Points aggregator Award Wallet announced today that Delta Airlines has issued a cease & desist order preventing customers from using the site to access their accounts.
This follows a move by American Airlines who did the same.
Full disclosure, I have an Award Wallet account, but I don't have a Delta SkyMiles account because 1.) They are among the least valuable airline programs (their nickname is SkyPesos) and 2.) their routing network out of Houston is terrible.
There's a lot of speculation why Delta would do this, some of it with merit and some of it without. IMO there are only two ideas that have any merit.
1. It's a money game. The fact that Award Wallet is out there suggests to the airlines that there is money to be made in "scraping" websites. Because of this the airlines want in on the action. It's sad that an entrepreneur comes up with a good idea, something that would work, and the airlines are able to use blunt force tactics to shut down what is probably a small chunk of network traffic. While I admit that it is, using a strict interpretation, outside of the Delta.com terms and conditions, I also understand that these can be flexible things that are allowed in some instances if the customer interests are put first. If it's not obvious to you by now the legacy airlines do NOT have the customer's best interests at heart.
2. It's a money game. The big legacy airlines (Delta, American, United, US Airways) are spending a lot of money turning their websites into on-line shopping portals. The less time you spend on their websites the less time you're going to spend looking at rental car deals, floral delivery et. al. Not only does this cost the airlines value site hits, it lessens the amount of pass-through revenue they're likely to gain.
If the airlines had their way customers would do EVERYTHING travel related on their sites, from booking flights to hotel rooms to rental cars to birthday gifts you name it. If they could swing it they would allow you to order the blood pressure you'll need after taking advantage of their lackluster customer service.
At the end of the day this is a bad deal for Delta customers who have decided to us an aggregator to keep track of their points. Having a central site provide this service does have a value, it's just that it doesn't have a value that the airlines can profit from so they're going to do everything in their considerable power to shut it down. Whether or not this is convenient for their customer base is irrelevant. The fact is, they just don't care.
As you can imagine, the travel blog responses have been overwhelmingly negative:
The Wandering Aramean
View From the Wing
One Mile at a Time