Delta pilot suing airline for $1 billion over communications app

Suit alleges company ‘stole like a thief in the night’ from employee

Louise Hall
Thursday 15 July 2021 16:50 BST
In this file photo a Delta Airlines plane is seen at the gate at Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC), Utah, on 5 October 2020
In this file photo a Delta Airlines plane is seen at the gate at Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC), Utah, on 5 October 2020 (AFP via Getty Images)

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Louise Thomas

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Delta Airlines is being sued for more than $1bn by one of its own pilots who claims that the company plagiarised a text-messaging app for flight crews, a report has said.

According to Bloomberg, Captain Craig Alexander has alleged that the airliner stole his app and used it as the basis for its own programme, accusing them of trade-secrets theft on Monday.

The pilot, who has worked for the company for 11 years, alleged that he spent $100,000 of his own money developing the QrewLive app and pitched it to Delta as a method of communication for crews.

“Flight Family Communication (FFC) is a carbon copy, knock-off of the role-based text messaging component of Craig’s proprietary QrewLive communications platform,” Mr Alexander alleged in the lawsuit.

Morgan Durrant, a Delta spokesperson, told Bloomberg that the airline takes the “allegations specified in Mr Alexander’s complaint seriously”.

However, the company expressed that they “are not an accurate or fair description of Delta’s development of its internal crew messaging platform”.

According to Bloomberg, CEO Ed Bastian, CIO, Rahul Samant and four other Delta executives are named in the suit.

The lawsuit says Mr Bastian and Mr Samant have allegedly told investors that the app has rectified ongoing issues with operations, making significant “cost savings to Delta”.

The pilot reportedly alleges that he met with executives on a number of occasions in 2015 and 2016 in regards to the app and that the airline expressed a clear interest in the technology.

Delta allegedly later shut down the discussions and developed its FFC, which launched in April 2018.

In a news release in November 2018, Delta describes FFC as a “real-time digital conversation stream” used “to improve communication, save time and deliver more meaningful information to customers”.

The airline said the new app had resulted in a 45 percent decrease in time used for in-person communications and noted that “about 50 per cent of all Delta departures have benefitted”.

Keenan Nix, a lawyer for Mr Alexander, told the outlet on Wednesday that the company “stole like a thief in the night” from the pilot.

“To add insult to theft and injury, Captain Craig Alexander must use his stolen QrewLive text messaging platform every day while he works for Delta,” the suit claims.

“Each time he looks at the FFC app, he is painfully reminded that Delta stole his proprietary trade secrets, used them to Delta’s enormous financial benefit.”

The Independent has contacted Delta for further comment.

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