The four largest US carriers have now all chosen to block 3rd party points aggregation sites as of this week with United Airlines joining the party today. TripIt was the first site to share that the have been cut off and that they will be complying with the request; it is expected that others will follow. United joins American Airlines, Delta and Southwest in disallowing such access.
Like the other airlines, United is hiding behind their website terms of service and suggesting that any site wishing to offer up such data should pursue a “formal agreement” with the carrier to gain access to the data. In other words, it is all about the money.
United issued cease and desist letters to certain mileage management companies that market to MileagePlus members. We encourage each of these organizations seeking to extract data from united.com on behalf of our customers to enter into a formal agreement with United in order to ensure compliance with the Terms, Conditions, and Legal Notices contained on united.com. United is happy to explore these formal partnerships. In fact, we already have a relationship with one such organization – UsingMiles.
It is somewhat interesting to note that Randy Petersen has been rather vocal in the past in supporting the airlines as they cut off the 3rd party sites and he is listed as a member of the Advisory Board of UsingMiles, the only program United has acknowledged as signing an agreement to access the data.
I’ve reached out to a couple other similar sites and the first I heard back from confirmed that they have received similar communications from United; they are still weighing their response.
At the end of the day the airlines run these programs and they own the websites and the data. Doesn’t make it a customer-friendly move, but they probably are within their rights to do it. A shame, really, that they’ve decided to take this approach.
Ah, that’s bad news for users. Managing multiple accounts can be a pain, which is why aggregator websites like TripIt exist to serve that need.
On a side note, this shows the risk of starting a business that relies on working with old-guard companies. A lot of music and movie start-up websites fail because they can’t get license agreements from studios and record companies to access popular content. If your business only has one “supplier,” you’re very vulnerable if the supplier changes their mind.