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SeatSpy claims it is the victim of screen scraping – and has very novel evidence

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An intriguing claim of espionage has been made in the normally sedate world of airline reward flight availability tools.

SeatSpy is a very useful website for anyone searching for British Airways and Virgin Atlantic reward flights. It allows you to see availability for any route for a full year in one click. More interestingly, you can set email alerts so that you will be contacted when seats open up on routes you want.

Tracking British Airways Avios availability is more complicated than it needs to be. Most airlines put their reward seats into a specific ‘ticket bucket’ which anyone with Amadeus or Sabre access can see. Avios does not work like this, so there is no easy way of tracking availability.

Seatspy logo

It was possible to access this data via a feed that BA produced for its own use. This is what enable Reward Flight Finder to launch in 2017, followed by SeatSpy in 2019.

At some point, British Airways decided to block third party access to this data. This caused serious issues for both SeatSpy and Reward Flight Finder.

SeatSpy has managed to resolve the issue and claims that its data is now updated at least once per hour.

Yesterday, SeatSpy published a blog post on its website claiming that its data was being screen scraped. It found ‘hundreds’ of fake SeatSpy accounts which were running automated searches on behalf of a third party.

What is interesting is how SeatSpy found its evidence.

It removed ‘real’ reward data for the BA Southampton to Nice route in Business Class, which was a route no SeatSpy users were actively tracking.

SeatSpy replaced it with fake data, showing false seats on certain dates.

This is what appeared on the Reward Flight Finder site a while later:

Reward Flight Finder screenshot

If you don’t imediately see the joke, turn your computer or phone sideways …..

Unfortunately the data has now been removed from Reward Flight Finder, although I can confirm that I saw it there.

(EDIT: the data is back! Click the link in the SeatSpy blog article.)

You can read more on the SeatSpy website here.

Comments (61)

  • ADS says:

    A modern version of how map makers insert fake towns and wait to see which other companies copy them

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DeiATy-FfjI

  • StillintheSun says:

    I’m really pleased to hear that Tim sold RFF as he was the original outrider for such a BA flight finder. I felt a little guilty when I defected to SeatSpy, now my conscience is salved 🙂
    Both sites in the past have allowed me to snag award availability with limited hassle.

  • Koala says:

    Upgraded my SeatSpy subscription after reading this. Well done for calling it out!

  • Ben says:

    I had both a SeatSpy and RewardFlightFinder subscription, just downgraded RewardFlightFinder to free as sounds like there is no point having both!

  • John says:

    Any response from RFF to this evidence?

  • John McBride says:

    I am an experienced technical architect and aviation enthusiast and currently working on getting the data via another mechanism (hint: your mobile phone app gets the data from somewhere..) and publishing availability. Purely out of learning and curiosity. I would be motivated if people reviewed it when done?

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