If you haven’t read already – and I’d be shocked if that were the case – AwardWallet now has permission to include and track AAdvantage account data in the details they maintain for their users. This is a great thing for AwardWallet and their members and I’m quite happy that they’ve managed to restore that access, this time with the full blessing of American Airlines and even a press release from the carrier. They’re even working to move from their screen-scraping approach to a managed direct access connection to the American systems which should make things even better in the long term. From the release:
The new relationship significantly streamlines the process for AAdvantage members, who now can access AwardWallet’s service via its website or mobile apps available in iTunes and the Android market.
But there’s also the cynic in me who wanted to know a bit more about how the deal was structured. A brief email exchange with the folks at AwardWallet confirmed that the new arrangement is based on AwardWallet paying American for the access. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. I believe that there is value in the data American has and that they have the right to control access to that data. And it is hard to believe that the amount of money changing hands in this deal is enough to materially affect the bottom line for AAdvantage (though I admit I have no idea what the number is). At the same time, however, I cannot help but be a bit cynical about the situation. All along the airlines have said that they cut out the aggregators to ensure that their customers’ data was safe. It seems that writing a check is part of that process.
I am very happy for AwardWallet and their members. And I believe this will be the first of many such deals in this space, either by AwardWallet with other airlines, other aggregators with AwardWallet or both. And that’s ultimately likely to be good for consumers, so long as the aggregators can continue to generate the cash-flow to cover the costs.
At a minimum, this represents a notable change in the way this part of the market is playing.