight results into the Google Flights results.
- Their servers didn’t access Southwest at all. None of the data passes through Wanderlog. It is just a tool that scripts your own search, and formats the results, all done on your own computer.
One result of Southwest not participating in global distribution systems is that it’s harder for consumers to compare prices. Southwest has a reputation as a low cost carrier but often isn’t cheap.
By the way, the Department of Transportation’s proposed fee disclose regulations would give Southwest’s attorneys a new tool, making Wanderlog and Skiplagged illegal. Under the rule, if Southwest chooses not to offer any details on fees to a website, the website would be in violation of federal regulations by displaying an airline’s schedules.
(HT: Jonathan W)