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Southwest sues third-party boarding website

A new crop of websites that help Southwest ticketholders "beat" the airline's boarding policy for a small fee are now facing tight scrutiny from Southwest itself. Such websites, like Phoenix-based BoardFirst.com, complete the check-in process for customers, allowing busy travelers to make sure they get into Southwest's first boarding group without having to arrive early at the airport.

Now Southwest is fighting back. The airline reportedly filed suit last month against BoardFirst LLC (operated by a woman named Kate Bell, who runs the company from her kitchen) and asked more than a dozen other companies to cease similar practices. According to a story in today's Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, the suit charges Bell with "computer fraud, unfair competition, trademark infringement, and 'unjust enrichment.'" Southwest also claims it fears "losing control of its seating inventory." BoardFirst, for its part, refuses to cease operations and says it will fight Southwest in court.

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You'll recall a story I first mentioned a few weeks back that reported Southwest is considering changing its boarding policy to align it with the more traditional policies of rival airlines (that is, giving customers assigned seats). Southwest says it's not close to making a decision on whether to go that route, however.

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