TechCrunch Coverage of the Award Wallet Kerfuffle

TechCrunch has a good run down of the fallout from Delta’s cease-and-desist order to points tracking websites like Award Wallet. They note that TripIt and MileWise are also affected, and that Delta joins American and Southwest in objecting to these sites accessing account information on behalf of members.

Here’s the situation in a nutshell: the airlines think your rewards data is theirs. Users think they own their own data. Imagine that!

What’s worse is that airlines are actually pissing off some of their most important customers – frequent flyers – when they do things like this. It’s a group that’s critical to airlines’ bottom line.

They report that American claims it’s about security, while Delta says ‘system performance’ but it’s really about control over valuable data and eyeballs.

Techcrunch’s recommendation? “But here’s a suggestion to the airlines about building brand loyalty: stop sucking so much.”

The first comment left in response to the article is illuminating:

The password anti-pattern is insecure. Airlines are justified in not allowing screenscrapers. However they may not be justified in trying to hold on to the data. If they claim that security and performance are the only justifications, then they should provide an OAuth based API. The fact that they don’t says a lot.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. If they really want to lock down “their data” on my miles information they should just lock everyone out including me. Only mail me a paper statement once per quarter. Oh what’s that? It’s not 1987 anymore. 🙂

  2. I’m not defending their decision, but if I put myself in the airlines position I can see how they would only want to allow access to any member data through specifically authorized (and negotiated) means. I have no idea why they do not want to allow for third parties to provide the service. But any access to systems needs to be controlled. The web site is probably not built with the intent of having multiple screen scraping programs rolling through numerous members and pulling data. It does impact server load and performance, which = $$$. That is probably only a lesser consideration. The bigger one is they want to decide who sees what and why.

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