American Airlines and The Points Guy sue over frequent flyer miles app
A dispute over frequent flyer miles and access to customer data is at the center of duel lawsuits filed in the past two weeks between American Airlines, the dominant airline in Philadelphia, and Points Guy, a travel website founded by a resident of Bucks County.
The Points Guy launched an app last September billed as a “one-stop-shop” where consumers can track all of their loyalty rewards for airlines, hotels and credit cards in one place, helping travelers redeem their miles earned.
But American says Points Guy is illegally using the airline’s intellectual property and wants it to stop. Brian Kelly, CEO and Founder of Points Guy, says consumers should have choices about how they use their data.
Things escalated earlier this month when American sent a cease-and-desist letter asking Points Guy not to collect data related to its AAdvantage members. The Points Guy, or TPG, then filed a lawsuit against American on January 11 in state court in Delaware, where American is incorporated. American, in turn, sued TPG and its parent company, Red Ventures, on January 18 in federal court in Texas, where the airline is headquartered.
American’s lawsuit accuses TPG and its parent company of “essentially free-riding on decades of investment by American” in building its AAdvantage loyalty program.
The airline says its website user agreement prohibits AAdvantage members from providing account access to “any third-party online service, including but not limited to any mileage management service, tracking service or mileage aggregation service”, and alleges that TPG is causing customers to breach this agreement for its own benefit.
“Red Ventures is accessing AA.com and AAdvantage customer account data in a manner that does not comply with our standards for the use of confidential information,” airline spokesman Andrew Trull said in a statement. sent by email. “We have had discussions with Red Ventures, hoping to resolve the issues amicably, and we were surprised when Red Ventures filed its lawsuit last Tuesday. We take customer data and proprietary information extremely seriously, and want to make sure it is protected and secure. »
Kelly calls U.S. stocks “short-sighted,” especially at a time when the industry is recovering from the drop in air travel during the pandemic.
“We think it’s the consumer’s choice,” said Kelly, who grew up in Jamison and now lives in New Hope. “If our reader wants us to help them see the big picture and take a trip, that’s a win for the travel industry.”
Describing how the TPG app works in his own lawsuit, the Points Guy states that users “provide TPG with their login credentials and authorize TPG to collect their account information and data by accessing relevant loyalty program websites. “.
TPG says American is “the only major US airline whose frequent flyer program miles are expiring,” to the detriment of consumers, while the TPG app helps travelers meet those deadlines.
American did not comment on this aspect of the lawsuit at the request of The Inquirer.
As Kelly explained, starting April 1, AAdvantage member miles will expire after 18 months of inactivity. That said, he noted, it’s “pretty easy to keep them active,” such as using a credit card linked to the program.
“That’s actually what we educate people on at Points Guy,” he said.
Kelly launched the Points Guy in 2010 and it was acquired in 2017 by Red Ventures, which has a suite of consumer-facing brands including Lonely Planet.
According to TPG’s lawsuit, the company’s website has 11 million unique visitors every month and its app has already been downloaded more than 100,000 times.
Kelly compared the app’s goals to third-party sites like Mint that allow users to track their bank account activity and personal finances in one place.
“It’s the 21st century,” Kelly said. “Consumers want access to their data in a way that will help them.”