Openness rattles airline industry

This is, no doubt, the era of glasnost or openness in the airline industry. Thanks to the Internet, once tightly held data on fares and available seats is now more transparent than ever, which seems to have caught the industry unprepared. So, to stretch the Soviet-era metaphor, will glasnost lead to perestroika — real change?

In order to answer this question, a simpler one must be asked first: Should the airlines fear the transparency they didn’t seek? Is the ability of any of us to directly access real-time data on fares and seats without the help of a travel agent bad or good for the carriers? Although some executives have done the politically correct thing and publicly embraced the transparency, in reality the so-called legacy carriers are still struggling to make up their minds…

Is ‘award’-seat data held by copyright?

How public is the publicly available information about the limited seats airlines release for mileage redemption on their flights? Can anyone take that information from an airline without permission and publish it on their own Web site, even with the best of intentions?

A frequent flier from the San Francisco Bay Area tried to do just that last month, but he was forced to shut down his site in less than a week. “Mystified by the inner workings of inventory management” at United Airlines, he created a model that searched and analyzed “award” availability on several routes served by United “on a nightly basis,” he wrote in a March 18 self-promoting post on FlyerTalk.com, one of the largest online travel communities…