Things are getting messy between consumer airfare savings site Skiplagged and Southwest Airlines. After receiving threats from Southwest, Skiplagged filed suit in New York to get a ruling that they were acting legally. Now Southwest has sued Skiplagged, trying to get the case – which claims even companies who do not access their website are bound by its terms and conditions – heard in Texas courts.
Southwest Aggressively Threatens Anyone Displaying Its Information
Southwest Airlines has gone after people and websites that create tools for customers for years. Whether it’s a website for tracking frequent flyer miles, or for automatically checking in to get the best boarding position, Southwest’s lawyers aggressively go after anyone accessing their data.
- That Skiplagged displayed their logo in violation of their trademark
- And that Skiplagged was scraping data from their website in violation of the airline’s terms and conditions.
The Risks And Benefits Of Hidden City Ticketing
Hidden city ticketing involves buying a ticket through a connecting city (where you really want to fly) onward to a separate destination (that’s cheaper) and getting off in the connecting city. This doesn’t generally work checking bags (since those go to the ticketed destination) and can be risky in bad weather (because the airline may reroute you through a different city, though I’ve never had difficulty insisting on my preferred routing).
It is against airline rules, but it is not on its own illegal. If you do it repeatedly an airline might sue you for violating its terms, shut down your frequent flyer account, and ban you from flying the airline. But you can save money, you might credit miles to a partner program in some cases or not at all, and most people don’t do it often enough to attract that level of attention in any case.
Skiplagged Filed Suit In New York To Vindicate Itself
Skiplagged immediately took down the Southwest Airlines logo. And they weren’t actually scraping Southwest.com for flight schedules and prices. Southwest, though, still claims Skiplagged was violating their terms and breaking the law.
So Skiplagged filed suit in New York for declaratory judgment. It can make strategic sense to file suit pre-emptively in part to choose the venue.
Now Southwest Has Sued Skiplagged In Texas
Southwest Airlines has filed suit against Skiplagged in Texas. United and Orbitz previously filed suit against Skiplagged unsuccessfully in Illinois. With the live proceeding in New York – and attorneys in the audience with deep knowledge of jurisdiction can correct me – it seems like having the proceedings removed to New York may be possible for Skiplagged.
- Skiplagged gets its data from Kiwi.com, which it is currently suing for improperly accessing its data. And that Skiplagged shouldn’t be able to access from Kiwi.com what they cannot access directly.
- As a result of using Kiwi.com data, sometimes Skiplagged shows non-current higher prices for Southwest itineraries, which disadvantages Southwest. Here they want to have it both ways – the only way to get real-time data is from Southwest, which Southwest won’t allow. Furthermore they claim it’s Skiplagged that’s acting against the interests of consumers by showing occasionally higher pricing rather than Southwest’s that is doing so by trying to block a tool that helps consumers save money.
How Powerful Are A Website’s Terms And Conditions – That You Never Even Agreed To?
This is an interesting and important case 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.