ExpertFlyer Loses (Screen Scraping) Access To United’s Upgrade Inventories & Delta Changes

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Many frequent fliers use an online tool called ExpertFlyer to monitor award and upgrade inventories on number of airlines. Two weeks ago Delta made ExpertFlyer to remove their upgrade inventory and United did the same yesterday. ExpertFlyer lost the access to AA’s sticker upgrades already while ago.

expertflyer

ExpertFlyer’s announcement about Delta:

As of today, Delta has requested that we remove the visibility of the DL elite upgrade classes (RU/OU) from ExpertFlyer.com. As such, your Flight Alerts for these 2 classes can no longer check for availability in those classes so their status has been changed to Expired so they do not count against your available alert allocation.

If you would like to send feedback to Delta regarding their decision and how it may affect you, please use the following link to email them. Delta Email Feedback

ExpertFlyer announcement about United:

ExpertFlyer and UA continue to have an ongoing good faith dialogue that we hope will result in the future re-establishment of this information on ExpertFlyer. However, we have no choice but to honor their policy at this time. As such, any pending Flight Alerts or searches for this information will no longer be processed after this Thursday, October 31st. We regret that we must take this action and any inconvenience it causes you.

We know how much you appreciate ExpertFlyer’s ease of use and visibility of this information to heighten your UA experience. You have told us in the past how much it enhances your relationship with UA and adds value to your travel and loyalty to UA and their frequent flyer program. Should you have any questions or wish to voice any concerns to either us or UA we can be reached at the following links or through any other means with which you may be familiar.

United’s announcement about ExpertFlyer:

We recognize the importance and value to you of accessible and transparent information about United flights. It’s a meaningful part of your travel planning, and we are committed to providing useful information that is both accurate and preserves the integrity of United’s data and systems.

While we are committed to data transparency, Expert Flyer has been accessing united.com in an unauthorized fashion to retrieve UA availability. In addition, these activities have consumed significant united.com bandwidth that could otherwise be used by regular consumers. As a result, we had to take this action to protect the security and integrity of United’s systems.

Thank you for your understanding as to why we had to take this action. We continue to look at ways in which we can provide you with timely and useful information (some of which you will see in new releases of our own digital channels) as well as with partners that have authorized access to our data.

So, in essence, ExpertFlyer has merely used screen scraping technology to extract this information from United’s and Delta’s website. ExpertFlyer always implied that they would get this info from GDS systems.

Edit: ExpertFlyer sent us a statement that the Delta information didn’t come using screen scraping (no word from United).

Here’s ExpertFlyer’s response to my question about the usage of screen scraping for information that they present:

Actually, most of our data comes from GDSs as it has since day one. We pay for data access to multiple GDSs, this is what allows us to offer unique services such as Seat Alerts, Flight Alerts, graphical seat maps for 135+ airlines, multi day searching, full mobile versions, and a fast web-based interface, among others. We also contract with other non-GDS vendors for other data as well, such as SeatGuru ratings information. We cannot comment on specific vendor or airline relationships, however if you have any other questions please let us know.

Conclusion

I do think that ExpertFlyer is a worthwhile service to pay for if you travel a lot. The statement from the United confirms the fact that the service mainly uses screen scraping to gather the information about upgrade and other award buckets that they presents neatly on their website in lieu for a paid subscription.

It is understandable that United or Delta would prefer limited this kind of scrawling activity that can take lot’s of resources.

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