Southwest Hates Its Customers (‘ Data)11 Sep 2010
I’ve been a user of AwardWallet for a couple months now, a site that keeps track of many of my travel reward programs. You can think of it as Mint.com for loyalty programs. It turns out that I’m far more likely to participate in programs and actually be loyal to the brands if I can monitor my account status. AwardWallet isn’t perfect, but it serves a large need I have.
Unfortunately, Southwest either doesn’t understand this benefit, or doesn’t actually want its customers to use the loyalty program because they’ve blocked AwardWallet from collecting this information on my behalf. The team emailed me this week with the disappointing news:
We are writing to inform you that unfortunately Southwest is no longer allowing us to pull data from their website anymore. You can update your balance manually and you can use AwardWallet to auto-login to Southwest’s website. From now on you need to track the expiration date of your Southwest miles manually.
Southwest’s response to another AwardWallet user was equally frustrating:
We regret your disappointment that Southwest does not participate with third party companies who offer frequent flyer information on their web sites. Our reasoning lies in the fact that we can only safeguard a safe and secure program by keeping our Customers flight credits and Awards within our own internal system. While Award Wallet’s intentions may be genuine, by allowing them to have access to Rapid Rewards Members’ account information, we could potentially jeopardize not only our program’s integrity, but our Members’ personal information.
The fact that I have 11 Rapid Reward points (I only need 5 more for a free flight!) is not, in any world, hyper secure information. If I as a customer, choose to have that information aggregated in a way that provides value, that is my prerogative. I’m convinced they recognize this too and that their concern is almost certainly that I am giving some third-party my login name and password in order to collect this information. This I do recognize as a security issue, but it’s a problem with an easy and well recognized solution.
What I propose is a MicroFormat for APIs. I’d like to define a protocol to increase the use of loyalty program data with the follow features:
- REST API for querying both the current status and the history of transactions for any given rewards program.
- Simple JSON data structure with extensible fields so that programs can customize to suit their needs
- OAuth based authentication
- (Optional) PubSubHubbub-based notifications for status updates
If every loyalty program adopted this, web services and iPhone apps the world over could quickly expose this information to users in a meaningful way, and instantly make adoption of those programs a lot more valuable to their customers, and ultimately make those customers a lot more loyal.
I’d love to see Southwest actually push toward a solution that enabled this sort of usage. Looking at the AwardWallet forums, there’s obvious demand from power users. Seems to me, they might be the types of customers that Southwest would consider worth pleasing.