Airline Battle Spills Over Into Wikipedia

An eye-gouging fight between American Airlines and Southwest Airlines over air service in northern Texas has spilled over to an online encyclopedia.

Wikipedia lets users create, change and even erase articles on any topic, regardless of their expertise.

Supporters say its open, collaborative nature leads to a more complete, bias-free reference source, though when the topic is controversial the wiki entry can resemble a battlefield.

Last week, someone using a computer with an Internet address assigned to American Airlines edited Wikipedia to describe Southwest Airlines Co. as "a notoriously litigious company constantly seeking to change laws to gain an advantage."

For a time, the site also said Dallas-based Southwest is "known for its PR machine and litigious nature."

Wikipedia volunteers deleted the phrases within hours.

Tim Wagner, a spokesman for AMR Corp.'s American unit, said the changes were "not something the company initiated or condone."

He had complaints of his own: One entry described American's dominance at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (search) as a "chokehold."

The scrap played out on a Wikipedia entry on the Wright Amendment (search), a 1979 law that limits long-haul flights from Southwest's home at Dallas Love Field (search). American is trying to block Southwest's efforts to have Congress change the law.

Ed Stewart, a spokesman for Southwest, said his airline would accept American's explanation that it had nothing to do with the posting but still wants to know who made the comments. He bristled at Southwest being called litigious.