Southwest sues Skiplagged in Texas, escalating its legal challenge against flight-search sites that display its fares

A Southwest Airlines plane painted with Arizona's flag on a runway in front of snow-tipped mountains
Southwest Airlines.

  • Southwest Airlines sued flight-search site Skiplagged in Texas over displaying the airline’s fares.
  • The lawsuit escalated the airline’s legal fight, following a lawsuit against Kiwi.com.
  • “Neither Skiplagged nor Kiwi is authorized to display Southwest fares,” the airline said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Southwest Airlines filed a lawsuit against Skiplagged, a flight search engine, in a second legal challenge against flight-search sites that display the airline’s cheap flights.

The airline said both Skiplagged and Kiwi.com broke its website’s terms by displaying ticket prices. It previously filed suit against Kiwi.com. Southwest said it only allows online travel agents to sell tickets for its flights with the airline’s permission.

In its newest lawsuit, filed last week in US District Court, the airline said the two travel sites appeared to be working together. It said Skiplagged’s flight data came from Kiwi.com.

“Neither Skiplagged nor Kiwi is authorized to display Southwest fares or sell Southwest flights,” the airline’s lawyers wrote in the complaint.

Southwest didn’t respond to a request for comment. A lawyer for Skiplagged declined to comment.

“We cannot comment on the latest lawsuit itself, but what is appearing here is a sense of panic from Southwest,” a Kiwi.com spokesperson said. “Trying to hold back freedom of choice brought about through tech innovation with aggressive legal action is a sad situation from an airline that was a disruptor themselves.”

Southwest in early June had sent a cease-and-desist letter to Skiplagged. In the exchange of letters that followed, Skiplagged denied the claim, saying it didn’t scrape Southwest’s website for info. Skiplagged also said it had removed Southwest’s heart logo from its website.

“Given these facts, I assume it is not necessary to go into detail on the many mistaken assumptions and assertions in your letter,” Skiplagged CEO Aktarer Zaman wrote in an email to Southwest in late June. “I trust this resolves the matter.”

In the following letters, which were included in Southwest’s lawsuit, the companies were unable to negotiate a solution.

“It is beyond dispute that Southwest routing information is widely available through multiple public-facing sources, which undermines [Southwest’s] Letter’s suggestion that Skiplagged is republishing confidential information,” wrote Skiplagged’s lawyer, Irwin B. Schwartz, of BLA Schwartz, in the final letter.

Skiplagged earlier this month filed a pre-emptive lawsuit in New York, its home state, asking a judge to rule on whether it had broken Southwest’s terms.

By filing its new lawsuit in Texas, Southwest moved to keep its legal fight against the flight-search engines in its home state. Southwest sued Kiwi.com in Texas earlier this year.

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Southwest will pay flight attendants double overtime as it struggles with a staffing hole over the July 4 week

A gate agent wears a Southwest Airlines mask
A Southwest Airlines agent in Los Angeles.

  • Southwest is paying some staff double for overtime shifts in the first week of July, CNBC reported.
  • The airline said the extra pay would boost staff levels and reduce the number of flight disruptions.
  • Demand for travel is rebounding fast but the aviation industry faces a staffing shortage.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Southwest Airlines is doubling overtime pay for some staff over the July 4 week as it eyes a huge bump in travel, CNBC reported.

Flight attendants, ground-operations agents, and cargo agents will earn double for picking up extra shifts in a bid to avoid disruptions over the Independence Day weekend, per CNBC.

Demand for travel is rebounding fast as the US economy reopens but the aviation industry faces a staffing shortage after letting too many pilots and flight attendants go during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Southwest has been hit by a series of flight disruptions caused by technical problems and bad weather. It delayed nearly 4,000 flights and canceled hundreds more over a three-day period in mid-June because of a glitch in weather data and a computer-system outage. It also canceled hundreds of flights over the weekend and Monday after airports were hit by severe thunderstorms.

Read more: Forget flying commutes – these aviation startups are taking off by moving cargo by air

In a memo to staff Monday, reported by CNBC, Alan Kasher, executive vice president of daily operations at Southwest, said: “We have heard from many of you who are frustrated with our network reliability and irregular operations created by summer storms across many parts of the country.

“To address the situation for the short term, we will be incentivizing our Ops Employees during this busy holiday travel week by increasing overtime pay from July 1 through July 7.”

Flight attendants will get double pay for picking up open shifts over that week, Sonya Lacore, vice president of inflight operations at Southwest, wrote in a separate staff memo Monday, per CNBC. A spokesperson told the publication that ground and cargo operations staff would also get double pay for overtime shifts.

Southwest did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

The Transportation Security Administration screened 2,066,964 passengers on Monday – 84% of the number it screened on the same day in 2019.

But Southwest is struggling to find enough staff as demand for flights returns. As well as doubling overtime pay, the airline is bumping up its minimum wage to $15 later this year, which it said would boost paychecks for around 7,000 staff.

Still, some pilots who were on leave during the pandemic have yet to be retrained before they can return to work.

“We have about 900 pilots who are coming back from extended time off that are being trained in June and July and we’ll probably slip into August,” Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA), told WFAA.

“We have the pilots,” he said. “We just don’t have the pilots trained currently.”

SWAPA told members Monday that Southwest had also offered double pay for pilots during the July 4 week, which it called “inadequate”. The union said that it had not come to an agreement with the airline on pay, CNBC reported.

“It has been clear (since spring!) that our operation was on track for a brutal summer caused by overselling a schedule that they absolutely cannot fill,” SWAPA told members.

“This [July 4] weekend coming up is going to be a true test for the entire breadth of Southwest Airlines,” Murray told WFAA.

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Airline check-ins won’t turn into a ‘Weight Watchers-like’ scenario, despite passengers being heavier, say industry experts

Managing Director of investment bank Cowen Helane Becker wears a blue top with a large green necklace
Helane Becker, an airlines analyst and managing director of investment bank Cowen.

  • Airlines won’t weigh passengers to stay within safety limits despite being heavier, says experts.
  • Airlines can conduct passenger surveys and use CDC population averages to calculate weights.
  • American Airlines told Insider that its average passenger is now eight pounds heavier.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Airline passengers have gotten heavier, but companies are unlikely to weigh individual passengers at the check-in desk to help keep an aircraft within its safety limits, two industry experts told Insider.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which regulates commercial airlines, told Insider that while weighing passengers was “an option,” most companies would use other methods.

Henry Harteveldt, president of travel research firm Atmosphere Research Group, told Insider that this was highly unlikely to happen.

“The airline check-in experience is not going to turn into a Weight Watchers-like scenario,” he said. “Airlines do not ask passengers how much they weigh, and they’re not about to start doing so.”

American Airlines told Insider on June 10 that its average customer now weighs 182 pounds in summer and 187 pounds in winter, an “eight-pound increase for both seasons,” a company spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Unnamed airline officials also told the Wall Street Journal that average passenger and baggage weights had risen between 5% and 10%, but did not specify over what period.

The FAA gave companies until June 12 to submit new average passenger weight estimates, a vital part of an aircraft’s weight and balance calculations needed for safe travel.

The agency gives airlines options for how to calculate passenger weights, including weighing customers before boarding, or by asking them to volunteer their weight – in this case, the FAA’s advisory document says that operators “should make a reasonable estimate” of a passengers’ weight if they believe that it had been “understated.”

But Helane Becker, airlines analyst and managing director of investment bank Cowen, told Insider that she doesn’t see this occurring in the US.

She said the trend in rising passengers weights is not new, and that she expects to see “airlines adjusting charges for overweight bags.”

“It is likely they will accept less mail and other small packages to be able to stay under weight limits,” Becker said.

Other FAA options include conducting random passenger weight surveys, or using official population weight estimates from the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

American and Southwest Airlines told Insider that they use figures from the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to calculate weight and balance.

The most recent NHANES published in January shows the average US adult male weighs 199.8 pounds, up 4.1 pounds from the previous report in 2016, while the average US woman weighs 170.8 pounds, an increase of 2.3 pounds over the same period.

American also told Insider that there would be no changes to its customer experience, despite the revised weight estimates.

Industry body Airlines for America, which speaks on behalf of ten major airlines, said in an emailed statement it didn’t “anticipate there will be any noticeable changes” for customers.

Delta Air Lines said they had developed an “implementation plan” to minimize any impact on customers, although it did not share any details.

Alaska Airlines told Insider that the impact of weight changes would be “negligible” and would only “effect select long-haul routes during headwind conditions.”

United Airlines declined to share their FAA weight submission with Insider. JetBlue did not respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Southwest Airlines passengers dance and cheer as couple accused of refusing to wear masks get thrown off flight

Southwest Airlines flight
Passengers on a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 flight line up to exit the aircraft after arriving at Houston’s Hobby airport March 20, 2021.

  • A TikTok video shows a woman arguing with a flight attendant about not complying with a mask-wearing mandate.
  • Passengers on the Southwest Airlines flight can be heard heckling and jeering at the passenger.
  • As the woman and her partner are escorted off the flight, those on the plane cheer and dance.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A TikTok video shows an entire plane clapping and cheering after a couple is escorted off a Southwest Airlines flight, Newsweek reported.

In the video shared by user Brendan Edler, a woman is seen arguing with a crew member.

The footage, which is filmed discreetly from three rows back, starts mid-argument.

The dispute revolves around a passenger who refused to comply with COVID-19 safety protocols by not wearing a mask.

Read more: Inside Southwest Airlines’ legendary culture – and how to get hired there

It should be noted that the woman is wearing a mask at the start of the clip.

The reaction of those on the plane, however, suggests this was not the case earlier on.

The woman, whose identity is unknown, is insistent that she did not break the rules. “I did comply,” says the woman to the flight attendant. “You’re saying I didn’t comply and put my mask on when you ask asked me to?”

Shortly after, the woman accuses the flight attendant of not telling the truth. “You’re a liar and you have to live with that,” she is heard saying.

Those on the flight then begin to heckle the woman and start saying their farewells.

“Bye,” shouts one person.

“Get off the plane,” yells another.

“That’s what happens when you don’t say you’re sorry,” someone else can be heard saying.

The woman then stands up, shows her middle finger to those on the plane, and walks off with her traveling companion.

The remaining passengers appear jubilant, with one woman proceeding to dance.

Insider contacted Southwest for further context on the incident. The airline said that it does not have any further details on the situation but provided information on its mask-wearing policy.

“Federal law requires Southwest to ensure every person age two and over to wear a mask at all times throughout a flight, including during boarding and deplaning,” a Southwest Airlines spokesperson said. “We communicate the face-covering mandate to all Customers at multiple touchpoints throughout the travel journey.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Cancellation policies for the 4 major airlines show it’s almost impossible for customers to just get their money back

FILE PHOTO: Delta Airlines planes and a British Airways plane (2nd L) are pictured at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, on the day Delta CEO Ed Bastian told employees he was cutting 40% of capacity in the coming months, the largest in the airline's history, in addition to pursuing aid, in SeaTac, Washington, U.S. March 13, 2020.  REUTERS/Jason Redmond/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Delta Airlines planes and a British Airways plane are pictured at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in SeaTac, Washington

  • Throughout 2020, travelers have been forced to cancel or reschedule trips due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Most airlines allow customers to rebook or cancel, but it can be difficult to get a monetary refund. 
  • Here’s what you can do if you have a flight with United, Delta, American, or Southwest that you need to cancel.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

With US passports virtually useless and coronavirus cases spiking in various parts of the country, many Americans are postponing or canceling their travel plans.

A recent rise in coronavirus cases along with the discovery of a new strain means some travelers may continue to postpone or cancel their plans. And on December 16, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated travel guidelines for winter holidays, recommending “postponing travel and staying home, as this is the best way to protect yourself and others this year.”

While airlines have been more flexible than usual with allowing customers to change their reservations, the industry is losing billions of dollars as air travel remains disrupted. 

When it became clear that air travel was going to be on the decline for the foreseeable future, the Transportation Department said “any airline operating in the US, foreign or domestic,” had to refund tickets for flights the airline canceled and couldn’t offer an alternative without a “substantial” schedule change,” as reported in the Wall Street Journal.

Many airlines have placed the responsibility on consumers if they want to change their plans, but if fliers want a monetary refund it can be hard. 

Here’s a look at what the major US Airlines are doing in the case of cancelled plans. 

American 

Tickets that expired between March 1, 2020 and September 30, 2020 can be used until December 31, 2021. The airline has dropped change fees for flights originating from North and South America. Basic Economy fares are still ineligible for change fees.

Customers can change their flight once, but additional fees may apply when rebooking. Destination changes are allowed. 

If a customer wants to cancel their trip, the value of the ticket will be applied to a later date. There is no outright option for customers to get their money back when they cancel online.

American no longer blocks middle seats.

Delta 

Customers can modify their trips, “including any flights purchased before April 17, 2020, departing March 2020 through March 2021 and all tickets purchased March 1, 2020 through March 30, 2021.” The airline has dropped change fees for all flights originating from North America. Destination changes are allowed. 

Cancellations are allowed on Delta, and the value of the ticket may be applied to a new reservation up to one year from the original purchase. Basic Economy tickets are not eligible for refunds. 

Delta will continue to block off middle seats until the end of March. 

Southwest

If a customer using a non-refundable ticket cancels, their funds will be valid until September 7, 2022. Once a customer rebooks the ticket, it will expire 12 months after purchase, following Southwest’s traditional booking rules. 

Southwest does offer refunds via the original form of payment, but only on Business Select or Anytime tickets. 

Southwest no longer blocks middle seats.

United 

United does allow passengers to change or cancel their flights. Tickets issued between April 1, 2020 and March 31, 2021 are eligible for a flight change of equal or lesser value without a fee change. The same rules apply to any canceled flights, with customers receiving credits for use at a later date. The airline has also dropped all change fees – including Basic Economy fares – for flights originating from the US.

In the event that the new booking costs more than the old one, the customer will have to pay the difference. 

United, like American and Southwest, has resumed the sale of middle seats. 

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