Over the summer I wrote about Southwest Airlines suing airfare deals website Skiplagged.com.
- Southwest for years has gone after anyone that’s helped customers use its services, from programs that helped members track their points to services that helped them check in at exactly 24 hours before their flight. They also go after anyone publishing their prices and schedules without being authorized by the airline.
- Skiplagged.com helps customers find ‘point beyond’ tickets to save money where they’ll throw away their last segment, not illegal but against airline rules.
Skiplagged wasn’t actually scraping Southwest’s website. They were getting data from Kiwi.com, which in turn did appear to be accessing schedule and fare data without authorization. Southwest is suing Kiwi.com as well.
And Southwest Airlines has won a preliminary injunction against Kiwi.com to stop scraping its website, “publishing Southwest flight or fare information” or selling Southwest flights.
Kiwi.com did seem pretty blatant in what it was doing, but banning the publication of flight information seems both overbroad and prior restraint on free speech. I regularly publish “Southwest flight [and] fare information” on this site. They are even barred from “committing any other acts in violation of Southwests Terms & Conditions.”
The Kiwi.com case is about the power of website terms and conditions, and a company to control information it publishes publicly on the internet.
The Skiplagged case goes a step farther, because Southwest wants to argue that its website terms and conditions apply to a company that does not access its website. And they want to argue that a company that does not sell Southwest Airlines tickets is bound by Southwest’s conditions regarding the display of schedules and fares.
Ironically Southwest Airlines was once the underdog, fighting the establishment, as incumbent airlines tried to sue it into the ground and prevent it from flying. Now they’re the largest carrier of domestic air passengers and use the same tactics in order to control factual information about where and when they fly and at what price.
(HT: Jonathan W.)