Honor amongst thieves…

Blogging is a cut throat industry. Press “publish” a minute late, you’ve missed the hot scoop. Press it too early, you lose trust in readers with unconfirmed hearsay. Sharing deals is different. Every deal starts with someone finding it. Some deals are more obvious than others, but in this cut throat world, all the “real” bloggers share honor amongst thieves, by at least thanking the source that originally pointed out the great deal. One site that never has: SecretFlying. In our humble opinion only, SecretFlying have as much integrity as Milli Vanilli, less class than Harvey Weinstein and when questioned, behave like spoiled children in ways even the most spoiled and pretentious children would be offended to be associated with.

a black board with white text and yellow dotsThe Backstory

SecretFlying knows what many travel bloggers know: there are a few places on the internet where experts are generous enough to share deals. I, without hesitation, would consider myself one of the best flight deal finders on the planet, and regularly contribute to these sources. Sometimes I find first, other times someone else does, but regardless, it’s all give and take. Without fail, within an hour of a deal appearing on one of these infinite wells of amazing flights, SecretFlying will then write up the deal – claiming they found it and then profit from it. This virtually never ever happens before it first appears on another source. Need us to read between the lines for you?

SecretFlying doesn’t find deals, they steal them from others without so much as thanking their sources – and then use links they profit from to steer you to booking sites which may or may not be most beneficial for you.

Yep, they could potentially cost you an upgrade or better price. When we brought this very thing to their attention last week, they chose the 2001 AOL Instant Messenger route of solving problems, by blocking us on Twitter. Oh no! We won’t be able to see our own deals posted (eye roll implied).

The Ethics

Ready to call this a tantrum? How about I come to your job, wait till you finish your work, take it, pass it off as mine and then get a raise? Sound fun? It’s the exact same thing.

It’s no secret many bloggers are not best friends, especially in travel. I am absolutely no different. But regardless of personal feelings, I will always – always give credit where credit is due. Even if I despise a person who was the original source of information, I will always give the source at least the minimally ethical “HT: ________” which means “hat tip” or “thank you”. Mainstream news holds this code very dearly and in fact, outlets can shudder their doors with lawsuits if this code is not followed. If the New York Time unearths something in an exclusive investigation, it doesn’t mean others can’t write about it, the others just must attribute that the New York Times was the source of the information, and ideally link to the article where the information came from. SecretFlying has never linked to a source, or attributed where “their” information came from. They just pass it off as their own. They also attach the term “error” to the very best deals, when in reality the deals are rarely errors. Not only does this make things seem unethical, recent court rulings would say it gives the airline grounds to cancel tickets, if they were issued in error.

The Ask

We’re not asking you to do anything at all. We’re just saying that some people, such as ourselves spend tireless days and nights following the exact advice we dish out to others, to source the very best flight deals. We then share them in the places where others share deals as well, to make sure there’s a give and take within the flight deal community. Frequent flyers and deal hunters don’t like bloggers who just take, take, take. In the immortal words of Tracey Jordan on the show “30 Rock”, “I don’t believe in one way streets – not with my friends – and not when I’m driving”. You can decide for yourself how many clicks SecretFlying deserves, but perhaps it may be worth frequenting the sites (and blogs like ours) where they actually get their deals from. Shame on them. And for the record, we sent them an email politely asking that they attribute information which they have clearly lifted. They never replied.

And SecretFlying, since you’re inevitably going to read this: it’s never too late to become an upstanding member of the travel community. Even for the likes of you…

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. If you can tell us where sf finds deals I am happy to unfollow them but currently they are the most comprehensive place for flight deals. I usually go to flyertalk.com but that’s all.

  2. Ken: There’s here, The Flight Deal, Fly4Free, FlyerTalk, and at least 1 more major site (but I can’t tell if they attribute). He mentions most of those in the links from this article, in fact.

  3. I don’t know anything about this SecretFlyer, but I recently started reading your site after often perusing others for the last year and finding theirs to be a bit too commercial- and find yours to be excellent. Thank you.

  4. Well I just learned something new. I hadn’t realized that SecretFlying was so unethical. I know that many mainstream bloggers normally give the ht to whoever discovers something. The exception to this is when TravelBloggerBuzz discovers something, he is never credited. I don’t mind killing off my subscription to SecretFlying, but wonder: If the ethics are variable, then who do I trust and try to help where possible? This is not a rhetorical question, and any response is appreciated.
    Also, you may want to alter your best deal flight finders to remove the SF link as a great choice.
    Lastly, what would you say is the most comparable thing to SF that has a high standard of integrity?

  5. @Christian mentions some bloggers not crediting TBB, but I’ll go further and note that a number of bloggers – including here on BA – fail to credit sources more often than that. The proof is just the same as the proof of what SF does in terms of consistently looking at the timing and sequence of events. And a few of the bigger BA blogs such as VFTW and OMAAT, when they do “HT”, often don’t mention the actual original source, but an intermediary who reposted it from the original (typically when the original source is not a BA blog or is someone they don’t like).

  6. Sometimes you mis-attribute your hat tips though. Like when I wrote up the 50k RT J to Senegal article for FM and then you HTed to OMAAT even though Lucky clearly attributed it back to me. I even left a comment on your article mentioning that, as did one of your readers, but even today you still have your hat tip pointed back to the OMAAT article. Much like you, I invest a great deal of time in researching and writing articles and I find it similarly disappointing when my hard work is credited to others.

    1. I think this may be the most petty thing i’ve seen. If you’re a blogger worth your salt, you’ll have plenty of hat tip opportunities. I probably miss a deserved HT at least once a day. Do I care? Not really, because if I continue to do exceptional work, I’ll get another one. Many HT’s are subjective, such as the one you’re referencing. I have another party who would swear they had it before you and therefore believe they unequivocally deserve the HT. The point is that hat tipping is the minimal acceptable standard. You seem to hold a grudge over a post that’s almost a year old now. I’d focus on the future.

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