Regular readers are familiar with Award Wallet, the service that helps you track all of your frequent flyer accounts — you enter your account number and password once, and with a single click you can update all of your account balances, see which ones have grown or gotten smaller, and also with one click log into your account.
I’ve found that this helps me be a more engaged member. I don’t have to keep track of all of my account numbers of sticky notes or e-mail folders, and I can easily stay up to date on my activity and relationship with each program.
And I’ve found that the programs I can’t track at Award Wallet (American and Southwest won’t permit access) I am less engaged in. I’m an American AAdvantage Executive Platinum but logging into AA.com is simply not a part of my daily routine. I don’t log in after flights. And I’m less likely to shop through their retail portal, since it’s harder to track whether I’ve gotten credit for purchases than if I could see the moves on one screen with my other account data as I can with Award Wallet.
Today, sadly, Delta joins the list of programs that won’t allow Award Wallet to access accounts on behalf the program’s members.
Already Award Wallet has made the change insisted upon by Delta’s legal saber rattling. When I saw the news I was nervous, do I even remember my Delta Skymiles number? Do I remember the account numbers of some of the other folks that I help manage miles for?
Fortunately Award Wallet still shows the account numbers and information statically — no more automatically updating account balances, no more auto-login however.
Delta’s lawyer letter to Award Wallet can be found here (.pdf).
They call it ‘computer trespass.’ Delta’ first cease and dismiss demand was apparently sent on August 23. Today they said that if Award Wallet didn’t stop allowing program members to use its site to track their Skymiles, that the airline would file suit.
Airlines clearly want to limit access rights to member data, including specifying how members can access their own data. They want customers using their own sites more frequently, maintaining those eyeballs is better for selling. And they think the data on their computers is valuable to other businesses like Award Wallet, so they want to be paid. But a service that’s generally free to members (and that takes voluntary payment starting at $5 for increased functionality) isn’t likely to be a deep pocket for such payments.
Instead, members suffer, they have a harder time tracking and wandering through the complicated world that programs present. And the programs suffer from less-informed and engaged consumers who become less active over time.
Instead of respecting their members’ and allowing them to access their information in the most convenient way possible, a useful tool is taken away.
And when the airline makes the preposterous claim, as it did last week, that when they increase the mileage price of award tickets without giving any advance notice to their customers that the reason they did it is that to do otherwise would have been illegal… one can only conclude that they have as little respect for their customers as the CEO of Spirit Airlines does.
Update: Wandering Aramean says this “is nothing more than reducing transparency and reducing the value of the program. Bad form, Delta. Bad form.”