American Airlines, travel website The Points Guy trade lawsuits over tracking loyalty points


Fort Worth-based American Airlines is countersuing travel website The Points Guy and its parent company because of an app that collects loyalty points across airlines and stores them in one central location.

The Points Guy, which American describes in its countersuit as a “powerhouse” lifestyle media brand, is receiving the ire of one of the world’s largest air carriers because of its mobile phone app that collects loyalty point totals.

American says the app, which debuted in September, encourages members to give up their user information and passwords so that The Points Guy can “invade American’s servers, access users’ accounts, and collect and expropriate the proprietary data that AAdvantage has developed, maintained, stored and protected over many years.”

The lawsuit begs the question of who owns user data, usernames and passwords and what a consumer can do with that information.

Passengers exit the inter-terminal Skylink people mover at DFW International Airport.

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American Airlines suing reservations company Sabre for new service that favors Delta

Fort Worth-based American Airlines is suing neighboring reservations technology provider Sabre Holdings for rolling out a new portal that the carrier says favors competitors such as Delta.In a lawsuit filed this week in Tarrant County, American claims that a “New Airline Storefront” by Southlake-based reservations firm Sabre hurts American with “inaccurate and misleading” information on the airline’s products and that gives extra incentives to travel agencies to book higher-end tickets on Delta.

The Points Guy app lets users track their loyalty status and points from hundreds of airline, hotel and travel programs by letting them enter their usernames and passwords from the various programs.

Competing airlines such as Delta, United and Dallas-based Southwest are also listed on the app, although The Points Guy has not mentioned any pushback from those companies.

The app was “created to empower consumers to travel smarter by helping them make the most of their well-earned points and miles,” TPG said in a statement.

“Launched in September 2021, the free app demystifies the complexities of award travel by helping users learn about points, miles and loyalty programs; maximize their earning potential; and discover how to efficiently use those earned points and miles to see the world,” The Points Guy’s statement said.

But that’s not the way American Airlines sees it.

American’s AAdvantage program, which the company values at as much as $10 billion and was even used in 2020 to secure federal government loans, is one of the company’s biggest moneymakers, using frequent flyer points to help it secure credit card deals.

American Airlines recently sent The Points Guy a cease-and-desist letter, prompting the travel website to sue the airline in The Superior Court of the State of Delaware. American, in turn, countersued in federal court in North Texas.

“Red Ventures is accessing AA.com and AAdvantage customer account data in a way that does not comply with our standards for use of confidential information,” American Airlines spokeswoman Andrea Koos said in a statement. “We have been in discussions with Red Ventures, hoping to amicably resolve the issues, and we were surprised when Red Ventures filed its lawsuit last Tuesday. We take customer data and proprietary information incredibly seriously, and want to make sure it is protected and secure.”

Besides The Points Guy, Charlotte, N.C.-based Red Ventures also operates financial, technology and travel sites such as Bankrate, C|Net, Creditcards.com, Healthline, Lonely Planet and TV Guide.

The conflict comes down to whether a third-party app is allowed to access information from another company. American has licensed out this type of access in the past to companies such as Awards Wallet, a similar point-tracking program, according to the Viewfromthewing.com blog.

Starting in 2013, American came to a deal with Awards Wallet in which the airline “worked closely with AwardWallet to design an offering that meets our security requirements while offering our customers a one-stop shop for tracking all of their loyalty affiliations, including AAdvantage,” according to a statement the two sides released in 2013.

But as of December, that deal is no longer valid, ViewfromtheWing.com reported, and American Airlines is now encouraging travelers to use its app to track frequent flyer loyalty points.

“American wants to control (and by extension, limit) what you can do with your rewards, and they’re trying everything in their power to stop us from helping you, the consumer, including countersuing us,” The Points Guys founder Brian Kelly wrote in a letter on a webpage dedicated to the battle against American. “We believe that you have worked hard to earn your points and miles and have the right to choose whether you share personal information with a third-party app that will make your life easier.”

American Airlines planes taxi from gates at DFW International Airport as aircraft from Delta, Alaska and JetBlue are parked nearby.

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Biden administration sues over American Airlines-JetBlue partnership, citing fear of higher prices

The Biden Administration’s Justice Department is filing an antitrust lawsuit to challenge the partnership between American Airlines and JetBlue that links the two carrier’s operations tightly at four of the busiest airports in the Northeast, saying the tie-up will reduce competition and drive fares higher.The deal between American Airlines and JetBlue was previously approved by former President Donald Trump’s Department of Transportation but now faces the scrutiny of prosecutors in a new presidential administration that has taken a much harder stance on antitrust issues.



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Why Travel Advisors Need to Join Their National Trade Association


The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) has been an indispensable resource over the last two years—possibly more so than ever in its history. They’ve lobbied Congress, the White House, the Department of Labor and more to make sure that travel advisors and all of the hard work they do are not forgotten when legislation and new programs are being considered.

ASTA was established more than 90 years ago, and its mission has always been to ensure the voice of the advisor, the industry and the traveler is heard through advocacy efforts on all levels of government.

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Advocating on behalf of the travel community is just one of the many benefits travel advisors gain from their ASTA membership, however.

In addition, to a voice on Capitol Hill during the pandemic, ASTA members are the first to know when major travel news hits. ASTA also works to shape a positive narrative about the value of travel advisors to consumers through its media efforts.

Members also have access to new leads through ASTA’s TravelSense.org consumer-focused platform. ASTA helps its members develop valuable relationships, and ASTA events, hosted webinars and expert-led educational programming provide opportunities for all members to continue to grow and learn about the industry.

In particular, aspiring advisors can take advantage of ASTA’s Verified Travel Advisor Certification Program.

For those who are interested in all of the benefits available to members, ASTA offers current and prospective members access to monthly webinars on the second Wednesday of each month to learn how to get the most out of their membership.





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Japan relaunches UK travel trade website | News


The Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) has relaunched its UK travel trade website.

The platform features news, resources, webinars and giveaway campaigns across Japan to prepare agents for when the Japanese border reopens.

Agents can keep up to date with monthly newsletters, online training as well as complimentary access to a photo library to assist in promoting the destination.

Key Japan supplier information can be found on file ensuring that agents have all they need to convert inquiries into bookings.

Additionally, the site features up-to-date Coronavirus travel information, the best contacts at the JNTO London office and endless itinerary inspiration.

The first training webinar will be on December 15th and will feature the Daisetsuzan National Park in Hokkaido.

Known for its serene alpine landscapes and towering mountains, the park has earned the nickname ‘the playground of the gods’ and is a must for adventure travellers.

Find the website here.





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Asia holds tight on borders, casting cloud over COVID-hit travel | International Trade News


Hwaseong, South Korea – Asia-Pacific countries are sticking to tight border controls even as vaccination rates top out, dampening prospects for a revival of the region’s pandemic-battered travel industry.

While mainland China and Hong Kong sink deeper into isolation under a strict “zero COVID” policy that mandates weeks of hotel quarantine, countries such as Japan, South Korea, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia are following a middle path under which non-essential travel remains tightly restricted.

The region’s cautious stance is increasingly at odds with Europe and North America, where vaccinated travellers, including tourists, can travel freely with few restrictions apart from a negative COVID test result.

“Asia still has a long way to go to catch up with the reopening taking place in Europe and North America,” Jayant Menon, a visiting senior fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, told Al Jazeera.

“Some of this is explained by the need to also catch up with their vaccination rates, but not all. Even countries with high vaccination rates … are not opening their international borders as quickly as they are easing domestic mobility restrictions. And when they do, they impose a lot more requirements and protocols than those applied to domestic movement.”

Concern In Japan As Mystery Virus SpreadsWhile China grows increasingly isolated, many Asia-Pacific countries are taking a middle path on the resumption of travel [File: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images]

Japan and South Korea, where vaccination rates are approaching 80 percent, have yet to announce a date for the resumption of tourism despite easing restrictions for certain arrivals such as business travellers and students.

Australia, where about 70 percent of the population is double-vaccinated, has indicated that international tourists won’t return until sometime next year.

Malaysia, where 77 percent of residents are double-jabbed, remains largely closed to international arrivals, with plans to begin accepting international tourists by January.

Singapore, where more than 80 percent of the population has had two doses of vaccine, has resumed quarantine-free travel in phases through a vaccinated travel lane scheme, which from next month will include 21 countries.

Arrivals to most of Asia were down 99 percent on pre-pandemic levels as of September, compared with declines of just 20 percent in Mexico and about 65 percent for Southern Europe, according to figures compiled by Capital Economics.

Before the pandemic, the Asia-Pacific welcomed about 291 million tourists annually, adding $875bn to the economy, according to the World Economic Forum’s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index 2019.

‘Three-speed recovery’

Joshua Ng, director of Alton Aviation Consultancy in Singapore, told Al Jazeera he did not expect international travel to recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2024 or 2025 as the region experienced a “three-speed recovery” among Western countries, the Asia-Pacific and China.

“Asian countries have demonstrated a cautious approach and this has been a result of several other virus outbreaks – such as SARS, H1N1, MERs – that have hit Asian countries hard in the 21st century,” Ng said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic response reflects the learnings from earlier outbreaks. At the initial outbreaks of the pandemic, Asian countries were amongst the first countries to close their borders and initiate city lockdowns to control the spread of COVID-19.”

While Asia-Pacific governments have shied away from a swift resumption of travel, hopes of a quick rebound have been quashed further by expectations China could remain closed off from the world until the latter part of 2022 or even beyond.

Before the pandemic, the world’s second-largest economy, which has doubled down on efforts to eliminate COVID-19 with strict lockdowns, quarantines and mass-testing, is estimated to have accounted for roughly one-third of all tourists in the region.

“While there is probably plenty of pent up demand, as long as China, which accounted for around 30 percent of regional tourists before the crisis, keeps its border shut, the recovery is likely to struggle,” Gareth Leather, senior economist for Asia at Capital Economics, told Al Jazeera.

It goes way beyond tourism, it goes way beyond business travel. There are so many reasons people travel. They travel for education, they travel to visit family and friends, they travel for economic migration

Gary Bowerman, director of Check-in Asia

Some countries in the region, including those with patchy vaccine coverage, have taken a bolder approach. India, where less than one-third of the population is doubled-vaccinated, reopened its borders on Monday to tourists from more than 90 countries.

Thailand, which relied on tourism for one-fifth of gross domestic product (GDP) before the pandemic, reopened to tourists from more than 60 countries on November 1, following a lacklustre response to a quarantine-free “sandbox” in the popular resort of Phuket.

Gary Bowerman, director of Kuala Lumpur-based travel and tourism research firm Check-in Asia, said there was a growing realisation of the costs of the collapse in international travel.

“It goes way beyond tourism, it goes way beyond business travel. There are so many reasons people travel,” Bowerman said. “They travel for education, they travel to visit family and friends, they travel for economic migration … I don’t think a lot of governments fully understand that, but I think that is starting to hit home.”

Bowerman predicted a difficult period ahead as the industry navigated a new baseline after accounting for pent-up demand among people returning home and visiting friends and family.

“Once that surge dies down then the tourism companies and the airlines have to work out what happens next,” Bowerman said. “Is business travel coming back to the degree as it was before? You hear some people saying ‘yes,’ you hear some people saying ‘no.’ Right now we simply don’t know.”

“People are trying to guess and predict what the travel demand will be next year, but we simply haven’t a clue,” he added. “Nobody had any idea that it would basically be two years where people weren’t travelling.”





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Arkansas Governor Traveling to Israel on a Trade Mission | Arkansas News


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Tuesday that he would travel to Israel on his first international economic development trip since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Hutchinson said he would leave Saturday for Israel, where he would speak at the Prime Minister’s Smart Mobility Conference. Hutchinson’s office said he would return Thursday.

Officials going with the governor include Commerce Secretary Mike Preston. Hutchinson said 5,000 people from 40 countries are expected at the summit, presenting a “great marketing opportunity” for the state.

Hutchinson’s last international economic development trip was in November 2019, when he traveled to China and Japan.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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The Bahamas takes on new UK trade representation | News


Finn Partners has been appointed by the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, Investments & Aviation (BMOTIA) to provide public relations services for the islands in the United Kingdom.

The UK office will also act as the hub agency, managing other European markets including Italy.

The contract includes creative campaign ideation; consumer and trade media relations and activations; coordinating broadcast visits; events; influencer support and crisis communications.

Central to the work for the BMOTIA will be to activate a comprehensive communications strategy and PR programme to increase brand Bahamas’ visibility in the UK market.

Finn Partners will promote the traditional culture, history, leisure activities, nature and cuisine of the islands of the Bahamas, to help generate overall growth of visitor arrivals to the destination, particularly in line with new UK flight routes.

Chester Cooper, the Bahamas minister of tourism, commented: “Our vision is to be a global industry leader in destination marketing and management, contributing sustainably to a thriving national economy.

“Finn Partners presented us with a holistic and creative approach to support our strategy and help us achieve our business goals to increase tourism from the UK.

“We are confident that we have chosen the right PR partner to promote our wonderful destination and look forward to a successful collaboration.”





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Portland to declare trade and travel ban against Texas


Portland will be voting on an emergency resolution Wednesday that would ban trading with Texas and bar city employees from traveling to the state as a direct response to the state’s new abortion law. 

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler made the announcement on Friday, stating, “The Portland City Council stands unified in its belief that all people should have the right to choose if and when they carry a pregnancy and that the decisions they make are complex, difficult, and unique to their circumstances.”

“We urge other leaders and elected bodies around the nation to join us in condemning the actions of the Texas state government,” Wheeler added.

Texas’ new law has made it illegal to access or provide an abortion in the state after the sixth week of pregnancy. 


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Everyday citizens and as well as government officials have spoken out and taken steps to combat the law.

TikTokers protested an online tip line that was created by the anti-abortion rights group Texas Right to Life, aiming to enforce the law by encouraging people to report violators, by inundating the tip line with memes, fake reports and porn.

On Friday, Attorney General Merrick Garland said he and the Justice Department would protect the reproductive rights of citizens by enforcing the FACE Act, which “prohibits the use or threat of force and physical obstruction that injures, intimidates, or interferes with a person seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services.”

“While the Justice Department urgently explores all options to challenge Texas SB8 in order to protect the constitutional rights of women and other persons, including access to an abortion,” Garland said in a statement, “we will continue to protect those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services pursuant to our criminal and civil enforcement of the FACE Act … We will not tolerate violence against those seeking to obtain or provide reproductive health services, physical obstruction or property damage.” 


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Evergrande shares suspended from trade in Hong Kong but ASX rises on travel, banks


Investors are on edge in anticipation of a significant announcement from indebted Chinese property developer Evergrande.

Several Hong Kong-listed entities of the Evergrande Group have had their shares suspended from trading, with no further details yet released to the market.

It follows Evergrande missing a second offshore bond payment late last week, failing to pay some of the interest owed on its roughly $400 billion in debt.

IG market analyst Kyle Rodda said “a lot of ambiguity” remained around Monday’s trading halt, but he had already seen clients reducing their exposure to the Hong Kong market as a result.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell in early trade, to be down 2 per cent by 2:00pm AEDT, with similar falls in Tokyo.

Stock markets in mainland China and South Korea were closed for holidays.

“Nobody’s jumping at shadows just yet … but the big fear is that it will be a reasonably grave announcement about the company’s health,” Mr Rodda told the ABC.

However, reports from China’s Cailian Press suggested another Hong Kong-listed property developer, Hopson Development, could take a majority stake in Evergrande Property Services.

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Hopson shares were also halted from trading, pending an announcement in relation to a “major transaction”, which would see it acquire shares in a Hong Kong-listed company.

As a result of the Evergrande trading suspension, Mr Rodda said some of the steam had come out of a positive start on Asian markets.

A building soaring into a blue sky, with a crane in front of it
Shares in Evergrande have been halted from trading in Hong Kong. (

ABC News: Paddy Fok

)

“The biggest problem is not a default by Evergrande but the environment that has led to its downfall. Authorities are regulating housing loans and lending to property firms. Markets are looking for a next Evergrande already,” Okasan Securities senior economist Kazutaka Kubo told Reuters.

“There is rising risk Evergrande’s woes will spread to the entire Chinese property sector.”

ASX rises on banks, travel stocks

The Australian share market remained strongly higher, but off its early peak.

The ASX 200 was 1 per cent higher at 7,258 points in afternoon trade, after dropping last week.

The Australian dollar was up slightly, buying around 72.6 US cents, retreating from its earlier highs.

Travel stocks were making strong gains, with Flight Centre (+8.9pc) and  Webjet (+4.6pc) among the top performers, as COVID reopenings in several states drew nearer and the federal government committed to reopening international borders in November.

Shares in furniture retailer Nick Scali climbed 10.2 per cent after announcing it would buy Plush-Think Sofas for $103 million. 

Nick Scali said the acquisition would increase its number of showrooms across Australia and New Zealand to 108.

The company will fund the Plush purchase through a combination of existing cash and new debt, after it doubled its profit last financial year as people updated their decor during the pandemic.

Bank stocks helped lift the broader market, with the Commonwealth Bank up 4.1 per cent after completing a $6 billion share buy-back.

CBA bought back around 3.8 per cent of its shares on issue.

Two very different central bank meetings

Both the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Reserve Bank of New Zealand will meet this week, but far more action is expected across the ditch.

After last month postponing a widely-forecast rate hike due to a new COVID outbreak, markets consider a rate rise by the RBNZ as a near-certainty.

“As of Friday, the market was pricing an almost 90 per cent chance of a 25 basis point hike,” NAB senior interest rate strategist Nick Smyth said.

“News yesterday that most of Waikato would enter a snap five-day lockdown, after the discovery of two new cases in the region, is unlikely to shake this consensus since the RBNZ has been clear that lockdowns won’t necessarily prevent rate hikes and an October hike has been strongly signalled. “

While a rate rise in Australia is tipped to be a few years away yet, with the RBA sticking to its 2024 timeline, there will be interest in any commentary from the central bank on the housing market on Tuesday and on Friday.

“Given the current focus on macro-prudential policy, the Financial Stability Review (FSR) on 8 October will be particularly interesting,” ANZ economists said.

“The RBA statement on Tuesday will likely flag some of the key conclusions of the FSR. Otherwise, we think the October statement will be a bit of a non-event.”

Indications regulators will introduce measures to curb home lending growth, such as debt-to-income ratios, have increased, with the Council of Financial Regulators discussing potential policy responses at its latest meeting

In a recent speech, RBA assistant governor Michele Bullock said the RBA expects annual household credit growth to increase to 11 per cent in coming months.



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International Travel Set to Boom With Trade Playing a Big Role


International travel, including outbound travel from the U.S., is picking up steam rapidly and working up to a very strong surge later in the year, according to speakers on a panel called “The Return of Long-Haul Travel Marketing Strategy.” The virtual panel was part of the MMGY Mojo Summit being held virtually and in person in Tampa. Speakers also said that travel advisors and tour operators would play a very large role in the resurgence. MMGY Global is a travel and tourism marketing agency.

Craig Compagnone, COO of MMGY Global, said the company’s surveys show that the percentage of people who want to travel internationally this year is not much less than it was pre-pandemic so that demand is strong. He said “we know U.S., travelers are searching and booking internationally this year and into 2022. “

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“We are very optimistic,” said Amanda Hills, president of MMGY Hills Balfour in London, as more and more destinations open. She said that a surprising 300,000 people from the U.K. traveled to Spain recently even though they had to quarantine on their return home because Spain is on the “amber list.” The U.K. has a “traffic light system” for international travel with “amber list” countries having tighter restrictions. The main reason people are traveling, she said, is for rest and relaxation – and to spend time with the people they couldn’t see during the pandemic. They also want to see events and be entertained because, said Hills, “they have been watching Netflix for too long.”

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Hills said that travelers are looking for destinations where they feel safe and that is good news for the U.S. She said “we will see more of a dependency on the travel trade.” She explained, “Intermediaries will be more important than ever because people want safety and security and they want to be sure they can have refunds and have flexibility on rescheduling,” adding that it has been interesting watching the travel trade adapt to “massive shifts” as it has been “dynamic and disruptive.”

Julie Cuesta, managing director of MMGY Myriad in the U.S., said that affluent Americans feel like they have the finances to travel because they have been saving through the pandemic. “Americans have had enough of home and want to do the experience they feel liked they’ve missed.”

Europe is alike a “shiny new toy” for Americans who have been traveling to the Caribbean and Mexico during the pandemic, said Cuesta, and want to go somewhere else. She said European travel is “the news story of the moment” with both trade and consumer journalists wanting to talk about it. And potential travelers, she said, are looking to travel advisors to tell them what they can and can’t do. She said international travel will be “on top of everyone’s mind for the next few months.”

Panelists also saw staying power for the trends of longer trips and working while on the road. Said Cuesta: “People will be telling their bosses: I’m going to Europe; can I stay a few extra days and work from there?” Also, she added, a lot of Americans have not used their 2020 vacation days and want to do so now so they will take longer vacations than they have in the past.

Looking ahead, Hills said the industry has to focus on 2022 in addition to booking the short-term travel that’s resulting from pent-up demand. She explained places like Asia and Australia will not see international travel until then so it’s necessary to consider those destinations and also to consider those who might not be ready to travel in the near future.

As for where people will go, Hills said many will return to places where they have traveled before in the interest of familiarity and comfort, and others will go to destinations new to them where they can spend extended periods as part of the “slow travel” movement.

Another long-term trend, said Cuesta, is seasonality, with this period presenting a huge opportunity for destinations to rethink how they address it and for travel advisors to consider how they can extend the seasons.

“We need to talk to travelers differently,” said Anthony Dalton, managing director of MMGY Hills Balfour Dubai. He said people will be looking for different things – like privacy and space “and we can’t fall back on the marketing plan we had ready pre-pandemic.”





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