Nikil Viswanathan spent 45 minutes to create a website that automatically checked himself into flights on Southwest Airlines so his mother wouldn't have to remind him anymore. But the project has now reaped a cease-and-desist demand from Southwest's attorneys.
CheckInToMyFlight was originally intended for his own use, but thousands of people found it (including me), after it appeared on Hacker news and other various online travel blogs. Today Viswanathan will take the site down so he doesn’t face a lawsuit from Southwest.
Southwest Airlines has "open seating" rather than pre-assigned seats. Travelers receive a boarding pass upon check in that places them in "A," "B," or "C" groups. Customers line up at the gate and are boarded by their group letter and number, at which point they choose their own seats. The process leaves procrastinators with the least desirable seats. Everyone wants the A-list designations, which afford the earliest boarding and best seating.
CheckInToMyFlight.com would check you in automatically 24hrs prior to boarding and get a person a really good 'A' boarding pass when most of the time people would get a 'B' number.
The only problem? Southwest doesn't allow automatic check-ins as part of its terms of agreement. Automatic check-in sites compete directly with the airline's EarlyBird program. The check-in websites bypass Southwest.com, depriving the airline of opportunities to target adverts and sell other products to their website visitors.
“The whole website started as a practical solution to his ongoing problem of forgetfulness. My mom has checked me in throughout my whole life and she told me, 'You're about to graduate. It's time for you to do things on your own in the real world " Nikil Viswanathan says.
Nikil Viswanathan registered the domain using NameCheap and launched the site using the services of web host Linode. Regardless of the takedown, a domain name like CheckInToMyFlight.com will likely have some residual value that will more than cover his time invested in the project!
CheckInToMyFlight.com was free to use, and amassed nearly 10,000 visits in less than a month as well as a job offer from Expedia.com... The infamy and exposure the project garnered for the recent Stanford grad... Priceless.