This fall, two friends had an idea: Monitor Southwest Airlines' fares and alert travelers when prices fell. Southwest sued them.
Pavel Yurevich, an engineer, and his friend Chase Roberts, a coder, launched SWMonkey.com in November. For a $3 fee, they sent travelers an email when fares or mileage requirements dropped on Southwest's website, so they could rebook at the lower fare. Southwest allows travelers to rebook at a lower price, and then holds the difference for future travel.
"I thought other people would benefit from the service," Yurevich told CNBC, adding that he was surprised by the lawsuit because of Southwest's "Transfarency" advertising slogan and general consumer-friendly image. The start-up monitored the fares manually at first but then set up an algorithm to track the price changes, Yurevich said.
Following cease-and-desist letters from the airline, Yurevich and Roberts ended their service in late November. They said they made $45 before they shut it down, but they have kept the website online, including details on how the service worked and two blog posts about the dispute.
Southwest in early January sued the startup and its founders in U.S. District Court in Dallas. In the six-count suit the airline alleges the pair broke Southwest website's terms and conditions by taking fare data off the site, broke trademark laws, and violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act by accessing Southwest's "computers without authorization or in excess of authorized access."