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Take that, Southwest! Pass-a-matic answers the Webware call

Can't afford a 24-hour assistant? Pass-a-matic will handle at least one part of the job for you.

Just in case I wasn't crystal clear in my earlier post about Southwest Airlines' new online boarding pass lottery, I despise the carrier's "cattle car" seat assignment scheme. There's at least one clever entrepreneur (and future Webware T-Shirt wearer) out there who feels the same way I do and is building Pass-a-matic. This service, still in closed beta, should do exactly what I want. First, it will act as my agent on Southwest's online check-in service, logging in at the precisely right time to "snipe" the coveted low-numbered "A" boarding passes. Second, in doing so, it undermines the whole time-based, twitchy process Southwest employs to assign boarding priority, and could eventually force Southwest to abandon the process and just allow online seat selection like a civilized carrier.

I think I can handle this UI.

The site looks very easy to use. Just enter in your Southwest confirmation number and it handles the rest.

Southwest could try to kill Pass-a-matic by requiring captchas or some other test to assure that its check-in site only interacts with real people and not bots. But since Pass-a-matic will eventually be a paid service, the company can afford to fight back by farming out captcha solving to a service bureau or to a distributed captcha technology like ReCaptcha (review).

In the future, this technology will be be applied to other services that have a similar rush-the-gate process: buying tickets to concerts, getting good seats on airlines where you're not a premier member, and so on.

See also: PlaneFast.

It's because of things like this that I love the Web.