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Wednesday,  April 17, 2024 6:42 PM 

ACTA joins ASTA in condemning American Airlines' loyalty program change

  • Air
  •   03-20-2024  11:15 am
  •   Pax Global Media

ACTA joins ASTA in condemning American Airlines' loyalty program change
Pax Global Media

The Association of Canadian Travel Agencies and Travel Advisors (ACTA) is once again condemning American Airlines’ decision to limit traveller loyalty points accrual to direct bookings and a select group of travel agencies.

As previously reported, American Airlines, starting May 1, will stop awarding frequent flyer miles and Loyalty Points through its AAdvantage program to passengers who don’t book direct with the airline or a small number of partner carriers and “preferred” travel advisors.

“The travel industry has long benefited from a healthy competitive environment that promotes innovation and better services for consumers,” ACTA wrote in a social media post on Wednesday (March 20). “However, America Airlines’ new policy, effective May 1, 2024, threatens this balance by restricting loyalty points to direct bookings and a limited group of travel agencies.”

“We stand in urging American Airlines to collaborate with the entire travel agency community and maintain a fair, competitive landscape that benefits all players in the value chain.”

ASTA launches attack campaign

ACTA’s post comes on the heels of the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) launching an ad campaign in Politico, and a consumer-facing website, where U.S.-based travel advisors' clients can send messages to legislators asking for a congressional investigation into American Airlines.

In an email to members, ASTA president and CEO Zane Kerby cited American's recent announcement that many agency-booked tickets will no longer earn AAdvantage points, reports Travel Weekly.

"This latest development doubles down on American Airlines' clear agenda since last year to force the travel agency industry to adopt immature technology, monopolize distribution channels, and squeeze channel partners and customers for cost-cutting and profit," Kerby wrote. "We are fighting back."

ASTA's new website, Save My Miles, which has a section for travellers and another for advisors, directs users to submit comments to U.S. legislators.

ASTA is urging its advisors to send a message to legislators, as well as share its website with their clients.

"Tell them to stop AA from disenfranchising customers who book through travel agencies by telling Congress don't let American Airlines eliminate consumer choice," Kerby wrote.

Pushing agents out

American Airlines first announced its policy change in February.

“We want to make it more convenient for customers to enjoy the value and magic of travel,” said Vasu Raja, American's chief commercial officer, in a statement at the time. “Not only does booking directly with American provide the best possible experience, it's also where we offer the best fares and it's most rewarding for our AAdvantage members.”

Under the new policy, tickets issued before May 1, regardless of the date of travel, will earn miles and Loyalty Points no matter where the ticket was purchased from.

The airline didn’t reveal which travel agencies it would allow passengers to still earn AAdvantage miles and Loyalty Points through.

In a news release, the airline said it will share a list of “eligible preferred agencies” on in late April. But even with preferred agencies, American said it will only reward miles and points on Basic Economy fare tickets when booked directly through American or eligible partner airlines.

Corporate travellers won’t be impacted by the changes, the airline said.

In a previous statement, Wendy Paradis, ACTA’s president, views the change as a "significant departure from equitable business practices and a direct threat to the healthy competitive environment that has long benefitted consumers and the travel industry alike."

The move is part of a shift by airlines to move away from using travel advisors – and paying them commissions – and bring ticket sales in-house.

About 60 per cent of American's ticket sales are made directly through the airline, Scott Chandler, vice-president of revenue management at American Airlines, told the Associated Press. 

“The old way of booking a ticket relied on agents having a ton of experience and understanding product attributes,” Chandler said in an interview with the outlet. “The old technology doesn't let us explain things very well, and it is a little more confusing for customers when we introduce new products.”

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