Airlines want your data: How new booking rules impact travelers

Starting May 1, American Airlines announced that travelers who book tickets through third parties will no longer be eligible to receive AAdvantage miles and loyalty points. This change comes as part of an effort to persuade people to book directly with American through their New Distribution Capability (NDC) system, which gives the airline more control over prices. According to American, “Booking with us provides a better travel experience.” But here at Sunset Vacations & Travel planning, we see this as a discouraging effort to limit competition when shopping around for airfare. What does this change mean for you in the real world? We discuss the implications below.

What is the change? If you want to earn AAdvantage miles or loyalty points with American Airlines, tickets will need to be purchased directly through them or through an approved third party seller starting May 1. This is part of the airline’s move to offer customized pricing through their New Distribution Booking (NDB) system. Pushing customers to purchase tickets through their NDB gives the airline power to impose customized pricing on customers. Through cookies and other tracking, this translates into different customers being offered different prices for the exact same ticket. While you’ll still be able to purchase tickets outside of this system, you won’t earn any miles if you do so. Tickets purchased through third parties prior to May 1 are exempt from this policy change (some exceptions apply).

Who will be impacted? This move will drive out independent travel agents and suppliers who have spent years working for travelers to find them the best flight and travel options. Because there will be less avenues for purchasing air, travelers will lose choices and purchasing power. There are also privacy concerns; through cookies and data mining, your web browsing, purchasing history, and other personal data will be aggregated prior to showing you the ticket price. While this in theory could translate into a lower price than average, American isn’t going through this change unless they expect it to increase profits.

What’s the bottom line? We feel this isn’t just a privacy issue but a pocketbook issue as well. Because of the heavy penalty imposed by not going directly through American, travelers will be pressured to directly buy through them without the benefit of a travel advisor. Unfortunately, we expect American’s change to be replicated by other airlines in the near future. United and Delta are already talking about doing the same.

What can consumers do? Let your representatives know! Go to > Travelers: Take Action. You can easily send a message to your US Senators and Representative. Flyers sign up for mileage programs in good faith and airlines should honor this by not changing the rules midstream. Let American and the soon-to-follow other airlines know your frustration. If you don’t collect miles, make a point to continue booking air travel through travel advisors when planning your getaways. And stay abreast of the ever-changing airline policies – they may be presented as “consumer friendly” but no change is made unless it is expected to enhance their bottom line. And remember, they took billions of your tax dollars during the pandemic lockdown to stay operational and profitable.

We are passionate about travel and keeping you updated with the latest news in the travel world. What are your thoughts on this change? Leave us a comment on Facebook or by email.



  • Earning on flights. (2024). American Airlines.
  • Han, Z. (2024, February 24). American Airlines is making it harder to rack up frequent-flier miles – here’s who will be most affected. Morningstar, Inc.

About Denise

My goal is to simplify travel-planning through an equal exchange process where I acquire your ideas and expectations for your trip relieving you of the worry, hassle, stress and time that accompanies Do-It-Yourself planning.

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