A college student working on his Master’s Degree in Computer Science at Stanford was helping passengers get a good seat on Southwest Airlines-until the airline shut him down. Southwest Airlines assigns boarding groups according to when you check in for your flight and the earlier you check in, the greater your chances are at getting a spot in the A boarding group and having your pick of seats. Check in late and you may be looking at a middle seat in the back of the plane as a C group boarder. Nikil Viswanathan created a website that would automatically check you in to your Southwest Airlines flight 24 hours prior to departure, ensuring users a decent seat. He announced his site, checkintomyflight.com, on his Facebook page on Oct. 2 and within three weeks, Southwest Airlines sent him a cease and desist letter telling him that the site was in violation of the company’s terms and conditions.
Bottom line: We aren’t surprised that Southwest Airlines responded quickly to Viswanathan’s site. Southwest Airlines offers an Early Bird automatic check-in option that costs $10. Passengers could use Viswanathan’s website for free, diverting revenue away from Southwest. And Southwest Airlines’ track record with third party sites was another indication that Viswanathan’s site wouldn’t be available for long. The airline does not allow third-party mileage tracking sites to access members’ data or its flights to appear on third-party travel booking sites.