The best way to track and manage frequent flyer accounts for many years has been Award Wallet. You add your account information and they let yo know when your balance changes. They let you know when your flight plans change – from flight numbers and times to seats. They track airline fee credits,, free hotel nights, and suite upgrades. And they let you know if miles in a program are close to expiration.
American Airlines has told Award Wallet that they can no longer do this with AAdvantage accounts or American reservations. Award Wallet wasn’t even a rogue actor, scraping American’s site. They had an agreement in place with the airline, used an API, and met all security standards. American Airlines even got paid for Award Wallet to be able to help AAdvantage members travel better.
(Update) American Airlines shares,
As of December, 17, 2021, American Airlines does not have a contract with Award Wallet. AAdvantage® members can track their miles and monitor flight activity on aa.com or within the American Airlines app.
The airline has brought down the hammer, and we’re all worse off for it.
- This is bad for security. The best way to protect an account is to check it regularly. Most members don’t go to their American AAdvantage account every day, or even every week. Long periods of time will pass before they know their account has been hacked and miles have been drained. Using Award Wallet lets you know right away, before someone has flown on tickets fraudulently redeemed through your account.
- The usual (wrong) arguments about security don’t even apply. There’s a certain gut plausibility to ‘we don’t want account passwords stored on someone else’s server. Using AwardWallet and tracking changes regularly is good for security. But that’s not even the issue here.
American and Award Wallet have had an agreement in place allowing this since 2013. Award Wallet accesses data through an API. And they actually do not store member passwords. Members store their own passwords on their own computer when using Award Wallet. And as far as I’m aware there haven’t been any allegations that Award Wallet failed to live up to its security obligations in the agreement.
- This isn’t really about security, anyway. This is about monetization of eyeballs. American Airlines wants members going to its website more often, not the Award Wallet website.
- But this is actually bad for AAdvantage member engagement. When I need my 3 year old’s AAdvantage number I check my Award Wallet account. When I need my father in law’s AAdvantage number I check my Award Wallet account. I go there in order to be able to log into AA.com. Members will have a harder time staying engaged with American AAdvantage when they can’t keep track of their accounts in one place.
When I see my balance change at American AAdvantage I got to aa.com to find out what miles posted. Award Wallet causes me to visit AA.com more often I’m drawn there with a push notification from Award Wallet each time. When I don’t know about account changes automatically, I don’t go to the account nearly as often.
- This change makes the American Airlines travel experience worse. My wife, daughter and I went to Hawaii on American Airlines last month. My seat assignment on the return flight changed long before travel. The only reason I noticed this is because Award Wallet sent me an email. I was able to get moved back so that I could sit with my 3 year old. That’s good for me (because I love my daughter, and because it makes life easier for my wife too). And it’s good for American’s other customers (who aren’t stuck next to a toddler).
American doesn’t tell you when your bookings change most of the time. Award Wallet performs a service for the airline’s customers, making it easier to fly the airline, and doesn’t even charge American for this (in fact as I understand it Award Wallet had to pay for its past data access).
- This will mean more miles expiring. Award Wallet lets me know when my father in law’s miles are going to expire, and that allows me to take steps to keep his account active. He was living in a city served only by Alaska Airlines, so when for a time American ended its Alaska partnership he wasn’t in a position to travel on American, redeem for American Airlines itineraries, or credit flight miles to American.
I get warnings as expiration approaches – multiple emails – that would otherwise get lost relying solely on American. Maybe American wants fewer active accounts? After all, unlike Delta, Southwest, United and JetBlue they still expire miles. But engaged members are highly profitable, which is why the airline was able to borrow $10 billion against the AAdvantage program.
- Do members own their own data? Maybe this wasn’t so clear a decade ago when airlines started going after sites that helped members keep track of their accounts, balances and reservations. But it’s pretty clear from a policy standpoint now – see current debates over Facebook and E.U. privacy regulations – that members should own their data and should be permitted to use it as they see fit. If I want to tell Award Wallet when I’m flying American Airlines, so they can help me know when my itineraries change and when my seat assignments change, from a public policy standpoint that’s clearly my right.
- This is American AAdvantage against its members. There are several hundred thousand Award Wallet members. A decade ago it was 300,000 or 400,000 it’s now far north of that, and a majority of members certainly have AAdvantage accounts. This is American telling hundreds of thousands of its own customers that they need to spend more time and jump through more hoops to be a customer, that the airline and frequent flyer program wants to be harder to do business with. And they’re doing it because someone, somewhere thinks that’s a strategy to make more money from members.
The position American Airlines is taking is going to make the lives of members and passengers harder, and it’s going to mean less engagement in the AAdvantage program. This makes AAdvantage less relevant. There’s already a change.org petition seeking to have AAdvantage allow members to track their accounts through Award Wallet again.
Award Wallet is still useful for tracking the major hotel programs, as well as credit card rewards programs, rental cars and your non-U.S. frequent flyer programs.
With Southwest, United and Delta I still have my account numbers in Award Wallet and can log in with a single click. I also get my itineraries and mileage balances emailed to Award Wallet, which they forward to me, so that they can process those accounts without access those airline systems.