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Southwest is in a legal battle with 2 flight search engines over whether they breached the airline's terms by displaying cheap fares

Business Insider logo Business Insider 7/28/2021 (Kevin Shalvey)
a large passenger jet sitting on top of a runway: A court case aims to resolve the dispute. Stephen M. Keller/Southwest Airlines © Stephen M. Keller/Southwest Airlines A court case aims to resolve the dispute. Stephen M. Keller/Southwest Airlines
  • Flight search engine Skiplagged is seeking a judgement on whether it violated Southwest's terms.
  • The lawsuit came after Southwest sued, another flight-info site, in Texas.
  • The airline sent letters threatening legal action over fare listings, Skiplagged's complaint said.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Skiplagged, a flight-information website, has asked a New York court to rule on whether it was breaking Southwest Airline's terms of service by posting airfares.

The lawsuit said flights displayed on Skiplagged aren't pulled directly from the airline's website so they didn't break the website's terms.

"Skiplagged does not access or use the Southwest API to obtain data published on," the tech company said in its complaint, "and is not bound by the Southwest terms and conditions."

The filing was an indirect response to another lawsuit where Southwest was suing a different flight data provider, Skiplagged wasn't named as a defendant in that case but the outcome could affect its business.

Since January, Southwest has been in a legal battle with in federal court in Texas. Southwest in that lawsuit sought an injunction to stop from displaying its flights. The airline has stated that it doesn't allow online travel agencies to sell its flights without written permission.

"Kiwi knowingly and intentionally targets the Southwest website to harvest Southwest's fare and pricing information for its own commercial benefit and without Southwest's authorization," the airline said in its complaint.

A spokesperson on Friday said: "Southwest makes its flight and fare data publicly available to the entire internet, and it cannot legitimately prevent fare competition and price comparisons through enforcement of its browsewrap terms of use, to which never agreed in any event." often handles more than 20 billion price checks per day. Its data comes from hundreds of different sources, including airline websites and APIs.

"At a high level, this case is about whether public information is, in fact, public. Southwest Airlines seeks to restrict online competitors' access to public online fare data," the spokesperson said. "Ultimately, it should be up to consumers, not Southwest Airlines, to decide where to buy their airline tickets."

Seeing the threat posed by the Texas lawsuit, Skiplagged decided to sue Southwest in New York, its home state, in a pre-emptive legal move. The complaint didn't say where Skiplagged's data came from.

Skiplagged, speaking through its lawyer, Irwin B. Schwartz, of BLA Schwartz PC, declined to comment. A Southwest spokesperson also declined to comment.

The Skiplagged lawsuit followed a volley of private letters between Southwest and Skiplagged this year, according to the complaint. Both companies declined a request to share the letters but Skiplagged's complaint described a communication from Southwest as "threatening."

In two letters in early June, Southwest accused Skiplagged of "unlawfully 'web scraping' data from," among other complaints, according to a court filing.

A few days later, Skiplagged sent its own letter, telling Southwest it didn't scrape data from the airline's website.

By early July, Southwest had responded with escalating claims, telling Skiplagged that it was "inducing to breach Southwest's website" by linking to that site, according to the complaint.

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