AwardWallet will once again be able to track American AAdvantage frequent flyer accounts. They announced this morning that they’ve worked through their disagreements.
American Airlines and AwardWallet today announced that together they are making it easier and more convenient for AAdvantage® members to track their mileage balances.
“American Airlines is continually looking for new ways to enhance the experience for our most valued customers,” said Cory Garner, Managing Director of Sales Operations and Distribution at American Airlines. “We have worked closely with AwardWallet to design an offering that meets our security requirements, while offering our customers a one-stop shop for tracking all of their loyalty affiliations, including AAdvantage.”
It’s great to see that American really ‘gets it’. This is great news for members. As an American Executive Platinum, I don’t log into AA.com daily and in fact don’t check my account activity regularly. But I do check AwardWallet every day, notice little changes, and am more inclined to use AAdvantage for my non-flight mileage-earning when I can easily track miles posting to the account.
(For me it’s a little reward, I engage in a transaction and shortly I see a bump in my account, stimulus-response, it’s AwardWallet works to provide great positive reinforcement that keeps me coming back for my pellets of food.. er, I mean miles.)
Cutting Off Members from Tracking their Own Account Balances is Anti-Customer and Bad Business
Randy Petersen argued in Inside Flyer that programs have a security interest in protecting member data. There’s a fear over what would happen if a company tracking miles went out of business, with all of those account numbers and passwords. Although this ignored that AwardWallet wasn’t storing any American Airlines account information at all (it was all kept on member computers and never passed to AwardWallet servers).
AwardWallet has over 100,000 members, that’s a small fraction of the largest programs’ memberships but represent many the most engaged members of these programs. And blocking tools like AwardWallet makes those members less engaged and ultimately less profitable, when they don’t interact with their balances and with small changes each and every day. What’s more, tracking points on AwardWallet improves account security because members notice all of the changes in balances to their accounts, rather than waiting perhaps a month until they get an e-statement which they may or may not read.
(Interestingly, UsingMiles.com has been able to do a deal with United to continue tracking account balances, and wasn’t shut down by Delta — perhaps because it’s much smaller and below their radar in terms of site traffic.)
TechCrunch covered Delta’s threats to AwardWallet and framed the issue as one of whether the airlines or the members own their data, suggesting they shouldn’t go to war with their customers and instead “stop sucking so much.”
Delta’s thinking here is very 1990s (I won’t even call it “so 2005.”) If they don’t let AwardWallet track member data, their members won’t use AwardWallet. Which is good — because if members have all their accounts on AwardWallet, AwardWallet might remind them that their United miles are expiring, and they’ll choose to make a transaction with United instead of Delta.
AwardWallet has a workaround for Delta and also for tracking United accounts — you have your account emails sent to them, which they forward to you, and they upgrade your mileage balances based on the emails sent to you by those two programs. You can still use AwardWallet to track your mileage, just not in real time, and also to log into your accounts.
They didn’t have a workaround with American, but now they have something better — they’re the only reasonable account tracking solution (no, Points.com doesn’t count) that can access American AAdvantage accounts.
However, since AwardWallet provides an API that other solutions providers can license I wonder whether other services will get back tracking of AAdvantage accounts, too, by working with AwardWallet (or might be able to work through similar arrangements with American that AwardWallet has).
Will Other Airlines Follow American’s Lead Helping Members Manage Their Data?
Now that AwardWallet has worked things out with American — which, post-merger with US Airways will become the world’s largest airline – -it’s not realistic for Delta or others to think it can control it’s member behavior (keep them in the dark, keep them off AwardWallet, keep them from knowing about expiring miles in other programs).
Airlines usually follow pretty closely in lock-step, United announcing revenue-based requirements for elite status shortly after Delta did for instance. I wouldn’t be surprised to see United and Delta follow American’s lead here… eventually. Delta’s IT focus — at least as far as Skymiles is concerned — is likely focused on the technology behind their anticipated new revenue-based redemptions. The Skymiles program has been pretty singularly focused on program changes for the past year and a half (when was the last time you so a significant Delta promotion, or American Express Membership Rewards transfer bonus?). So I don’t see Delta moving on this quickly, they’re simply focused elsewhere.
This deal does, I think, make it less likely that other programs — be it hotel programs or airlines outside of the big 3 in the US — from following suit. It doesn’t, though, make it likely that Southwest will open up its system to outside technology companies any time soon. The airline which bills itself as being fun and consumer-friendly has never been open to its customers using third party technology solutions, whether for tracking points or for helping to check in online as soon as possible to get an earlier boarding priority.
(Conflict of interest watch: Usually a conflict of interest may exist when the person writing receives money from the company they’re writing about. I do not receive money from AwardWallet. However, I am a happy user. I have paid for their service. And my award booking service pays for use of their software. In other words, I write as a happy customer who genuinely wants to be able to track his miles easily, and finds AwardWallet to be a great way to do so.)