Delta believes through such actions it is protecting its intellectual property, but its actions alienate loyal customers who don't want to be locked into Delta's clunky services to access their loyalty information.
If you use AwardWallet to track your myriad frequent flyer programs, you won’t be able to monitor your Delta SkyMiles account there anymore after the airline sent AwardWallet a cease and desist letter late Monday afternoon and threatened to sue.
AwardWallet, which supports more than 500 air, car, hotel, and credit card loyalty programs, informed users late on September 10 that it would no longer be able to access members’ Delta SkyMiles accounts even though AwardWallet users have authorized such access. The AwardWallet email reads:
“We are writing to inform you that Delta Air Lines has contacted us and stated that we may not access their website on your behalf anymore. As a result, we are forced to discontinue the support of the Delta programs on AwardWallet. We kindly ask you to not reply to this email; instead, we welcome your feedback and comments in our discussion forum.”
Some SkyMiles members not happy with Delta
AwardWallet user Brian Grant had a typical reaction, writing in the forum: “I am Platinum with Delta. I use this site to track my family’s miles and it is valuable and saves a lot of time rather than having to log in. It also sends me reminders of flights. I have already rejected flying American in part due to their discontinuing of AwardWallet. I fail to understand the legal reasons for this or how they can control AW’s access on my behalf. I doubt that there is a deep pocket to raid?”
Delta, American Airlines, and Southwest have been sparring with and denying account access to several such loyalty tracking programs over the last couple of years, and Delta obviously decided enough was more than enough on September 10 when it sent AwardWallet what appears to be at least a second cease and desist letter.
Don’t tread on Delta’s websites
Delta’s letter, from the law firm Wellborn & Wallace, indicated that it had seen “an increase in unauthorized computer access from IP addresses associated with Awardwallet.com.”
The attorney alleged that continued unauthorized access to “Delta’s websites and computer systems constitutes computer trespass as defined in the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.”
Delta threatened to sue AwardWallet if it continued to access Delta systems beyond 6 p.m. September 10, and if it hadn’t removed Delta’s registered marks from AwardWallet.com.
AwardWallet likewise can’t access Southwest’s Rapid Rewards and the American Airlines AAdvantage program on behalf of AwardWallet users.
Who owns the data?
Superfly co-founder Jonathan Meiri notes that many sites use the AwardWallet API, and he criticized Delta’s bullying of loyalty startups, such as AwardWallet and Superfly.
Meiri states: “We currently support Delta. The bigger question is who owns the data. I believe the user owns the data.
“Superfly is more interested in the user’s past itineraries to learn about users’ travel history and preferences and we have other ways to get that information. Airlines are currently bullying the smaller start ups into submission.”
“A few start ups, including Superfly tried to get together in the past and approach an airline (after all it’s their users that are asking for our service),” Meiri states. “We had a good conversation with the reward management folks but then the distribution guys came in an sent threatening Cease and Desist emails to everyone, eventually suing some of the players.”
“At some point someone with deep enough pockets will respond to the airlines, and will win,” Meiri adds.