I recently wrote about different mileage trackers a few days ago. Now, these services (or to be more accurate, the service they provide) are in the news. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Southwest and American Airlines have sent cease and desist letters to some tracking websites. The airlines assert that it is they not the frequent flyer member who owns the miles and the passwords to access those miles.
The way these tracker services work is that they “scrape” the data from the airline website in order to present it to you in the tracker. The airlines say that this is a security issue. Others who are familiar with the story say that while the airlines are probably concerned about security, it is only a minor concern. The major issue for the airline is revenue. If you go to AwardWallet or GoMiles to check your mileage balance, you do not see the ads, fare sales and other products that the airlines are pushing on their sites in order to up sell people to other products. Instead you will see the ads from the tracking service. Of course if you are running a web browser with ad blocking installed, you may not see any ads on either site.
This debate brings up some interesting issues though. First… who owns the miles? Second, if the airlines own them, how much can they assert this ownership and control before a backlash from customers occurs?