Southwest Airlines Takes On Site That Makes It Much Easier and Cheaper to Check In Early

Love Field-based Southwest makes it easy to check in early: Pay the carrier an extra $20 for a round-trip flight, and as soon as the early-bird check-in line opens, some 36 hours before take-off, you'll get a boarding pass in the much-coveted Group A. Which isn't guaranteed, mind you, but it couldn't hurt: Says the airline, hey, cough up the $10 for each leg of your trip, and "it improves your seat selection options to help you get your favorite seat" and gets you "your pick of available overhead bin space." Because nobody likes to get stuck in Group D.

But no so fast, promises the website Why give Southwest an extra $20 for round-trip early check-in when you can pay just ... waitaminute, $5? Says the Arizona-based site, it you download and use its check-in app, "As soon as the check-in window opens, the software on your computer will contact the Southwest website and perform the automatic check-in on your behalf." And the folks running that site are pretty proud of sticking it to Southwest, taunting its legal department by insisting they aren't doing a damned thing wrong:

Southwest seems to think this means we are violating the "browser wrap" agreement that says we can't use their website to provide a Southwest Boarding Pass. We're not using their website -- you are. In effect we're just saving your keystrokes and running them at a more convenient time on your behalf. Our computers don't connect to Southwest's computers -- your computer does.
Well, Southwest has had enough of that: A flip through PACER this morning reveals that Southwest sued the site in Dallas federal court Monday, claiming that passengers using's software are cutting to the front of the virtual line, which ain't right. And the software, says the carrier, is also "preventing Southwest's customers from visiting" and "[depriving] Southwest of selling and advertising opportunities and interfer[ing] with the purchasing cycle of Southwest's customers." Which is causing "economic injury." Which is why the carrier filed the suit you can read below.

Southwest v.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky