Air Canada is suing the owner of a popular travel website used by frequent flyers to quickly and easily find award seat availability, claiming that the website has been scraping data from its own systems to such a massive scale that it has caused so-called ‘brownouts’ of the Air Canada website.
The website in question is Seats.aero, which is run by Ian Carroll and which describes itself as “the fastest search engine for award travel” with the ability to search availability across entire regions and with near “instant results”.
In order to gather all this data, Air Canada claims Seats.aero unlawfully “scrapes” and “harvests” data from the Air Canada website and that Carroll has circumvented multiple attempts by Air Canada’s IT engineers to block the “frequent and rapacious” intrusions of the airline’s website.
Earlier this month, attorneys acting on behalf of Air Canada sent Carroll a cease and desist letter demanding Seats.aero stop scraping its website, but Carroll responded in a public online post saying that he did not intend to comply with Air Canada’s demands.
On Thursday, Air Canada ratcheted up the pressure on Carroll by filing a lawsuit in a Delaware federal court, accusing the Seats.aero parent company Localhost of violating the Computer Fraud Abuse Act.
The lawsuit claims Carroll used automated computer bots to gather data from the Air Canada website, both through screen scraping and a more sophisticated API scraping method.
Air Canada says the “frequent and broad” searches from the Seats.aero website is having a knock-on effect on its own website and has placed an “immense burden” on its IT infrastructure.
In fact, Air Canada says its website has become unresponsive at times due to the number of requests it is trying to handle from Seats.aero, leading to engineers trying to block the screenscraping with “extreme anti-bot rules”.
Carroll appears to have acknowledged the fact that Air Canada was trying to block Seats.aero from accessing its site but said in June that he would be able to get around the blocks.
In addition to computer fraud allegations, Air Canada has also accused Seats.aero of trademark infringement and false advertising. On social media network X, Carroll responded to the lawsuit, saying he was “disappointed” with Air Canada’s decision to sue.
“We make it easier for all Aeropla users to find the best awards and will fully defend our position in court,” Carroll said.
Earlier this month, another award seat search website Expert Flyer, removed access to award search access for Star Alliance-affiliated airlines, in response to a legal complaint.
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.