American Airlines is using sophisticated ‘bot detection’ software to stop the developer of an iPhone app that has become popular amongst the airline’s flight attendants from accessing vital data that is needed to keep the app working.
The ‘Sequence Decoder’ app has become a must-have tool for American Airlines flight attendants because it displays information required by crew members to manage their rosters and work lives in a single app.
The app is particularly popular among the large number of ‘reserve’ flight attendants at American Airlines because it gives them more control over their schedules, and the app has other features such as a calculator to make sure crew are working to legal limits.
American Airlines does not offer its own version of the app and has allegedly turned down requests from the app’s developer Jeff Reisberg to collaborate on the app. Instead, the Jeff’s self-developed app relies on bots to ‘scrape’ the data required to power it from AA’s computer systems.
In fact, rather than working with Jeff, American Airlines has started to protect its websites with bot detection software that makes it “nearly impossible” to collect data required to run Sequence Decoder.
“We’ve tried to get them to talk to us, find a way to peacefully coexist but they have refused all communications. At the end of the day, I don’t think they understand why this service is important, and they don’t care to know,” Jeff told app users in a recent email.
“We’ve found holes in the net and managed to survive, but the net is always getting better,” Jeff warned. Last week the net got us good again, I thought it could be the end.”
One flight attendant said of the current situation affecting Sequence Decoder that they had “never seen a company go out of their way to make life harder for their workers.”
Another said on Reddit that the app had made obtaining information that flight attendants require “so much more efficient and easily accessible”.
“It’s like these companies go out of their way to be adversarial,” the flight attendant continued.
In recent years, third-party iPhone and Android apps for airline staff have become increasingly popular. The majority allow staff to sync and keep track of their rosters, while others are authorized to pull data from multiple internal computer systems and display that data in a single place.
Sometimes, airlines allow these apps to exist because they see the benefit in what they do but lack the resources or motivation to create their own app. More recently, another major U.S. airline created its own version of this kind of app and then promptly locked down access to the third-party apps.
American Airlines has been contacted for comment.
The airline is currently pursuing a lawsuit against The Points Guy over the website’s own third-party app that scrapes data from customers’ AAdvantage accounts. American Airlines alleges The Points Guy is is breach of its terms and conditions and is luring thousands of customers to break its terms and conditions.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.