American Airlines Copies Southwest's Website

Cheater! Copy-cat! American Airlines has resigned their website “based on focus groups” and by “focus groups” they mean, “Southwest Airlines’ website.”

From USA Today:

The most noticeable change for American’s website will be to display on one page the flights matching a customer’s itinerary, with columns showing up to eight different fares — ranging from “economy super saver” to refundable first-class tickets.

The layout strongly resembles Southwest’s website. United Airlines also breaks out fare options at the top of flight-search results.

Rob Friedman, American’s director of interactive marketing, said the changes were developed with the help of focus groups around the country, but added, “We certainly evaluate what other carriers are doing.”

Daniel Garton, executive vice president of parent AMR Corp., said the American site would be the most advanced among traditional network carriers.

See, and you guys thought it was just us being mean and picking on American Airlines. Nope. It was USA Today. —MEGHANN MARCO

American Airlines changing its website


Edit Your Comment

  1. Red_Eye says:

    Focus groups are a joke. I know people who darn near do them professionally as a participant. The screener will ‘guide’ you through the qualification questions.

    Its as bad as Pepsi running a taste test.

    The focus group prolly looked at several site designs including one cobbled together to look like every major airline site and picked the one that looked like Southwest.

  2. TedSez says:

    This kind of listing is really a smart innovation. Instead of simply making all the cheap flights unavailable, now they can show us those flights and tell us they’re unavailable. Way to rub it in, American!

  3. Maybe they don’t (or no longer) manage the site themselves but have another company do it for them. If said company also manages Southwest’s site maybe that’s why they now look alike.

  4. Juancho says:

    @TedSez: Exactly why I like to fly Southwest.

  5. enm4r says:

    Being that they’re trying to present nearly identical information, they seem different enough to fit my arbitrary standards. It is by no means a mirrored replica.

  6. mantari says:

    Could it be that they both use the same back-end, like something created by Sabre?

  7. hubris says:

    Am I the only one who doesn’t see how AA is copying? Their site looks only vaguely similar to Southwest’s. I’m just at a loss as to why this is a news story, especially since they don’t really look all that alike.

  8. Onouris says:

    Er… what? Because they both use columns, which is a logical ordering for that type of information, they’re copying?

    Are you having a laugh?

  9. mantari says:

    Also… as a consumer, I’m pretty sure that I don’t actually care if American copied or not. If it is an improvement, hey, that’s better for me. And if it is the same as something else I’m already used to, hey, that’s even better.

  10. Hawkeye1659 says:

    They can copy the Southwest website all they want. I’ll take notice when they start copying Southwest’s friendly, accommodating service, and reliability.

  11. The Walking Eye says:

    @omerhi: I agree with you. The pics above show only the ability to choose which flight to take that’s the same. There’s a similar feature at Orbitz or Travelocity, are they copycatters too?

  12. Onouris says:

    Isn’t Southwest a really bad airline, by the way? Heard nothing but bad things about them.

  13. Hawkeye1659 says:

    @Onouris, the exact opposite actually. Look at any customer satisfaction results and they are always the clear winner. Maybe you’re thinking of a different airline?

  14. Will Clarke says:

    Try creating a page for ordering tickets of different prices and times and make it NOT look like that. I doubt it could be done. I love the Consumerist, but this is a BS article.

  15. Pupator says:

    Another slow news day for the Consumerist – trying to make stories out of nothing.

  16. scoobydoo says:

    And Southwest looks exactly like British Airways did 2 years ago.

    There are only so many ways to make the pricing grid.

  17. Mark says:

    There’s only a limited way of displaying data like that. They probably do the same layout simply because it’s the best and most efficient way to do it.

    This is a non-story.

  18. captainbozo says:

    I have to agree with those that don’t see the copy-cat similarities. I mean, there’s only so many ways to skin a cat.

    Does Fox copy off of ESPN’s baseball telecasts because they put the batters’ stats in a graphic along the bottom that reads from left to right?

  19. aka Cat says:

    @Will Clarke: Oh, I’m sure it can be done. But there almost certainly aren’t enough logical designs for this data for each airline, so your argument still stands.

  20. Emor8t says:

    Southwest invented Tables and color coding?! This really isn’t shocking.

  21. Nytmare says:

    I don’t see a single thing that’s the same between those two pages, other than they both list departure and arrival times for flights.

  22. Nytmare says:

    Ok, that was “a single thing”. Bad English are me.

  23. jmuskratt says:

    First the Wright Amendment, now this. AA is gunning for SWA!

  24. dantsea says:

    Then I guess they’re also copying Alaska Airlines, who has used a similar table for at least a year now.

  25. wesrubix says:

    based on the nature of the data that’s being presented, I don’t see a reason to call this copy-cat. The formatting is different, and some of the row orders and headings are different too.

    This is not a copy cat. If they looked exactly the same, then yeah, site rip, but this is just nature of data.

    What do you want them to do? Show it to you in circles?

  26. ducksauce says:

    I vote for clearly not a copy. Besides the information display area (the tables), which is pretty much standardized, the sites only look vaguely similar.

  27. dohtem says:

    @Onouris: Dirt cheap maybe, but Southwest is actually one of the most profitable airlines in the world.

    Southwest on Wikipedia

  28. Buran says:

    @Hawkeye1659: You forgot the frequent-flyer program that actually makes sense…

  29. mikyrok says:

    And we are giving them flak for this why? Their website is actually a lot cleaner than Southwest’s. Do we give Apple flak for taking an mp3 player and turning it into something more appealing (iPod)? No. I don’t see the problem here. If people werent allowed to borrow ideas and improve on them we wouldn’t be where we are right now technologically.

  30. lizzybee says:

    Those two sites look nothing alike, aside from the blue logo bar at the top of the page. American Airlines’ site has a much better color scheme and less nonsense on it. Southwest’s site is too garish for my taste– does each column really have to have a radically different and uncoordinated color on it?

    That said, if I ever have to fly, I usually use Southwest…

  31. synergy says:

    Resigned? As in “quit”?

    Maybe I’m just not reading that sentence right…

  32. synergy says:

    Oh wait! Redesigned??!

  33. forgeten says:

    saying AA copied southwest’s site disign is akin to saying the consumeriest copied boingboing. There really are only so many ways to display data

  34. BeastMasterJ says:

    I think it’s obviously a copy.

    Also, Vonage is blatantly infringing on Verizon’s Patents regarding talking to people over wires, as is RIM.

    BTW, each of you is using the EXACT same alphabet that I’ve been using all my life, and I’m consulting my lawyer about that. See you guys in Court!

  35. swalve says:

    Isn’t Verizon a former Ma Bell? So they DO have a patent on talking to people over wires?

    Anyway. Southwest is the best, but people who don’t know how their game is played think the lack of reserved seating is “low class”. I really don’t care one way or another, but it doesn’t seem any faster to me.

    I don’t think the two websites are close enough to be copies, per se. But I know that’s how I want an airline website to be set up…

  36. dextrone says:

    *cough* I bet 90% of commercial websites have something in common, I mean are they really gonna pay that much for a unique website…

    I’m supposing this is a new version of the script that SW Airlines uses….

  37. oldhat says:

    Whatever…this is a pretty lame post. Real shit is happening to real people and this makes the cut? Lame.

    That is all.

  38. NZDave says:


    They may be functionally similar but that’s no copy… and I’d have a look at the Qantas, Emirates, and Singapore sites which are all similar.

    This is a waste of valuable bandwidth.

  39. mattbrown says:

    you know who else copied this? my boss… when he made this year’s budget spreadsheet. whine.

  40. In other news… Purina cat chow copies christian artwork.

  41. ratbastid says:

    Ridiculous. Two-dimensional data makes the most sense laid out in a grid, and solving the same problem with the same obvious solution shouldn’t be confused with copycatting.

  42. ohlali says:

    @ratbastid: Exactly.