Jun. 8--$5 fee An "A group" boarding pass on Southwest Airlines is coveted for a few reasons. Passengers holding the A boarding pass can cut others in line and get their choice of seats on the airline's planes. It also shows that traveler put forth a little energy on the Internet to be among the first to log on the Dallas-based airline's Web site and check in.
Apparently, the airline wants it to continue to be a challenge. The airline has filed a lawsuit in a Texas federal court against a Web site that promises to get travelers an A boarding pass for a $5 fee.
The complaint alleges that Boardfirst.com is compromising the airline's security and unlawfully using its Web site. Founded by a Phoenix frequent flyer, Boardfirst has been taking customers information and getting them a pass to the front of the line.
Now it's the subject of a federal lawsuit seeking to shut the business down.
"I'm being sued by one of the largest airlines in the United States, and I'm working from my kitchen" said Kate Bell, the company's founder and president.
Boardfirst, which is less than a year old, received three cease-and-desist letters before the airline filed suit, Bell said.
The airline is in talks with at least 12 other Web sites that offer a similar service to passengers, said Brandy King, Southwest spokeswoman.
"We've been in conversation with companies and we continue to find new companies offering this service," King said. "We've had customers express concern that as the popularity of these sites grow they will be forced to use a third-party to get an A boarding pass."
Bell has hired an attorney and said she plans to fight the lawsuit.
"It's completely absurd," she said. "I don't see how we are hurting anything, or damaging their Web site. We're using it the way it's intended to be used."
Southwest has spent 35 years building up customer loyalty and doesn't want to cede that to a third-party, King said.
"We applaud the entrepreneurs, but we feel that we need to protect our brand and product, so that's what we're looking out for," King said.
Southwest has discussed going to assigned seating, but the technology to update it's system won't be available until 2008, King said.
Starting in September, the airline noticed that Web sites were offering to check in passengers for free or a fee of a few dollars.
A Phoenix entrepreneur has devised a service that helps Southwest Airlines customers avoid sitting in a dreaded middle seat on one of the discount carrier's flights.
The airline wants to know if assigning seats will slow down Southwest's ability to unload incoming planes and board passengers for the next flight.