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easyJet warns 'several websites' to stop selling its flights

Screen scraping the budget airline barrel

easyJet has confirmed that Expedia is not the only online travel firm to have felt the airline’s wrath – it has also fired off letters to several other UK websites warning them to stop selling its flights.

As we revealed earlier this week, the budget airline company wrote to Expedia.co.uk telling it to stop punting easyJet flights via its website or face the possibility of legal action. And they're not the only ones.

An easyJet spokeswoman said: “I can clarify that we have written to several websites who have been screen scraping, who have been advised to cease or we will take further legal action.” However, the firm refused to reveal which other websites it was targeting.

When asked for an explanation as to why the airline was unwilling to provide further information about the potential legal spat it was pursuing with other travel sites, the spokeswoman told us: “No, we're not going to give free advertising to these websites and we're choosing not to go into details of when letters were sent.”

“Screen scraping” is a practice commonly employed by travel and news aggregation sites, where one website mines information from another, or many others before pulling out the relevant data and reformatting it for its own use.

What isn’t clear at this stage is what legal action easyJet might take against the websites if they continue to ignore the airline’s warnings.

We asked Kim Walker partner at law firm Pinsent Masons what options easyJet has.

He said "easyJet could consider claiming copyright infringement but my guess would be that a breach of database rights would ultimately be the most telling argument from easyJet’s point of view."

Walker added that now Expedia has received a written warning from easyJet about extracting the firm's flight data without consent, the travel site's "position has been weakened". He said it could no longer, for example, argue the defence that it was unaware of easyJet's terms and conditions, which prohibit screen scraping.

We asked Walker why easyJet didn't simply filter out Expedia and other websites' IP addresses to prevent data being scraped.

"You can use measures to block IP addresses," he said. "But [price comparision website] Moneysupermarket.com for example uses something in the region of two million IP addresses making the website very hard to block."

We asked Expedia if it was willing to give us a statement about easyJet's complaints. A spokeswoman told us: "We can make no further comment on this matter." ®

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